Revisiting The Replicator Analogy: How Infinite Goods Create More Jobs
from the bring-in-the-tomatoes dept
Recently, in writing about a DRM scheme, I used the analogy of the Star Trek food replicator to explain why it made no sense to turn infinite goods, like content, into artificially scarce goods. There was a lot of back and forth in the comments about the appropriateness of the analogy, though I still think the basic point stands: it makes no sense to artificially limit an infinitely available resource. In fact, it only leads to bad things. However, one of our readers has written up a fantastic blog post where he tries to present a similar, but much, much better analogy:
A better analogy would be if the replicator only made tomatoes. You could have as many tomatoes as you wanted, they'd always be perfect and delicious, and they'd always be free. This would put tomato farmers out of business. But these tomato farmers could likely start growing something else instead. And what happens to the rest of the economy? Pizza and pasta restaurants suddenly find that a major ingredient in many of their dishes just became free. Now, for the same dish, they can charge less, or buy higher quality ingredients, or make more profit. And if you're a really talented cook specializing in tomatoes? Your skills are now in very high demand.Read that over a few times. It's about the best description/analogy of what we've been trying to say here that I've ever heard.
And there is still a demand for the people who bring the tomatoes from the replicator to your table. There is still a demand for the person who stews and cans the tomatoes, or dices and seasons them. And all the other food items, the ones that aren't in infitnite supply, still need people to produce, process, and distribute them.
This is what's happening in the music industry, and starting to happen in the publishing industry. Some parts of the industries are finding their functions obsolete. Instead of looking at the money they could save with electronic distribution, and what good use they could put that money to, the industry is seeking new laws and regulations to limit the infinite supply so business can continue as usual.
Even if every single song, book, and movie was distributed digitally for free, there would still be a need for the music, publishing, and movie industries. There would still be demand for editors, producers, marketers, and all sorts of other services that these industries have always provided.
Reasonable people aren't calling for the abolition of the music, publishing, and movie industries. They're just asking these industries to look to the future, and stop trying to limit supply to protect obsolete business models.