Yochai Benkler 談新開源經濟



One of the problems of writing , and working , and looking at the Internet is that it 's very hard to separate fashion from deep change .
And so , to start helping that , I want to take us back to 1835 .
In 1835 , James Gordon Bennett founded the first mass-circulation newspaper in New York City .
And it cost about 500 dollars to start it , which was about the equivalent of 10,000 dollars of today .
By 15 years later , by 1850 , doing the same thing -- starting what was experienced as a mass -- circulation daily paper -- would come to cost two and a half million dollars .
10,000 , two and a half million , 15 years .
That 's the critical change that is being inverted by the Net .
And that 's what I want to talk about today , and how that relates to the emergence of social production .


Starting with newspapers , what we saw was high cost as an initial requirement for making information , knowledge and culture , which led to a stark bifurcation between producers -- who had to be able to raise financial capital , just like any other industrial organization -- and passive consumers that could choose from a certain set of things that this industrial model could produce .
Now , the term `` information society , '' `` information economy , '' for a very long time has been used as the thing that comes after the industrial revolution . But in fact , for purposes of understanding what 's happening today , that 's wrong . Because for 150 years , we 've had an information economy .
It 's just been industrial , which means those who were producing had to have a way of raising money to pay those two and a half million dollars , and later , more for the telegraph , and the radio transmitter , and the television , and eventually the mainframe .
And that meant they were market based , or they were government owned , depending on what kind of system they were in . And this characterized and anchored the way information and knowledge were produced for the next 150 years .


Now , let me tell you a different story . Around June 2002 , the world of supercomputers had a bombshell .
The Japanese had , for the first time , created the fastest supercomputer -- the NEC Earth Simulator -- taking the primary from the U.S. , and about two years later -- this , by the way , is measuring the trillion floating-point operations per second that the computer 's capable of running -- sigh of relief : IBM [ Blue Gene ] has just edged ahead of the NEC Earth Simulator .
All of this completely ignores the fact that throughout this period , there 's another supercomputer running in the world -- SETI @ home .
Four and a half million users around the world , contributing their leftover computer cycles , whenever their computer is n't working , by running a screen saver , and together sharing their resources to create a massive supercomputer that NASA harnesses to analyze the data coming from radio telescopes .


What this picture suggests to us is that we 've got a radical change in the way information production and exchange is capitalized . Not that it 's become less capital intensive -- that there 's less money that 's required -- but that the ownership of this capital , the way the capitalization happens , is radically distributed . Each of us , in these advanced economies , has one of these , or something rather like it -- a computer .
They 're not radically different from routers inside the middle of the network .
And computation , storage and communications capacity are in the hands of practically every connected person -- and these are the basic physical capital means necessary for producing information , knowledge and culture , in the hands of something like 600 million to a billion people around the planet .


What this means is that for the first time since the industrial revolution , the most important means , the most important components of the core economic activities -- remember , we are in an information economy -- of the most advanced economies , and there more than anywhere else , are in the hands of the population at large . This is completely different than what we 've seen since the industrial revolution . So we 've got communications and computation capacity in the hands of the entire population , and we 've got human creativity , human wisdom , human experience -- the other major experience , the other major input -- which unlike simple labor -- stand here turning this lever all day long -- is not something that 's the same or fungible among people .
Any one of you who has taken someone else 's job , or tried to give yours to someone else , no matter how detailed the manual , you can not transmit what you know , what you will intuit under a certain set of circumstances .
In that we 're unique , and each of us holds this critical input into production as we hold this machine .


What 's the effect of this ? So , the story that most people know is the story of free or open source software .
This is market share of Apache Web server -- one of the critical applications in Web-based communications .
In 1995 , two groups of people said , `` Wow , this is really important , the Web ! We need a much better Web server ! '' One was a motley collection of volunteers who just decided , you know , we really need this , we should write one , and what are we going to do with what -- well , we 're gon na share it ! And other people will be able to develop it .
The other was Microsoft .


Now , if I told you that 10 years later , the motley crew of people , who did n't control anything that they produced , acquired 20 percent of the market and was the red line , it would be amazing ! Right ?
Think of it in minivans . A group of automobile engineers on their weekends are competing with Toyota . Right ?
But , in fact , of course , the story is it 's the 70 percent , including the major e-commerce site -- 70 percent of a critical application on which Web-based communications and applications work is produced in this form , in direct competition with Microsoft . Not in a side issue -- in a central strategic decision to try to capture a component of the Net .
Software has done this in a way that 's been very visible , because it 's measurable . But the thing to see is that this actually happens throughout the Web .


So , NASA , at some point , did an experiment where they took images of Mars that they were mapping , and they said , instead of having three or four fully trained Ph.D.s doing this all the time , let 's break it up into small components , put it up on the Web , and see if people , using a very simple interface , will actually spend five minutes here , 10 minutes there , clicking . After six months , 85,000 people used this to generate mapping at a faster rate than the images were coming in , which was , quote , `` practically indistinguishable from the markings of a fully-trained Ph.D. , '' once you showed it to a number of people and computed the average .


Now , if you have a little girl , and she goes and writes to -- well , not so little , medium little -- tries to do research on Barbie .
And she 'll come to Encarta , one of the main online encyclopedias .
This is what you 'll find out about Barbie . This is it , there 's nothing more to the definition , including , `` manufacturers '' -- plural -- `` now more commonly produce ethnically diverse dolls , like this black Barbie . '' Which is vastly better than what you 'll find in the encyclopedia.com , which is Barbie , Klaus . ( Laughter ) On the other hand , if they go to Wikipedia , they 'll find a genuine article -- and I wo n't talk a lot about Wikipedia , because Jimmy Wales is here -- but roughly equivalent to what you would find in the Britannica , differently written , including the controversies over body image and commercialization , the claims about the way in which she 's a good role model , etc .


Another portion is not only how content is produced , but how relevance is produced .
The claim to fame of Yahoo ! was , we hire people to look -- originally , not anymore -- we hire people to look at websites and tell you -- if they 're in the index , they 're good . This , on the other hand , is what 60,000 passionate volunteers produce in the Open Directory Project , each one willing to spend an hour or two on something they really care about , to say , this is good . So , this is the Open Directory Project , with 60,000 volunteers , each one spending a little bit of time , as opposed to a few hundred fully paid employees . No one owns it , no one owns the output , it 's free for anyone to use and it 's the output of people acting out of social and psychological motivations to do something interesting .


This is not only outside of businesses . When you think of what is the critical innovation of Google , the critical innovation is outsourcing the one most important thing -- the decision about what 's relevant -- to the community of the Web as a whole , doing whatever they want to do : so , page rank .
The critical innovation here is instead of our engineers , or our people saying which is the most relevant , we 're going to go out and count what you , people out there on the Web , for whatever reason -- vanity , pleasure -- produced links , and tied to each other . We 're going to count those , and count them up .
And again , here , you see Barbie.com , but also , very quickly , Adiosbarbie.com , the body image for every size . A contested cultural object , which you wo n't find anywhere soon on Overture , which is the classic market-based mechanism : whoever pays the most is highest on the list .


So , all of that is in the creation of content , of relevance , basic human expression .
But remember , the computers were also physical . Just physical materials -- our PCs -- we share them together . We also see this in wireless .
It used to be wireless was one person owned the license , they transmitted in an area , and it had to be decided whether they would be licensed or based on property .
What we 're seeing now is that computers and radios are becoming so sophisticated that we 're developing algorithms to let people own machines , like Wi-Fi devices , and overlay them with a sharing protocol that would allow a community like this to build its own wireless broadband network simply from the simple principle : When I 'm listening , when I 'm not using , I can help you transfer your messages ; and when you 're not using , you 'll help me transfer yours .
And this is not an idealized version . These are working models that at least in some places in the United States are being implemented , at least for public security .


If in 1999 I told you , let 's build a data storage and retrieval system .
It 's got to store terabytes . It 's got to be available 24 hours a day , seven days a week . It 's got to be available from anywhere in the world .
It has to support over 100 million users at any given moment . It 's got to be robust to attack , including closing the main index , injecting malicious files , armed seizure of some major nodes . You 'd say that would take years .
It would take millions . But of course , what I 'm describing is P2P file sharing .
Right ? We always think of it as stealing music , but fundamentally , it 's a distributed data storage and retrieval system , where people , for very obvious reasons , are willing to share their bandwidth and their storage to create something .


So , essentially what we 're seeing is the emergence of a fourth transactional framework . It used to be that there were two primary dimensions along which you could divide things . They could be market based , or non-market based ; they could be decentralized , or centralized .
The price system was a market-based and decentralized system .
If things worked better because you actually had somebody organizing them , you had firms , if you wanted to be in the market -- or you had governments or sometimes larger non-profits in the non-market .
It was too expensive to have decentralized social production , to have decentralized action in society . That was not about society itself .
That was , in fact , economic .


But what we 're seeing now is the emergence of this fourth system of social sharing and exchange .
Not that it 's the first time that we do nice things to each other , or for each other , as social beings . We do it all the time .
It 's that it 's the first time that it 's having major economic impact .
What characterizes them is decentralized authority .
You do n't have to ask permission , as you do in a property-based system .
May I do this ? It 's open for anyone to create and innovate and share , if they want to , by themselves or with others , because property is one mechanism of coordination .
But it 's not the only one .


Instead , what we see are social frameworks for all of the critical things that we use property and contract in the market : information flows to decide what are interesting problems ; who 's available and good for something ; motivation structures -- remember , money is n't always the best motivator .
If you leave a $ 50 check after dinner with friends , you do n't increase the probability of being invited back .
And if dinner is n't entirely obvious , think of sex . ( Laughter )


It also requires certain new organizational approaches .
And in particular , what we 've seen is task organization .
You have to hire people who know what they 're doing .
You have to hire them to spend a lot of time .
Now , take the same problem , chunk it into little modules , and motivations become trivial .
Five minutes , instead of watching TV ?
Five minutes I 'll spend just because it 's interesting . Just because it 's fun .
Just because it gives me a certain sense of meaning , or , in places that are more involved , like Wikipedia , gives me a certain set of social relations .


So , a new social phenomenon is emerging .
It 's creating , and it 's most visible when we see it as a new form of competition .
Peer-to-peer networks assaulting the recording industry ; free and open source software taking market share from Microsoft ; Skype potentially threatening traditional telecoms ; Wikipedia competing with online encyclopedias .
But it 's also a new source of opportunities for businesses .
As you see a new set of social relations and behaviors emerging , you have new opportunities . Some of them are toolmakers .
Instead of building well-behaved appliances -- things that you know what they 'll do in advance -- you begin to build more open tools . There 's a new set of values , a new set of things people value .
You build platforms for self-expression and collaboration .
Like Wikipedia , like the Open Directory Project , you 're beginning to build platforms , and you see that as a model .
And you see surfers , people who see this happening , and in some sense build it into a supply chain , which is a very curious one . Right ?


You have a belief : stuff will flow out of connected human beings .
That 'll give me something I can use , and I 'm going to contract with someone .
I will deliver something based on what happens . It 's very scary -- that 's what Google does , essentially .
That 's what IBM does in software services , and they 've done reasonably well .


So , social production is a real fact , not a fad .
It is the critical long-term shift caused by the Internet .
Social relations and exchange become significantly more important than they ever were as an economic phenomenon . In some contexts , it 's even more efficient because of the quality of the information , the ability to find the best person , the lower transaction costs . It 's sustainable and growing fast .


But -- and this is the dark lining -- it is threatened by -- in the same way that it threatens -- the incumbent industrial systems .
So next time you open the paper , and you see an intellectual property decision , a telecoms decision , it 's not about something small and technical .
It is about the future of the freedom to be as social beings with each other , and the way information , knowledge and culture will be produced .
Because it is in this context that we see a battle over how easy or hard it will be for the industrial information economy to simply go on as it goes , or for the new model of production to begin to develop alongside that industrial model , and change the way we begin to see the world and report what it is that we see .
Thank you .