Your walking down the street and a stranger approaches you and asks for a dollar what will you do? Figured as much as that’s a typical human reaction (well at least for a western culture), now imagine your still on that same street and they ask you to physically help
them cross the street. Alright, most likely yet a different response and feeling from the money question. Now imagine that the same stranger walks up and just asks for directions? Will you share that information with them, most likely you will so why did you shun the other two?
If we break this down the way Michael Tomasello of the Max Planck Institute does we will see that humans perceive the ability to share three kinds of commodities: goods, services and information. It is also this last case, the sharing of “information”, which humans do the most freely and in fact actually want to do. Lets jump back to our thought experiment above and the stranger, in your mind’s eye how did you feel when you shared this information? So let’s think of a real world example so think back to a time when you “shared” a piece of information with someone who had asked for help and how did that make you feel? The answer is it feels good to help others and “information” is the shortest path.
Well then why not the “dollar” (goods) or “help across the street” (services), as we humans are in a way altruistic with regards to helping others as you could say its built into our DNA. As take an eighteen month old infant as in controlled tests 18 out of 24 times they will cooperatively help a “strange” adult*. In addition as part of this test the infant will leave a “fun” task in order to help thus they paid a “price” for “helping” like in the scenario at the onset of this where the “stranger” asks you for a dollar. The importance of this is Tomasello’s tests show that this response is not created by culture, parental socialization practices; it is a rote construct of our native being.
However as we age the altruistic goals of our youth become mixed with “selfishness” especially as they relate to things of “perceived” value. Here (about age 3 or so) we start to understand the concept of reciprocity within our relationships with others and therefore the “selfishness” barrier is higher for those we share less “reciprocity” with as in the “stranger” example above. As this attribute over time, we will see a greater value in “products” and “services” within our possession, however “information” as the intangible in the group will lag behind. So let’s try another thought experiment, a coworker approaches you and asks to borrow $30 dollars, or the same coworker asks to borrow a “book” which you had paid $30 dollars for. Which of the two will you feel most comfortable in doing?
Therefore if we look at the demise of the music industry and the coming fall of video (it’s only a matter of bandwidth), we need to remind ourselves that we held on to our compact discs, which were goods we could touch. However when the music-sharing sites came into vogue and music jumped the digital divide becoming an electronic file (mp3) which could be easily copied, people took off to share as it was just a natural thing, and even the best attempts of the music industry as they freaked out couldn’t stop it.
Therefore if you can’t beat them, then you might as well join them needs to be the new motto as in the music sharing example it wasn’t so much the artist’s which had the issues, it was the labels. The reason for this is they didn’t want to change, because of this the force of change grew even greater as hey just tell your kid they can’t do something and watch what they do! As there is always a way to make money, the key to achieving this is to understand that “no model last forever”.
P.S. Sony™ hope your reading this as your tossing a whole lot of learning out the window with your hyped lawsuits as do you really think you can sue the daylights out of the masses? It didn’t work for the music industry, nor the video so what makes you think you’re so special?
*Note: Why We Cooperate By: Michael Tomasello