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Pistons and Windmills

And don't forget that at this point their information has shifted from a material product to a completely information one. It wasn't far off of that before, after all the bulk expense of a newspaper is the people it employees. But the paper wasn't free and in the same way that material objects that were given to one person couldn't be given to another, a paper that was given away was a lost sale somewhere else. But a newspaper on the internet behaves more like a movie since it takes a set fee to produce no matter if 10 people download copies or 10 million. Online readership is lighter than paper.

As the processors and bandwidth grew and accelerated, the cross hairs were able to advance from music up to motion pictures. And while Hollywood is making some of the same mistakes that the music industry did, they are largely learning from the those who went before. They still may not have been able to figure out the perfect sail, but they seem to at least be smart enough not to expect pistons to turn in the wind. Hollywood has made alliances with third-party providers like NetFlix long before any of the major labels did. Warner Brothers, a major movie studio, includes digital downloads of movies with their DVD and BluRay discs. And while it is generally easier to rip a CD, the plain truth is the only place in music where this same easing of customer effort with digital can be seen is in indie and minor labels (most notably the new move of adding digital downloads to vinyl LPs has reinvigorated the corpse of vinyl discs).

I feel this entire chapter in history and the general principles it demonstrates give some quantifiable weight and at least precedent to what would otherwise be simply hippie "Do Good" whimsy. This economics principle of pistons-versus-windmills that I don't know the name of is something that the entertainment industry is dealing with because it is being forced to deal with. It is being confronted with its own seeming mortality and has to find a way out. It will. I have no doubt that, as I said earlier, the money will find a way to move from audience to artist; we all love and need entertainment too much for it to go away. Though how we will get the energy out of the audience to keep turning the gears of the factory is still being decided.

But I also wonder what else this principle applies to. I tossed out an anecdote earlier that is a perfect example: karma. I have an infinite stock of basic niceness and kindness as well as effort. And while we all need-- or at least really want our effort and good deeds to be rewarded, perhaps we would be better served to consider these as small, light, and unlimited. The idea of "Loving unconditionally" and "Making yourself available in all ways to receive love" would seem to be saying just that... if only they had used the term that I suspect all MBAs know, it wouldn't seem so silly. Or perhaps we all just need a little more evidence to play the support function that Faith used to.

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