Technology will make it possible to compensate each person according to their economic value. That’s pretty bad news for most people, and very good news for some.
Every idea, every project, every piece of work is comprised of smaller pieces that were created by other people. In most cases, it is not feasible to track the provenance of these ideas or to compensate their originators for every instance in which they are being used.
But what if it was easier to keep track of each person’s contribution and automatically compensate them each time it is being useful? What would the world look like then?
A primitive version of this scenario can be seen in industries with high awareness of intellectual rights. When a song is played on the radio, for example, multiple people are eligible for royalties — the singer, the bass player, the lyricist, the composer, the producer, and more. If the song contains samples of other songs, the contributors to the sampled song are also supposed to be compensated. But as Jesse Walden points out, even in the music industry, keeping track of who, how much, and when to pay royalties is not always practical.
Throughout most of human history, most people produced things or worked the land. But the two most important outputs of the 21st Century are code and content. Code creates powerful tools that, among other things, help distribute content. Content props up powerful narratives that, among other things, help bring more economic activity under the dominion of software tools. Code itself is content, and content — language— is itself code. Both aim to make abstract ideas actionable.
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