Sunday, March 13, 2016

Avoiding monopolies in the digital economy

Note: These are my personal views and not those of my employers, Tata Consultancy Services.
Just read a fabulous article making a key point about how digital economy is different from non-digital one. I would like to summarize and crystallize the import of this article by saying that digital unicorns seek to reduce the scope of individual labor in providing the end-to-end services of different kind, by providing the environment which embeds disparate laboring individuals into a "matrix" such that the laborer is lesser and lesser in charge of the end-to-end service and the digital unicorn is in charge of operating this "matrix" to control the provision of the end-to-end service, seeking to derive monopolistic returns limited only by demographics.
Based on my observations about the free software movement and my thinking related to Oasis (particularly this article and this article), I think that humanity needs to figure out how much of the technosphere around it should be public and how much should be private. This is the only way to avoid the monopolies in my view.
Is this really surprising and new? The public and private divide existed in the non-digital world too. It exists because of the nature of the difference of the needs we separately have and the one's we together have. If the "public" sector's services and the "private" sector's services are both provided digitally as part of each end-to-end services with varying degree's of public and private elements in each public service, such that "core" services are public, it would only be a natural extension of our current ways of living and working into the digital realm. It is true that things are not visibly evolving in this direction yet, but I see the seeds of this in Oasis and am sure are visible elsewhere. The reason for this is that this is the natural solution to the nature of interest structures collision problem in a digital world.
I have been thinking about how a blockchain based end-to-end economy could work and might write about it in the future. We certainly have outgrown the analogue ways of living and working, (the iconic example being that fingerprints can easily be fudged from publicly taken high resolution photographs). The new ways of living and working are being experimented with all around us. If we remember and represent our best interests in our economic choices, I am sure we will arrive at the destination I describe sooner or later.
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