Saturday, 15 September 2007

There already are non-scarce goods

In my previous post, I wrote about a world where you don't have to work. There are already some goods that are free (as in free goods, not as in gratis).
There are three kinds of free goods:
Goods so abundant that we don't need to pay for them
Goods that are a by product of another good, and nobody really wants it (waste)
Ideas and inventions reproducible at free cost

Of these three, the first one is just that nature provides us with more than we need. However, it is not true that it will always be like this. When I was a child, water was considered a free good. Now we know that it is not, and we don't treat it like that. Air is becoming polluted, and in order to avoid pollution we have emissions trading, that literally places a price for clean air.
Waste is a by product; not really interesting, nobody wants it. The cost of using it is higher than its value.
Finally, information is the interesting free good. It wants to be free. Once information is available it is impossible to stop it from being copied (if it interesting); just check how much the RIAA and the MPAA are fighting against that, and losing. Information reproduction's costs are almost zero; producing costs are way higher. How will artists recoup their production costs? That is a subject that is interesting, since it might illustrate the future of the world economics. Most artists would need to earn their income from live shows, and distribute their music as a sample; maybe they will even collect donations. Even though this seems OK for music, what happens to movies? Since no lives performances are available, is this the end of the next "Titanic", "Terminator 2" and all high-cost blockbusters, since the investment won't be recoup?
We live in interesting times, seeing a transformation that didn't happen since Gutengberg times, and then, it happened in one century; now we'll only have 20 years.

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