From A Physical to Logical Economy

Posted 3 years, 8 months ago | Originally written on 20 Oct 2020

There are two parts to our natural human experience*: the physical and logical. The physical relates to our tangible selves and the logical to our mental selves. Our interactions between these two worlds are so tight that they appear largely seamless, especially given the prevalence of logical tools such as books, computers and the Internet.

However, for most of our civilisation, we have been heavily reliant on the physical side. Our economies were bound by physical laws of space and time. Socio-economic activities were physically coupled so that much of the way society has been structured has only taken that into account. But we are still in the nascent stages of a world where these shackles are being thrown off. The logical world is steadily growing in influence to the extent that it will dwarf the physical world of yesteryear.

I recently read a fascinating article describing the information economy titled The Next Economy by economists J. Bradford De Long and A. Michael Froomkin. In their article, published in 1997, they ponder how the ubiquity of the Internet would shape the way society is organised. One of the most striking predictions, yet to be fully realised, is that an enterprise can exert influence over part or the whole world without local economies being able to benefit in any way. It is easy to think of large Internet companies such as Google, Facebook and Amazon. But these are forerunners from an economy is way ahead of the rest of the world technologically. I'm keen to see what they mean for the nature of employment as it dawns on workers that they have more choice, not just in jobs, but also in enterprise; that emigration can be aimed at locating oneself in a stable society so as to better exploit opportunities back home. The Internet has, effectively, levelled the globe in a way like nothing before it has done before. I believe there will be radical reactions from anarchistic governments trying to profit unreasonably e.g. blocking Internet sites to prevent their citizens from being 'coerced' into subtle reliance.

While I am excited about the opportunities it presents, the jury is still out on what the full implications will be.

*For now I'll leave out the spiritual largely because it is not material to what I'm about to discuss.