“We are constructing an Internet of Things infrastructure that optimizes collaboration, universal access and inclusion…”
– Jeremy Rifkin, author of “The Zero Marginal Cost Society”, writing in the New York Times, March 16, 2014
Rifkin argues that the “Internet of Things” – what he calls the Third Industrial Revolution which includes technology such as 3D printers, as well as smart sensors, electrical grids, logistics networks, and recycling programs – enables millions of people to use social media and online networks to make, access and use physical goods such as toys, tools, cars, even homes, at a very low marginal cost. He says this will have a more profound effect on the capitalist economy than the original Internet, which enabled people to make and exchange ideas and intellectual property (e.g. digital books, movies, music).
“This collaborative…approach is about shared access rather than private ownership,” he says.
I would go even further and argue that the evolving Internet economy also requires a collaborative approach to problem solving and dispute resolution, rather than an adversarial approach.
Collaborative facilitation and mediation models are also needed to resolve the disputes that are bound to arise in the online economy, because the old adversarial legal models simply will not work. They are too slow and too expensive. And in the end they won’t work when people can simply turn to other freely available sources of products and services.
The music industry has already amply demonstrated the futility of adversarial enforcement of legal rights when digital goods and services can be distributed at near zero marginal cost. At the same time, the success of services such as iTunes and YouTube in enabling creators, producers and distributors to make money from these goods and services has demonstrated the benefits of a collaborative approach.
This means business relationships and legal agreements must also evolve, to emphasize collaboration over legal rights and remedies and to include sustainable governance and dispute resolution processes, such as umpires and mediators, to resolve problems in a collaborative way.