It's Not Internet Pessimists vs. Internet Optimists; It's Simply Reality

from the the-market-is-changing dept

Adam Thierer has tried to categorize a bunch of different book authors and internet “thinkers” into one of two camps: internet optimists and internet pessimists. I’m somewhat surprised to be included among the optimists for a few reasons — not the least of which is that I’m surprised to see my name included with a lot of folks who are a lot more prestigious. I don’t belong in such a group.

That said, I’m a bit torn about the overall chart. I am optimistic about what new technologies and innovation allow, but I hardly think of myself as an idealist — and tend to agree with Adam that things like wikis don’t solve everything, and that we haven’t reached a post-capitalist world where traditional means of production are passe. However, perhaps I’m misreading some of the other “optimists” on the list, but I don’t think anyone really believes that either. As I’ve pointed out in the past, none of what we talk about here is about any fundamental change or shift in economics. It’s the same old economics that has applied for ages. It’s just trying to explain how changes in technology impact those economics.

So, I agree that it’s silly to think that peer production completely replaces professional production means, but that’s another extreme scenario that I don’t think very many are actually pitching. Instead, the point that they’re making is that peer production models will also enter the market, meaning that traditional business models will face some competition. It doesn’t mean that one wins out entirely over the other, just that it may force some models of production to adjust to the reality of the market. I don’t necessarily think that’s an optimistic viewpoint — it’s just a realistic explanation of what’s happening. While some pessimists may not like it, they’re basically just whining for a different world that doesn’t exist any more, and don’t like the fact that they can’t continue to live in that world.

I also disagree that the “optimists” don’t believe in property rights, as Thierer implies. I’m a huge believer in property rights. My point is simply that “property” needs to be applied properly — meaning not to infinite goods, where it doesn’t make much sense. So while I can see where Adam is going with this chart, I’m not sure the characterizations really fit.

Filed Under: , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “It's Not Internet Pessimists vs. Internet Optimists; It's Simply Reality”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Griff (profile) says:

Internet Optimism

I believe that modern tech can enable some people to telecommute rather than pollute, to waste less food by only shipping it to where it is needed, to marry up sellers and buyers so that excess stock need not sit in the wrong places and be shipped to wasteful central hubs. That the “make to order” small batch approach can beat old fashioned mass production for all but small widgets.

But just because tech CAN do these things, I don’t believe necessarily that it will happen because politics and corporate greed and cultural inertia will stop it.

So does that make me a technie optimist or pessimist ?

Errant Garnish (profile) says:

Optimist vs Pessimist

The tension here is from Adam’s attempt to split the world of thought about the Internet into two camps. In general, these kinds of polar categorizations are simplistic and anti-intellectual. The world of ideas and culture has many sides.

But it is not difficult to see that people who write and speak about Technology tend to have a polar bias. One group (whom Adam calls the optimists) feels that the Internet has enabled profound changes in the way we communicate, trade, and behave, and that these changes are positive because they remove unwanted barriers between people and information. The other group (pessimists) feel that this surge of free information is on the whole destabilizing and damaging: it promotes mediocrity, mutes the intellect, and minimizes the human experience.

The same arguments were made on both sides about Television (fifty years ago) and, for that matter, the printing press (about 400 years ago).

As far as being branded as an “Internet optimist,” I would wear this badge proudly. It marks a progressive thinker, and someone who has faith that humanity will ultimately prevail over technology.


Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...