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Recently, in writing about a DRM scheme, I used the analogy of the Star Trek food replicator to explain why it made no sense to turn infinite goods, like content, into artificially scarce goods. There was a lot of back and forth in the comments about the appropriateness of the analogy, though I still think the basic point stands: it makes no sense to artificially limit an infinitely available resource. In fact, it only leads to bad things. However, one of our readers has written up a fantastic blog post where he tries to present a similar, but much, much better analogy:
A better analogy would be if the replicator only made tomatoes. You could have as many tomatoes as you wanted, they’d always be perfect and delicious, and they’d always be free. This would put tomato farmers out of business. But these tomato farmers could likely start growing something else instead. And what happens to the rest of the economy? Pizza and pasta restaurants suddenly find that a major ingredient in many of their dishes just became free. Now, for the same dish, they can charge less, or buy higher quality ingredients, or make more profit. And if you’re a really talented cook specializing in tomatoes? Your skills are now in very high demand.
And there is still a demand for the people who bring the tomatoes from the replicator to your table. There is still a demand for the person who stews and cans the tomatoes, or dices and seasons them. And all the other food items, the ones that aren’t in infitnite supply, still need people to produce, process, and distribute them.