PLENTITUDE NOT SCARCITY

The more interconnected a technology is…

…the more opportunities it spawns for both use and misuse.

Some of the best video games of all time were elegant little programs that ran on early computers such as the Commodore 64. Millions of C-64s were sold during the early 1980s; most of them lie at the bottom of landfills today. Their flealike memories and lack of disk space have been replaced by Powerbooks and Pentiums. The few still working are sold at collector’s prices. But out on the web, filling niches no one could have predicted, are a flock of emulators. You can download a Commodore 64 emulator onto your Powerbook. At the click of a button it will turn your state-of-the-art workstation into a moronic C-64 (or one of 25 other golden oldies) so you can play an ancient version of Moondust, or PacMan. This is equivalent to having a switch on the dashboard of your Ferrari to make it run like a VW Bug.

These refreshing street uses for technology stem from the plentitude of interactions. Artifacts of the industrial economy yield limited potential for such weird, tangential uses. The network economy, on the other hand, is a cornucopia of products and innovations that cry out to be subverted in new ways. Indeed, in a network, new opportunities arise primarily when existing opportunities are seized. A business that successfully occupies a niche immediately creates at least two new niches for other businesses. There is, for example, no end to the number of companies that will find a niche in email; the more wild ideas that are created, the more wild ideas can be created. The arms race between spammers and readers is only in its infancy.

 

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This is a blog version of a book of mine first published in 1998. I am re-issuing it (two posts per week) unaltered on its 10th anniversary. Comments welcomed. More details here.
-- KK