Future Commerce Hypotheses

You can set up shop anywhere you want.

You can set up shop anywhere you want.

Everything is changing they say. So what is next? If we wanted to make some guesses about the future of commerce, what would they be? Or what would we hope might arise? There would be 2 sides to the questions, 1] what we hope(value judgments) and 2] what we think might be forced by the changes in connectivity(practical observations).
These will try to focus on the practical observations.

**Hypothesis: Residuals on information are not practical.

Residuals on information will go away. Content production will be all on a work-for-hire, chef style basis. Someone tells you they will pay you $1000 to make a short movie, you make the movie, you put it on youtube, and that’s it. No more revenue on that job. The war on content and putting walls up around digital information will hopefully have a shorter life than the drug war. It will get harder and harder to charge for content (after the fact) for 2 reasons. 1] Piracy is easier every day. 2] There is a ton of amazing free content to compete with.
Public funded programming will still exist as well so it’s not that high cost content will not be created and shared for free. This combined with music sharing, blogging, photo sharing, etc. will allow for a lot more diversity in content and less “experts” in scalable, cultural fields.
Napster, bittorrent, etc make it tougher and tougher to control the flow of audio, movies, television, books, etc. All publishing fields are affected already or will be soon.

**Hypothesis: A Linux or Wikipedia style online informational commons for all physical products.

Everything from cell phones to bikes to toasters to furniture will have plans, service manuals, and variations available online. Smaller local shops(like auto shop++ or computer shop++) will assemble, customize, and service these products. More skilled workers will work in person to person service jobs then in large company R & D. The small shops will contribute bits of knowledge to the informational commons.
Related: Maker’s bill of rights. Existing stores like http://Adafruit.com, http://sparkfun.com, and others are already partly there. Computer and electronics stores will become more like bicycle shops with less obsolete parts and more customization and maintenance.

**Hypothesis: Free software will take over.

Firefox already won the browser war. Linux has done a pretty good job of winning the server war. OpenOffice might beat out MSOffice. Gimp vs photoshop, blender, processing, VLC, MIRO, and the list goes on…
It’s hard to believe that companies with secrets will be able to compete with these fluid networks of people working around the globe. The true cost of software duplication and distribution is zero. This is a great advantage to programmers. There will still be plenty of money in software, but that money will be in service, not in sales of digital copies. This is a corollary to the residuals hypothesis above.

**Hypothesis: Small businesses will be easier to start and more important than ever.

With the fall of General Motors, Lehman Brothers, AIG, and plenty of other giants, it’s clear that many corporate models are a little outmoded (totally broken?) in the information age. God doesn’t like dinosaurs; God doesn’t like unnecessary consolidation. Now that we can communicate so easily and fluidly with each other, what is the value added by being large? When is being large actually necessary? As things move faster, size is a serious liability.

related doodle.

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3 Responses to “Future Commerce Hypotheses”

  1. eric says:

    “A Linux or Wikipedia style online information commons for all physical products…” and for information in highly specialized fields. Just talking to Brenda (neuroscientist) last night about various efforts underway to build free public databases of various genetic information for scientists.

    What a great new way to philanthropize. Buy information and then give it away. More on the hoping tip, but what a great domino starter it would be if a few big dogs bought up a mountain of imprisoned information and gave it away for free. I guess it’s happening already.

    This build-and-fix-it-yourself model really would require a resurgence of local service shops: the good old TV repair man, or the shoe repair man.

    “Small businesses will be easier to start…” and easier to go under, too. When one little modular piece breaks—when one company folds—the hole will be quickly filled and the whole, relatively undisturbed.

  2. cullen says:

    you made a few points that I thought alluded to computer chips.

    with how fast we’re advancing culturally and technologically, we can think of the chip as a source of inspiration - more powerful programs and functions demanded higher computing capacity and faster movement of data. the more demanding the tasks, the more well connected chips got - and also smaller and more task-specific! the shorter a distance data has to move and the fewer connections it has to make, the faster the chip can process it.

    maybe the smaller business model is perfect in the sense that we’re keeping up with a lot of ideas and changes in every facet of culture (exponential growth with the exponential growth in online communication) and a smaller “chip” can chunk, process, and adapt more quickly.

  3. reduction rue du commerce…


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