Prophetic Economics 03

11 Apr

We can already see the bleeding of profits from major entertainment and broadcast corporations. Part of that is simply the turnover in technology, and how the new is embraced by the newer generations of consumers. Print is nearly dead, TV is dying (cable in particular), and Hollywood is barely hanging on. They aren’t going away, but are simply not that profitable any more. Meanwhile, the technology to provide entertainment on-demand to individuals is all the rage. Further, we see that decentralized production of the content is taking a strong hold, and the old centralized dinosaurs are stumbling. We are already in the age of the Indie entertainer.

You would naturally expect the political left to seek their previous advantage by infiltrating this new Internet driven entertainment. To some degree it has worked, most notably in the larger technology companies. However, it’s not hard to see that, in America at least, advertising revenues in that sector of the economy are declining because they are too much a part of the old broadcast technology. Have you noticed that Facebook has already taken membership losses in the US? So far, a few giants have proven nimble in finding ways to stay relevant and profitable in the market. However, many are at risk and a few are already gone and forgotten.

On the one hand, it seems that there is no way to assert the left-leaning message without alienating users. It’s way too easy for some disgruntled executive or entrepreneur to fire up a competing service that simply doesn’t respond to leftist pressure. This siphons off a major portion of the most active users from the older, bigger services. While this may make the remaining community of left-leaning users happy, how can the political leadership keep up the leftward pressure on the rest of society if their targets move off the services they control?

This is something that politicians still don’t get: The Internet is not like meat space. Even Biblical Law is not the same for the Internet. Man remains a fallen creature, but virtual space has its own different reality, and the basic assumptions behind Biblical Law forcefully manifest themselves because Western social mythology fails on the Net. It is not possible to overwhelm the public discussion on the Net as with public broadcast in meat space. And people on the Net manifest their tribal and nationalist wiring more forcefully than ever.

So not only is the political left running out of financial support, but their whole game of influence is undermined by the way social discourse now takes place in virtual space. But marketing is where it showed up first, and that has radically changed. The Internet thrives on offering a million minor tweaks in the product simply because it is now possible. Consumers have always wanted it, but could never so much as request it in a mass-produced world. The Internet gives everyone an equal voice in stating their desires. It showed up first in entertainment content, making Indie artists possible — writing (including news and commentary), film and visual arts, as well as music and gaming. Any homeless waif who gets his hands on a decent used laptop can find the software and work out how to offer fairly advanced content for an untapped niche market. Technology has also increasingly democratized and commoditized production in ways that make catering to every imaginable taste in physical objects possible. That business of 3D printing is just getting started. (I’ve been trying to do that with religion, as well.)

This is a case where technology, and then economics, leads the cultural shift. We have just begun seeing how this will affect politics. The tolerance for business-as-usual is long gone. Give the Networked Generation a little more time and they will come up with their own radically new ways of doing government. Despite the many desperate efforts to tap into social media for the old political stuff, the vast majority of those now having grown up on the Internet are scarcely paying attention any more. The new political rally is the come-n-go affair on forums and chat services. I am convinced that we are on the verge of explosive changes in how this plays out in meat space.

Every part of the old order is on the chopping block.

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