Music Piracy and Star Trek

This is one of those absolutely bizarre ideas that one has completely inexplicably, but then feel the need to share with the world.

Once upon a time, music was scarce. It was all bound up into a physical item: a vinyl record, a tape, or a CD. If you wanted a copy of the music, you’d have to physically remove that item from the possession of someone else. There was no such thing as piracy; there was only theft.

What has happened since then is that technology has ensured that music has become a post-scarcity commodity; once a piece of music is in existence, it costs almost nothing to reproduce and transmit it. As most of you are aware, this has caused the music industry to collectively shit itself; it’s not their fault, really. The people at the top were too old, and too stuck in their ways to understand that the economics they were used to were fundamentally gone, replaced by something that nobody had ever really seen before.

Which makes me wonder what will happen if something like Star Trek replicators are ever invented. To the uninitiated, a replicator allows any item to be duplicated as long as one possesses the raw materials. This of course leaves some scarcity, as the raw materials will still be hard to come by, but it raises the spectre of a world in which, say, an Audi or an iPhone can be duplicated as easily as the latest Muse single.

I have no conception of how such an economics would impact society. Imagine if the histrionics of the music industry were repeated everywhere, from every sector and corner of society.

The shame of it is that living in a truly post-scarcity society would probably be like existing in utopia. Although, there’s probably a reason that “utopia” means “not place”.

5 thoughts on “Music Piracy and Star Trek

  1. Also, I have a point. Not sure why, but it says next to my name here /| (attempt at an up arrow) that I have 3 comments 0 likes and 1 point. When were points awarded?

  2. Replicators would, yes, lead to a practically post-scarcity economy although I think it would make the rich richer and the poor, comparitively, even poorer, because I expect we in the west would have the latest and most accurate replicators and poorer countries would either have no access to the technology whatsoever or would have outdated and poorer models.

    Also a truly post-scarcity economy would be something like Bank's The Culture, which would be really interesting.

  3. See, the interesting thing is to if you can use a replicator to (easily) manufacture new replicators. If you can, then you're going to get extremely rapid proliferation of the technology. Otherwise, I imagine you're right, you could end up in the most unequal distribution of wealth that has ever been seen in human history. Takes a special kind of bastard to leave people out of utopia, though.

    I really should get around to reading some of the Culture novels, I've heard very interesting things. Alas, my book backlog is a mile long and I keep buying new books (http://goodreads.com/aiusepsi) so it might have to wait a while.

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