A Radically Decentralized Future? The Long-Term Influence of Digital Media

  1. It wouldn’t have been possible to provide a vaccine for COVID-19 so quickly without digital means of sharing research instantly.
  2. The economic consequences of a global pandemic would have been far more devastating in pre-digital times. Now we complain about Zoom fatigue.
  3. Our modern world runs on open source software, produced by globally distributed volunteers that often have never met in person. This illustrates how powerful collaboration using these new means can be.
  4. Tens of thousands of people (maybe more) make a living producing all kinds of digital content independently on platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Medium or Substack. Yes, much of it is trivial entertainment, but you can easily find great educational stuff, cutting-edge thinking and true art, produced by people who probably would never had a career in traditional media.
  1. Students picking the best teachers from anywhere in the world — and for that matter, teaching each other.
  2. People working for a variety of “employers” (the concept might disappear) anywhere in the world.
  3. A truly global economy running on digital currency and other means of storing value and settling transactions, beyond the direct control of nation states.
  4. Experts gaining their credibility and influence not through credentials from traditional institutions such as universities, but by their merit in getting something done (the open source movement is a great example) and being able to communicate well. Of course this brings all kinds of problems, which is why it’s likely that there will be new forms of credential systems.
  5. Culture becoming fully global (isn’t it already?). Of course the local, physical manifestations of culture still count, but they are just user interfaces to a global pot of culture. Accessibility trumps scarcity. Already now, young people don’t care about record collections anymore because music is everywhere. Similarly, people won’t care about owning the original artwork, just access. Books (both as a physical object and unit of information transport) will look similarly relevant as hand-written texts from monastery libraries do to us.
  6. National laws increasingly losing relevance because work, education, culture, society are all factually global. Instead, more organically formed market standards, self-regulation and forms of validation and credentials take over. Nation states will compete with each other over who gets to provide the best physical infrastructure and friendliest legal framework for digital business and residency.
  7. Political power experiences a bifurcation: The layer of the nation state drifts into irrelevance. Most relevant are global systems (Are they institutions? Maybe in a way) and very local communities that control their physical environment directly.
  8. Institutions as a concept don’t disappear, but the existing ones are largely driven into irrelevance, replaced by digital ones. Remember when your library was the arbiter of truth and enabler of information access? Now it’s Google and Wikipedia, both of which apply a concept of relevance that is rooted in collaboration.
  9. Physical wars are increasingly irrelevant since territory is becoming less important — with the exception of access to certain truly scarce natural resources. Cyberwars on the other hand are constantly going on, and not just between countries. Armies controlled by nation states are increasingly replaced by well-funded mercenary organizations.
  10. The corporation as a concept will be replaced by something more digital and fluent — maybe not for everything, but in many domains. To make this work, new forms of governance have to be invented. Today’s DAOs are a first, still primitive step.
  11. Ownership as a concept remains crucial, but people will increasingly be willing to work for other benefits as well — such as peer recognition, similar to the OSS movement and cultural domains. In a world of abundance, status and attention are the truly scarce commodities.

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Andreas Goeldi

Andreas Goeldi

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Technologist, entrepreneur and investor. Likes startups, gadgets, movies, good audio technology and rambling about any of those topics. Partner at btov.vc