Before the internet

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The Devil’s Advocate

In which the curmudgeonly old sod puts the world to rights.

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Before the internet things were

  • Analogue — information was buried in substrate and could only audio-to-digital converter was the human brain. Thus meetings and physical presence were a really important method of exchange - hence the importance of centralised locations for for merchants to gather.
  • Physically constrained — there was a physical cost to generating copying, adjusting, moving information, and any action lead to loss of fidelity.
  • Finite — the commons was a tragedy. There were infinite demand for finite resources, and generating information burned resources.
  • Disconnected - except where we were physically present, we were disconnected from each other and and reliant on expensive analogue communication. Any communication was effectively metered.
  • Intermediated — physical networks were expensive capital projects and therefore centralised and users depended on intermediaries with access to or ownership of the network. Intellectual property was similarly concentrated with intermediaries, who amassed the capital and resources to concentrate them. Legal advisors. Legal firms created integrated specialist expertise across a wide range of subjects, networks, and credibility amongst peers. Given the scale and risks of commercial enterprise it was not economical to try to house that sort of expertise in your organisation.