If Google and Facebook are at the forefront of global economic growth through making money out of the content we submit, why is that they don’t pay us for the submission of this content?

Is it because we are all willing to do it for free?
Why are we willing to submit out content for free?
Do these platforms give us the potential to gather an audience and build a career for ourselves?

Jaron Lanier’s new book “Who Owns The Future” addresses these questions in a powerful throught provoking way. He speaks about a future in which our willingness to submit data to large free open networks is running us out of a democratic middle class economy.

Whether it be music, medicine, property or marketing, the more data we submit to these mega systems the faster they will put us out of a job. It’s an unsustainable model. The more they learn, the better they get, and for who’s benefit?

Jaron Lanier wants to change this. He images a world in which collectors share their profits with those who submit – the data on which their profits are based. It’s a revolutionary concept that disrupts the global information economy and might lead us to a sustainable free middle class economy.

“Here’s an example of the challenge we face. The photography company Kodak once employed more than 140,000 people and was worth $28 billion. They even invented the first digital camera. But today Kodak is bankrupt, and the new face of digital photography has become Instagram. When Instagram was sold to Facebook for a billion dollars in 2012, it employed only thirteen people.

Where did all those jobs disappear to? And what happened to the wealth that those middle-class jobs created? Questions like these will only become more common as digital networking hollows out every industry, from media to medicine to manufacturing.
Instagram isn’t worth a billion dollars just because those thirteen employees are extraordinary. Instead, its value comes from the millions of users who contribute to the network without being paid for it. Networks need a great number of people to participate in them to generate significant value. But when they have them, only a small number of people get paid. That has the net effect of centralizing wealth and limiting overall economic growth.
Instead of enlarging our overall economy by creating more value that is on the books, the rise of digital networking is enriching a relative few while moving the value created by the many off the books.

By “digital networking” I mean not only the Internet and the Web, but also other networks operated by outfits like financial institutions and intelligence agencies. In all these cases, we see the phenomenon of power and money becoming concentrated around the people who operate the most central computers in a network, undervaluing everyone else. That is the pattern we have come to expect, but it is not the only way things can go.

Monetizing more of what’s valuable from ordinary people, who turn out to be the uncompensated sources of the data that make networks valuable in the first place, will lead to a better future. That will make power and clout more honestly distributed, and might even lead to a persistent middle class in an information economy, which would otherwise be an impossible goal.”
-Jaron Lanier