So there I was surfing along, reading:
and I was thinking, "this makes a lot of sense." And then I come across the line:
Bruce Sterling doesn't get it, but Brad DeLong does.
Ah. No wonder.
Here's how Jim ends his very nice piece, a superior quality anti-Bruce Sterling rant:
The end of scarcity?
Commerce and technology are creating a world of abundance. Is there a chance that somewhere along the way, we eliminate scarcity?
Nanotechnology might do for matter what the Internet has done for information. This world is coming, and it is a vastly different world. Bruce Sterling could have written about that, he is a science fiction writer after all. I'm just a businessman.
But here is my take: limits are a surprisingly resilient thing. The state of things on the margin tends to shape the rest of the landscape.The Internet seems like it makes information free, but it doesn't quite. Information won't be free because its creation has costs. At the root, these costs derive from the fact that the production of information takes time and effort, and time and effort are scarce. We can only do one thing at a time, and only so many things in a lifetime. There are opportunity costs, and so there will have to be priorities, choices, things foregone. That means, I will bet, that there will be commerce.
Nano-tech won't make material things free either. Scarcity will find new corners to pop out of. There is a finite supply of matter with which it make things out of, a finite supply of energy. There is friction, entropy.
But what wonderful limits to come up against! How much richer we will be by the time we face these issues as pressing problems and not interesting concepts for speculation. I'd give my right arm to live to see those problems solved (why not? by then it will be trivial to get me a new one). And even if they are not solved -- even if limits and asymptotes and life-on-the-margin all prevail -- well, what of it?
It won't be so bad to have to meet in the marketplace every once in a while.