Jaron Lanier on Moore’s Law

I’M going back to the work of the dreadlocked writer/musician/digital skeptic this week because of a conversation that will appear soon. He’s got a great few lines near the beginning of Who Owns the Future? — recently out in paperback — that sums up Moore’s Law, as well as what’s called Baumol’s Curse, about as succinctly as I can imagine. Moore’s Law, at its most basic, describes the vast expansion of computing capacity over time; supposedly, its speed or power doubles WOTFgermanlangevery year and a half or two.

Moore’s Law means that more and more things can be done practically for free, if only it weren’t for those people who want to be paid. People are the flies in Moore’s Law’s ointment. When machines get incredibly cheap to run, people seem correspondingly expensive. It used to be that printing presses were expensive, so paying newspaper reporters seemed like a natural expense to fill the pages. When the news became free, that anyone would want to be paid at all started to seem unreasonable. Moore’s Law can make salaries — and social safety nets — seem like unjustifiable luxuries.

The dynamic has pretty clear implications for the creative class.

My new piece on Lanier will run soon; watch this space.

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