From Joshua Gans’s Information Wants to be Shared.
Economic theory has not quite caught up with this interesting area of
shared information. I can speculate on future business models for books and
the news because they fall within baseline economic motives. But when
it comes to shared creation, nonmonetary motives loom larger and the
economist’s toolkit is harder to rely upon. Wikipedia is a prime example.
More than just a content platform, it is built on and maintained by an army of anonymous volunteers. Back in 2001, when it started, economists would
not have predicted Wikipedia’s success; nor can they really explain it now.
Other social scientists have not waited for economists to catch up. But
perhaps no person has examined the notion that broad, shared creation can
be effective more than MIT professor Eric von Hippel. One of the great
facts from his research is this: a vast number of useful innovations come
not from some scientist and engineer tinkering in a lab, but from users
solving their own problems. Examples abound, from scientific instruments,
to mountain bikes and, of course, to open source software. In some cases,
the innovations were the work of lone innovators, while for others, local
communities together produced advances. It is the latter that interests us
Economists thought that Wikipedia couldn’t work because of problems of motivation but what turned out to matter most was not motivation but transaction costs. With 7 billion people and low transaction costs what other forms of shared creation become possible?