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December 17th, 2018
Imagine at some point in the future hearing this:
“Remember that time when anyone could just make a website and put whatever they wanted on it? yea, that was great, if we still had that ability, I’d totally make something amazing.”
In such a dystopian-tinged scenario, we might easily feel the stinging nostalgia of such a sentiment. We can imagine remembering a moment just like today, when our chance to make something was unhindered.
How much more valuable does something become when we don’t have it? What about when it’s taken away?
Much of the wealth of the globalizing world has been the result of outsourcing production to areas where labor is cheaper. What this entails primarily is some blueprint or idea for a physical product that is executed many many times in the cheapest way possible.
We might think of fidget spinners as a prime example. Someone came up with the idea, got it manufactured for cheap overseas and then distributed it at a higher price.
The same model of idea replication applies to the infinitely reproducible nature of online content.
To properly illustrate this point we might imagine going to a shopkeeper in the early 1980’s and asking if they’d prefer to have a monthly rent that was on the order of a $1 a day. Chances are such a shopkeeper would laugh and say ‘of course’. Then we might ask if they’d rather keep no stock, and simply purchase as customer’s purchase. Such a shopkeeper might scoff at the feasibility of such an idea but would not deny wanting such a situation. And yet this kind of shop is very feasible today online. But the opportunity of the internet far exceeds this kind of convenience.
We might imagine asking Alexander Hamilton, or Saint Augustine, or Plato if they’d like to be able to make their writing instantly available to anyone who wanted to read it and forgo the whole process of submitting to a newspaper or a to a bookmaker or to a scribe for printing, replication and dissemination. Of course all of them would jump at the opportunity.
The internet presents a great deal of this kind of opportunity that many in the past would jump at. But the near ubiquity of this opportunity can make us blind to it, or worse, merely indifferent.
In much the same way that the loss of a loved one makes us regret all the free floating moments we had where we could have expressed what now comes to mind, we regard the opportunities of now as something that will always exist.
Even if these opportunities continue to exist into perpetuity, we would be best to treat them as ephemeral, merely for the fact that such an emotional disposition makes us more likely to engage with such opportunities. This is a lesson that often comes too late, and yet, even when learned the hard way on one front of life, we forget to proactively attribute the core of such lesson to other things in our life that might eventually follow a similar path to inaccessibility.
One way to hone our priorities is to ask what opportunities we would seize if we knew that there was a time limit on such opportunities?
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