Saturday, January 31, 2009

We don't need repair of the economy, we need a complete re-evaluation

There is an aspect of our economy that is revolutionary and inescapable, yet it is not being addressed. Professional jobs are being lost to software and Internet tools that are so easy to use there is no longer a need to hire an expert. Internet connectivity makes communication so easy that there is no longer the need for some media specialists. Amateurs now have easy access to tools that used to require special training to use. So why hire someone when you or your kid can do it now easily and cheaply?

Take photography for example. Learning how to use the camera, how to develop the film, how to frame and set up a shot, made photography a specialty. Now, you buy a nice camera, point and shoot, maybe tweak it a little in Photoshop, and voila. Clay Shirky in his book Here Comes Everybody mentions an example where a company sought photos from a professional and was quoted $100 per photo. Competitive photos were found on for $1 per photo.
The speed and easy access of the Internet makes for competition for information providers like newspapers and TV stations. Bloggers have developed into serious contenders for readership in the journalism field. and are two examples of news web sites that are getting serious traffic.

Videographers and editors are getting serious competition from kids in their bedrooms with their own video cameras and computers. The group Anonymous, for example, has made some stunning videos about their war with Scientology, one of which has received almost three and a half million views. As Shirky says, “If everyone can do something, it is no longer rare enough to pay for, even if it is vital.” (Shirky, p. 79)

While many professions now struggle with equally-equipped amateurs for customers, so also the normal methods of product purchase is set to be turned on its head. Kevin Kelly, editor of Wired Magazine, says that “Very likely, in the near future, I won't 'own' any music, or books, or movies. Instead I will have immediate access to all music, all books, all movies using an always-on service, via a subscription fee or tax. I won't buy – as in make a decision to own -- any individual music or books because I can simply request to see or hear them on demand from the stream of ALL. I may pay for them in bulk but I won't own them. The request to enjoy a work is thus separated from the more complicated choice of whether I want to 'own' it. I can consume a movie, music or book without having to decide or follow up on ownership.” ( Salesman jobs are going to change or be eliminated.

So while it is essential to work on shoring up our economy after the recent collapse, it is also important to see that a large portion of our system of how we earn a living is changing before our eyes. It's not just time for repair, it's time for a complete re-evaluation.

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