Our data has monetary value, Lanier argues; we should all be compensated for it. We’ve been tempted into contributing data and content for free, thereby enabling the development of massive online monopolies with the lure of things like cheap or free music, books, games and/or social interactions, but we don’t see the real motivation for offering these things: “the creation of ultrasecret mega-dossiers about what others are doing, and using this information to concentrate money and power. It doesn’t matter whether the concentration is called a social network, an insurance company, a derivatives fund, a search engine, or an online store. It’s all fundamentally the same.”
“We love our treats,” Lanier concludes, “but will eventually discover we are depleting our own value.
Those who are already extracting billions from the information economy are not going down without a fight, and I think Lanier underestimates the fury with which they will try to squash any attempt to deprive them of so much as a nickel. Startups may arise to challenge their hegemony, but it will take a monumental amount of grassroots support to dethrone our current information oligarchs. Nor does it appear that Lanier sees a role for the fourth estate in creating the humanistic information economy, an oversight that strikes me as short-sighted."