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The origin of the Relationship Economy (Part 1)

It has been 50 years since the birth of the Internet and 25 years since the whole world has had access to it.

Moore’s Law was published in 1965, the same year I was born. We all lived in a broadcast world then. Content at that time, created for distribution through newspapers, magazines, radio and television, was designed to be consumed via a one-to-many relationship. Everyone talked about it, but very, very few created it and distributed it. The “audience” was a known variable in the equation. “Networks” were all one way.

Our technology reflects society. Our fiction reflects society. The same decade that brought us space in reality through the Apollo program brought us space in fiction through Star Trek. The same time period that brought us Moore’s Law for hardware and the protocols for networks would bring us the Internet, changing us from viewers to participants in the next century.

As we have moved from one economy to another, forms of exchange have been created (and destroyed) with each evolution of the societal contract that we create to live with one another. The Hardware Economy of the 1980s ushered in the Digital Age, which has changed the world as much as the Industrial Age that preceded it. For the first time, people could own their own means of digital production. Just as the typewriter made us all writers, we could all now be programmers. With the advent of the Mac in 1984, we could all be digital artists and desktop publishers as well.

The new hardware platforms carried with them, as all new technologies do, traces of what came before. White lab coats, machine languages, programmers, and users. When the Software Economy that was to follow in the 1990s came about, we all started adopting the legal structures around the “end user license agreement” (EULA). The days of the free-spirited development and exchange of programs on discs in plastic baggies with crude printed labels had become big business, and the consolidation of “operating systems” and “software suites” had begun.

While as with all societal evolutions there was a counter-culture of “open source,” this would shortly become the basis of the next evolution of our economy as we entered the Internet Economy in the 2000s. Stratification is natural in our relationships with others. Business is one of the key ways we work together as a society to develop shared behaviors we feel are beneficial. The creation of the Internet was not “one thing”; it was not just the “network.” It was a combination of the technology stratifications of independent hardware (PCs, Modems, Storage) and a huge amount of individual, domain-specific software (spreadsheets, word processors, desktop publishing, games), LINKED TOGETHER by the Internet and the new World Wide Web and Browser technologies, that would eventually give us the Platform Economy that we live in today.

But in giving us the Platform Economy that gives us Software-as-a-Service, Social Networks, phishing, unending passwords and security measures, synthetic persons, fake news, and all the other technology advances, it also brought along that end user license agreement--all the way from the origin of our digital lives. This EULA granted all the power to the owner of the Platform and turned users into Product. Our information, our lives, our data became the “new oil” of the Platform Economy. And we had no way to take back control of that product ourselves because the Platforms own our identity. We gave it to them in exchange for some trinkets. They now own the most important and scarce resource on the planet.


People are not here to be used. We are not Consumers to be classified, sliced, diced and resold to brands to fuel more consumption. We are Producers. We are Creators. We are the Brands. We are now the drivers of the economy. In the Platform Economy, all of the productive output of us as producers--our content, our behaviors, and our information--is owned by the Platforms through that end user licensing agreement. We need a new legal structure for our new economy. We have to restructure the way products are bought and sold to reflect this new state of the economy. We need an Ethical Licensing Agreement based on our ownership of our identity. We need to be able to own our own identity outside of the Platforms. We need a Decentralized Autonomous Association (DAA) to allow us to own ourselves and our information. This is the next economy. The Relationship Economy.

Come join us.


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