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TahoeBlue

Information is clearly an important source of economic value, but when Mr. Robinson opines that "information is the most important resource of the 21st century ... not oil, not water", he is taking the role of electronic cheerleader over the top.

There may be 'gold in them thar hills' with regards to managing, capitalizing, and monetizing the increasingly informational and interpersonal nature of human interaction in the 21st century, particularly in light of the fact that it is easier to move electrons and light in wire or glass than it is to move humans from point A to point B.

But Mr. Robinson is having a bit of an "out of body experience" when he relegates the importance of such things as sources of physical energy and life itself to a status that is less than 'information'. Simple cause-and-effect: the human mind can not enjoy the fruits of its conceptual interactions with others if the physical basis for life support is missing or wanting ! He has perhaps rushed a bit too headlong and prematurely into the 'singularity' anticipated by Ray Kurzweil (and feared by Bill Joy).

One other thing about 'information', such as "unstructured data" in the form of video and audio streams: such data is largely unbounded, and can be created, manufactured, or instantiated by simply turning on billions of devices and pouring the output of their codecs and transponders into the waiting arms of the Web. One thing that techno-evangelists should consider, a lesson learned from basic economics, is simply that over-abundance and over-supply actually *reduces* relative value. Just look at what has happened in the music industry, for starters.

If personal and social information -- and privacy -- is of such inherent value, then individuals should be compensated by the social networks of the world to be able to monetize the activity and identity of the participants, not the other way around.

I suspect that, as important as technology and information is to the total economy, that Mr. Robinson is on a bit of a well, flight of fancy !

Marshall Kirkpatrick

Good comment Tahoeblue. In Robinson's defense, he also argued that the sea of information would derive a substantial amount of its value from the way it enabled optimized management of other resources like oil and water.

As for oversupply leading to diminishing value, there is a fundamental difference between music and other types of data that gain value through network effect. At a certain point there may be diminishing value for kinds of data that are consumed individually (like songs or albums) but other kinds of data just illuminate more patterns, details and opportunities when amassed in larger numbers.

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