Some thoughts on the “information society”


An information society is a society where the creation, distribution, diffusion, use, integration and manipulation of information is a significant economic, political, and cultural activity. The aim of the information society is to gain competitive advantage internationally, through using information technology (IT) in a creative and productive way. The knowledge economy is its economic counterpart, whereby wealth is created through the economic exploitation of understanding. People who have the means to partake in this form of society are sometimes called digital citizens. This is one of many dozen labels that have been identified to suggest that humans are entering a new phase of society.

Some people think we are evolving into an information society but I don’t see it as a viable model.

Let me be clear – there is a market for information and information technology. We have entered what could be called an “information age” that has profoundly impacted society in ways we don’t even yet know.

But how do you base an entire economy on information? In order to do that you either need to control knowledge or control the flow of information (or both). Either one is problematic.

There is an old saying that “A secret shared is not a secret”. How do you control knowledge once you share it? DVD burners and multi-gig jump drives are cheap and plentiful.

We already have problems with illegal file-sharing and DVD piracy. As our resident pirate can tell you, any anti-piracy software one man can design another can defeat. The only real remedy is to keep prices low enough to make piracy not very profitable.

Trying to control the flow of information is even more problematic. The whole idea of an information society is predicated on cheap and easy access to the internet. If using the ‘net becomes to difficult or expensive, people either won’t use it or they will force government to use eminent domain to take possession of the information superhighway infrastructure.

Basing an economy on the flow of information is like trying to base an economy on transportation. The industrial revolution depended on cheap and easy transportation of raw materials to factories and finished products to market. If you don’t have something of value to move you don’t need transportation.

Which brings me to my final point. The information age has not resulted in a huge expansion of human knowledge. We have seen big improvements in technology, but that’s been going on since the beginning of the scientific revolution.

Take my field – the law has not changed dramatically in the past twenty years. The practice of law has changed quite a bit as legal research and writing became so much easier. But the law itself remains pretty much unchanged.

The internet has created a truly global marketplace as buyers and sellers can easily hook-up from opposite sides of the planet. But it’s still just buying and selling.

As I said earlier, I’m not convinced that an “information society” is a viable economic model. The same thing applies to a “service economy.” That’s because neither one is predicated on producing anything tangible of value.

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44 Responses to Some thoughts on the “information society”

  1. HELENK says:

    one of the main ingredients for an information society is an educated society. In this country that has gone downhill for at least 30 years.
    That has to be changed. Tech stuff can be great, but you need an educated mind to use it. be it the education of good schooling or the education of the school of hard knocks and common sense

    • DM says:

      For the most part, people don’t care to know the issues that will impact their lives much more than who’s the latest American Idol. Those who are educated and can read beyond 4th grade level, don’t want to spend any time on anything that’s not fun.

  2. DM says:

    “The only real remedy is to keep prices low enough to make piracy not very profitable.”

    Why would anyone spend two, three, four years developing something unique, or in the case of corporations millions of dollars, if it will be stolen or priced so low that the payback is too small to make it worthwhile?

    In that model, there will come a day when we’ll be watching old movies, listening to old songs and stuck with old software, old designs and not new art.

    • myiq2xu says:

      In that model, there will come a day when we’ll be watching old movies, listening to old songs and stuck with old software, old designs and not new art.

      You just described my life.

    • DandyTiger says:

      or priced so low that the payback is too small to make it worthwhile?

      Volume, volume, volume. 20 million copies of something at $.99 ain’t bad. Angry Birds has made billions so far on 99 cent apps. That’s a B.

      Why publish a book when someone can go to the library can photocopy pages, whole chapters, the whole book. That’s the same as copying a music file.

      Here’s the trick with all of the above. Being able to read a book at the book store or library, or listen to a song over the radio, or get a copy of a song for free over the internet is actually amazingly good marketing. You want your stuff out there. If people like it, and it’s priced reasonably, enough people will buy it. The music industry was at its peek of sales and profit when free music file sharing was at its peek. Not a coincidence. When the breaks were put on file sharing (the modern equivalent of the radio I contend), sales plummeted.

      The best bands allow and even encourage concert go-ers to record and share from the concert. Why? Because it’s perfect marketing. The sound quality is not what you’ll get if you buy. But you listen and like it. If you like it enough, and it’s priced well, you’ll want to have your own.

      Another interesting thing for bands is, they never made much money on records. That’s the music industries part of the pie. The musicians actually make their money from live shows. So all records are marketing to the bands. It doesn’t matter to them as much if they go out for free or if someone pays. They get the same amount of money from it. And given the technology, and the ability to have your own studio and produce and sell digital media, there is very little reason for the in between music industry vampires. In other words, the business model has changed. And given their vulnerability, the music industry is full of panic and fear and are acting crazy towards their customers. Suing grandmothers and kids for hundreds of thousands or even millions for downloading one song.

      • myiq2xu says:

        Music no longer has to be mass produced and marketed. Downloads don’t require hardcopies, cover art or packaging. Even with CD’s the artists can burn-to-order if they sell online.

        • myiq2xu says:

          Artists don’t need to break-though to radio by bribing DJ’s and programming directors with “payola” either.

          They can post low-res audio and video clips online and then market the hi-res versions.

        • DandyTiger says:

          A good example is a local band we had called the Dave Matthews Band. They build their own audience over an area of three or so states. They packed houses when they played. They make their own CD’s. And they made a lot of money doing lives shows. They were approached by publishers for deals and said no. They only signed on when the terms were to their liking, because they knew they didn’t need them. That’s the best model for a band. Of course if you’re an invented by the studios band, that will be different.

        • myiq2xu says:

          My daughter and SIL are DMB fans. They live in Indy.

  3. I finally came out of my coma to write some final thoughts on the conventions:

  4. yttik says:

    “The same thing applies to a “service economy.” That’s because neither one is predicated on producing anything tangible.”

    Oh, I totally believe in a service economy! You really are producing something tangible, even if it’s hard to see. But “service” includes everything from nurses to plumbers to fast food workers to hotel owners. You can see how these jobs have remained an important part of our economy, in spite of the down turn and the loss of manufacturing jobs and industry.

    But I completely agree that an information society is not a viable economic model. In fact, I almost think we might be moving away from that. People are just saturated. For example, I used to see an ad for a product on TV and want to give it a try. Now days there are just so many darn commercials, I could care less. It’s been about ten years since I was excited about a product. The same is true for information. In the olden days I’d really want to purchase a certain book or video to learn about something. Not anymore, I’m just saturated with info. Besides, so much of the truly useful knowledge/info requires hands on training and human interaction.

  5. votermom says:

    OT – just saw that gas at my discount warehouse is $3.76/gal regular. Highest it’s been in several weeks.

    If Obama can’t keep the gas prices down as we near election day he is so gone.

    • There’s an app for that. 🙂

    • $3.89 here. Went up to that Wed or Thursday.
      I believe you are correct. The average person knows inflation when we feel it- the govt can fudge the numbers by taking food, fuel and utilities out of the equation (and putting or leaving in things like frigging washer/dryers and cars- as if everyone buys one of those every year) but Jane and John voter know that the paycheck is not going as far BECAUSE the cost of food, fuel, utilities is inflated.
      Gas hits people every week. We see it on the big signs every time we drive by the station.
      I hammer that home all the time on FB- gas in Jan 2009- $1.85, gas today xxx. Same paycheck. Less buying power.

  6. Pingback: For the Record « peacocks and lilies

  7. HELENK says:

    this site works all over the country to find gas prices

    pump patrol

  8. DandyTiger says:

    We already have problems with illegal file-sharing and DVD piracy. As our resident pirate can tell you, any anti-piracy software one man can design another can defeat. The only real remedy is to keep prices low enough to make piracy not very profitable.

    Agree. It’s actually work to copy an app or song. And work to upload. And when you share, there’s a moral issue that makes most people pause and think. So if the product is priced “fairly” and there aren’t barriers in the way of getting that product and using it “reasonably” in your home among your technological devices, then people would much rather do that.

    If you think about it, piracy is a really loser approach to things. It’s work. And once you have a copy, it will go stale very quickly. Because either the real product version gets updated afterwards or the required systems get updated. If that happens, you can’t get an update from the real maker, you have to hunt down an updated pirated copy. That’s at least true with software, though not so true of media like music. Instead, you try something for free (or even pirated), you like it, you want to use it more than once, so you’d be happy to pay. Because it’s easier.

    The main reason I see for piracy is when it’s almost impossible to buy it. That can be true of software where they make you jump through digital rights management (DRM) hoops. And sometimes it’s actually impossible to have the thing run more than one computer. And in the case of TV or movies, it’s often impossible to buy a copy of what you want. Say you like a TV show, but you missed an episode. Or if you want to see that episode again. What if that episode won’t be legally available for months or even a year? What if when it is, it costs an outrageous amount of money. But right in front of you, you can push a button to download it for free. People would rather pay 99 cents for the episode, but that’s been made impossible.

    That is why online stores that sell music and TV shows and movies, as soon as you can get it illegally, are making a killing. Amazon and Apple make tons from people wanting to pay 99 cents for a TV show. Especially from people that have “cut the cable”.

    Make it simple, make it reasonably priced, they will come.

    • myiq2xu says:

      We are also seeing changes in production and marketing.

      The price of a DVD is always highest when it is first released. Then the price rapidly drops.

      When VHS/Beta movies first hit the market they were expensive $70-$80 each. This created a market for rentals. Now you can buy new release DVDs and Blu-Rays for about the cost of 2 theater tickets ($15-$20) If you are willing to wait a while you can get them for $5-$10 each.

      Now movies go thru these stages: Theater-DVD/PPV-Pay Cable-Network/cable television. By the time the movies are on broadcast television they are on sale for under $10 new and even less for used.

      When I was a kid you bought music in 45 rpm singles or 33 1/3 rpm LPs. Then there were 8-tracks, cassettes and then full length CD’s.

      Now instead of having to buy a whole album you can buy a CD single or pay for a download.

      With both music and videos there is a lot more “niche” marketing.

      • DandyTiger says:

        It’s an incredible opportunity for the little guy in music, indy movies, and software. That makes the big organizations, coincidentally the ones that own all the news media, very unhappy. So guess how that’s reported…

        I’m having a blast. Time-Warner, NBC/Universal/Comcast/GE, etc. are not. Suck it.

      • elliesmom says:

        Another niche market that’s changing is the home sewing pattern industry. It used to be that you went to the fabric store and bought a tissue paper pattern. There were multiple sizes on one pattern, but once you cut one of the smaller size, you lost all of the others. A real bummer for kid’s patterns ’cause you always wanted the smallest one first. There’s been an explosion of independent pattern makers selling their patterns online. You download them and print out the size you want. When you want a different size, you just print that one out. The best part is that instead of boxes and boxes of tissue paper to store, you can keep all of your patterns on a thumb drive. Some of the designers let you have perpetual downloads so you don’t have to store them at all. I wouldn’t think of sharing the files because I want these women to keep it up, and no one wants to work for free.

        • Jadzia says:

          I am late to the party but that is so cool! I only sew for my kids and my solution has been to get my own tissue paper and trace the size I want from the purchased pattern. That takes a long time and it’s a pain in the ass, but it means that I will be able to use the next size up when the time comes.

  9. threewickets says:

    I thought this was an interesting read from Megan McArdle on patent policy.

    America has the most robust technology and media industries in the world, along with (I’m told) some of the most restrictive and ineptly implemented IP rules. If the critics are right, and our IP rules are strangling innovation, why are those companies still here?

    If IP policy can be this bad, and still leave us with world-dominance in these industries…industries that, moreover, offer some of the best jobs and growth potential in the country…then you kind of wonder.

  10. myiq2xu says:

    Wow – Niners are shutting down the Pack. It’s 3-0 after 1 quarter.

  11. propertius says:

    “Knowledge is Power. Knowledge shared is Power lost.”

    – Aleister Crowley

  12. HELENK says:

    one thing about the Eagles they never make it easy
    eagles 17 – browns 16

  13. foxyladi14 says:

    God giveth and the Government takes it away……. :evil;

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