The wiki way: how the internet will change the way we live and work

Don Tapscott, the author of an eye-opening new book called Wikinomics, says that we have barely begun to imagine how the internet will change the way we live and work. He tells Oliver Burkeman how everything from gold mining to motorcycle manufacturing is being transformed – and why huge companies as we know them may simply cease to exist.

It should come as no surprise that large companies, from media outlets to clothes shops, are trying to profit from making their customers feel “involved” in the creation of their products. But that’s arguably an old-fashioned, condescending point of view, with the company still firmly in the driving seat. Wikinomics implies something far more radical: it’s not a given that the company will stay in the driving seat at all. “We’re talking about a new means of production,” Tapscott says. “Collaboration can occur on an astronomical scale, so if you can create an encyclopedia with a bunch of people, could you create a mutual fund? A motorcycle?”

What if the “rise of the amateur” is just a passing phase on the way to something far more radical? After all, there’s a major economic problem with Wikipedia, YouTube, MySpace and the like: people contribute to them without any financial reward, even as the content they contribute makes millions of dollars for the sites’ owners. That may not matter on a small scale, but it’s no way to run an entire economy: at some point, people are going to need money for food and mortgages.,,2162394,00.html

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