Thursday, September 28, 2006

Lessig on Hybrid Economies

I really liked Larry Lessig's post on the multiple economies that we interact with. There's the traditional, "I work for money" economy (e.g. most people's jobs), and then the non-commercial, "I work because I want to" economy (e.g. Wikipedia). Regarding these two economies,

Having now seen the extraordinary value of this second economy, I think most would agree we need to think lots about how best to encourage it — what techniques are needed to call it into life, how is it sustained, what makes it flourish. I don’t think anyone knows exactly how to do it well. Those living in real second economy communities (such as Wikipedia) have a good intuition about it.

But a second and also extremely difficult problem is how, or whether, the economies can be linked. Is there a way to cross over from the commercial to second economy? Is there a way to manage a hybrid economy — one that tries to manage this link.

Though Lessig goes on to advocate new copyright standards as a solution for managing the "hybrid" economies, I think it's more of a cultural distinction. Many people in our society feel torn between doing what they need to do for survival (economy 1) and doing what they are passionate about for their life - this gap causes the second economy, which allows people to interact outside of their normal work life.

I think that the double-economy phenomenon is a temporary symptom of a drastic change in American culture. A new wave of college graduates feel entitled to do what they are passionate about in life - even white collar, well-paying jobs are no longer satisfying. Other people are forced into or stuck in jobs they don't care about - and have more opportunities to explore their interests outside (or during) work. The symptom will disappear when new business models emerge that allow people do follow their interests, rather than simply their wallet. Utopian and idealistic? Perhaps, but until this conflict gets resolved, we'll always have two distinct economies that will never become a hybrid.

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