The Problem in Belief
We’re used to treating information as “free,” but the price we pay for the illusion of “free” is only workable so long as most of the overall economy isn’t about information. Today, we can still think of information as the intangible enabler of communications, media, and software. But as technology advances in this century, our present intuition about the nature of information will be remembered as narrow and shortsighted. We can think of information narrowly only because sectors like manufacturing, energy, health care, and transportation aren’t yet particularly automated or ‘net-centric.
But eventually most productivity probably will become software-mediated. Software could be the final industrial revolution. It might subsume all the revolutions to come. This could start to happen, for instance, once cars and trucks are driven by software instead of human drivers, 3D printers magically turn out what had once been manufactured goods, automated heavy equipment finds and mines natural resources, and robot nurses handle the material aspects of caring for the elderly. (These and other examples will be explored in detail later on.) Maybe digital technology won’t advance enough in this century to dominate the economy, but it probably will.