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  • Jan 6th, 2012 @ 4:41pm

    It's not simply a matter of removal of scarcity.

    Technology has always revealed things, as Heidegger pointed out, in terms of their resource value. Things can be revealed in plenty of other ways, but by being viewed as resources exchange values can be applied to virtually anything. This mode of showing of course eventually was applied to human beings themselves, and "human resources" came into existence.

    This holds fine while "technology" refers to the network of meaningful relations between technical things, something that was true until technology succeeded in containing its own context and being able to replicate that context, as the general purpose computer and even more so the internet can and do. Removing scarcity from the economic landscape in certain areas is only one effect of the "system" of technology becoming easily replicable to any arbitrary number of systems.

    At that point it is precisely the view of something as a resource, with a concomitant exchange value, that becomes irrelevant. What can be given an exchange value is what is equivalent between multiple instances of a type of item, but if that item can be replicated at will the exchange value becomes infinitely small. Worth as opposed to value, on the other hand, refers specifically to what is unique to a given instance. A live concert is still *worth* something because the experience is unique for each person at that specific time and place.

    As another example, the laptop I'm typing on, as it came from the factory, has a very minimal exchange value, particularly when you compare it to what that value would have been, were an equivalent available, fifteen years ago. However as it came from the factory it had nothing unique about it. Having spent plenty of time setting it up to work the way I want it to work, much the way a carpenter might set up his workshop, it's *worth* to me is far greater than its exchange value.

    This type of change will affect more and more industries due to the qualitative change from a technical artifact being a tool, to its being a personal, customized network of tools; a workshop, not a hammer. That's what we've let out of Pandora's box, and the battle to stop factories will look like it should have been easy compared to the difficulty people will face trying to stop this revolution.

    Industries that are based on selling things with a predictable exchange value now have to face the difficult challenge of providing worth to their customers. Being unique, worth is inherently less predictable, and inherently more difficult to judge, and the corporate configurations of most current businesses will not prove flexible enough to weather the change. Which means of course that newer, more flexible models of doing business will inevitably wipe out most of today's big business, just as they did during earlier periods of significant change.