Subject: Re: Software as a public service
From: Russell McOrmond <russell@flora.ca>
Date: Sun, 15 May 2005 14:28:32 -0400


Stephen J. Turnbull wrote:
> The correct statement is that "any given program, once
> written, is no longer scarce, under the assumptions of perfect
> information about its nature and availability, and zero communication
> and storage costs."

I think there is yet another problem with language we are bumping up 
again.  When talking about supply/demand dynamics and pricing, a 
tangible being "scarce" makes the price go up (demand is high, supply is 
low).

With intangibles like software the dynamic is different.  Rather than 
saying something is or is not scarce, it may help to say that software 
is non-rivalrous.  The question is not whether it has value to exist, 
but whether its value is determined by its existence or it number. 
Counting something that is non-rivalrous to find some number is an 
artificial construct to support specific business models, not something 
that is built into either its natural or economic features.


   I disagree with some of the assumptions above, but that may stem from 
my differing idea of what 'scarce' means.  We live in a world of 
specialization where I focus my learning in an area, and you then 
(commercially or otherwise) rely on my expertise in that area.  You then 
focus in some other area which I then rely on you for.

When taken in that context all knowledge is scarce given no individual 
can retain all of it, and the vast majority of humans retain so little 
of it as to not be worth measuring.  I think the context is wrong, and 
that intangible knowledge isn't scarce the way that tangible fossil fuel 
reserves are.

-- 
  Russell McOrmond, Internet Consultant: <http://www.flora.ca/>
  http://www.digital-copyright.ca/blog/2 (My BLOG)
  Sign the Petition Users' Rights! http://digital-copyright.ca/petition/
  To protect Internet age creativity we must reform WIPO, not copyright!