Umair Haque / Bubblegeneration
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Design principles for 21st century companies, markets, and economies. Foreword by Gary Hamel. Coming January 4th. Pre-order at Amazon.


 
Tuesday, August 17, 2004


Sterling's SIGGRAPH speech on Spimes. Aaargh. Look, Spimes are just a subset of something innovators have been discussing for ages - smart objects. Spimes are transparent smart objects.

I don't think Sterling's vision of Spimes will come to pass. Here's why: the history of innovation tells us that dominant designs are circumscribed by economics. Now, the economics of Spimes are fairly straightforward: since they're hypernetworked, the market will be a massively winner-take-all market. Imagine MS to the 999th power - with access to the entire universe of data collected, tracked, and predicted by every single object you interact with.

It's not that the possibilities for evil outweigh the possibilities for good - thought clearly they do - it's that the firm's incentive to do evil outweights it's incentive to do good. The gains firms realize by abusing Spimes are far greater than the gains they realize by using Spimes to, I don't know, create nicer better technologies. Why would a hypermonopolist create a better technology when he controls all the Spimes?

So we have a paradox: control of the Spime market would be fought against viciously by citizens and antitrust authorities. But this kills the gains to Spiming by firms. So firms are better off keeping their objects closed.

The only way a viable Spimes market forms is if somebody without the incentive to abuse it controls it. Who's that? no one - the control of the market must be massively distributed. How will that work? Well, to begin with, it requires a fundamental shift in our notion of capital, labour, investment, and return - which hasn't even begun to materialize yet.

Sorry if this was long, boring, and painful. Sterling made me do it.

-- umair // 2:20 PM // 0 comments


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