A Reflection on the 50th Anniversary of Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons: What about digital commons?

Interesting paper by Frank Nagle of HBS.

On the 50th anniversary of Garrett Hardin’s “The Tragedy of the Commons,” this article considers the benefits and potential downsides of the digital commons, which emerged well after Hardin wrote his seminal article. Unlike the physical world Hardin wrote about, the digital world is essentially infinitely abundant, which leads to a very different tragedy and many new opportunities.

….

In particular, as the digital commons leads to more firms structured as platforms whose business models result in the gamification or leisurification of work, people are increasingly doing work without getting paid for it (or at least getting massively underpaid). A deeper understanding of this phenomenon may
help to explain puzzles related to wage inequality and the wealth gap, which could inform regulatory policies to help better address these concerns. Relatedly, as value creation, innovation, and production increasingly move outside the boundaries of the firm, the role of firms in society may begin to change. Given that firms have provided the social safety net (healthcare, retirement, etc.) in the United States for the last century, policies will need to address the increasing number of people that are not directly employed by a firm and therefore have no firm provided safety net. Similar questions could arise as to the functions
of government and financial systems in the face of the opportunities the digital commons presents for true democratization of traditional institutions. However, such a society would still need policies to protect individual citizens from being exploited. 

Hmmm..

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