Handicapping the Carr-Benkler Wager

Will Web 2.0 initiatives eventually be dominated by paid participants? Yochia Benkler and Nicholas Carr have a wager on it:
"In a critique of Benkler's work last summer, business writer Nicholas Carr speculated that Web 2.0 media sites like Digg, Flickr and YouTube are able to rely on volunteer contributions simply because a market has yet to emerge to price this "new kind of labor." He and Benkler then entered into what has come to be widely known in Web circles as the "Carr-Benkler wager": a bet on whether, by 2011, such sites will be driven primarily by volunteers or by professionals."
As a service to BusinessPundit and Spooky Action readers, I handicap the wager:
"The parallels between the positions of Carr and Benkler on this issue and Carr and the IT community with respect to IT Doesn't Matter are striking. The proponents of the new technology say "We are dealing with new and unprecedented things!", to which Carr's basic reply is "The things may be new, but the people dealing with them have dealt with other new things repeatedly in the past, with very predictable behaviors." Technology changes quickly, but our brains do not. We are running the same 'wetware' as our ancient ancestors. Certain behavior patterns have been noted consistently for thousands of years. I think one of those patterns was expressed nicely by Abraham Maslow and his hierarchy of needs. The challenge for Benkler and company is that you have to climb a good way up the hierarchy to get to the needs that common-based peer production projects can satisfy. Throughout history, people who have gotten to those levels have been very successful people. And they have been successful people who specialized in doing a small number of things extremely well and employing others to do the rest. We are fortunate to live in a time where more people than ever are at these levels, and what are some of the fastest growing sectors of the economy? Personal services! Self-actualizers are prodigious buyers of cleaning services; they buy food prepared for them by rent-a-chefs (even if it's chef Ray Kroc); they have personal trainers and life coaches. They will pay for quality services, sometimes in barter; sometimes in cash."
As they say "Read the whole thing", if only to see how Pa Ingles and Niccolo Paganini fit into the picture!

posted by Mike at 12:34 PM


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