The post-wage era

Further to the earlier post: Ian and I had a discussion the other day of a scheme thats been implemented on the Web. It’s a pay-to-recommend thing: you have a social network of ‘friends’ who, when suggesting a product for purchase that results in a sale, get a little payment. Proponents tout it as a way to get a little money for what people do naturally. Both Ian and I view it as a Ponzi scheme, like other network marketing ‘opportunities’ that pollute human relations with suspect motivations.

Here’s a better idea, started by Ted Nelson in his astounding book on hypertext, which started the whole thing, and referred to just last week by Jaron Lanier in the NYT. Every bit of information online is tracked as part of a micropayment system; no ‘information wants to be free (as in beer)’. Whenever someone links to, browses or downloads a blog post you make, or a comment, or a photo you put up on Facebook, you get a little credit in your web account. When you do the same, a little payment from you to the author. Your information is now your property, and you earn a little money from it. Lanier reckons this is how we save the middle class. At the very least, it corrects the imbalance between the vast numbers of people posting original material, drawing connections between existing material, editing and curating, and the relative few who take the money out of the resulting system by virtue of being the infrastructure providers.

Go read Nelson. He thought about many of the issues we’re facing in our plan-less stampede to the Net, and tried to implement much of what he came up with. It’s worth revisiting, now we all have real world experience of the problems he foresaw with his thought experiments.

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