Oil is what every economy in the world depends on. From Porsches to plastics, modern society wouldn’t exist without it. That’s why superpowers wage proxy wars and set up proxy world-government regulatory bodies, like the World Bank and the IMF.
Within a human lifetime from today, oil will be gone. Energy, in fact, will no longer be an issue: Solar power has been cheaper than fossil fuel energy for over a year.
Given enough time, the cheaper technology will control the market. What’s more: In this case, the cheaper technology happens to run on an infinite supply (“Infinite” for about the next ~5 billion years or so)—rendering energy, from an economic standpoint, a valueless resource.
This means that oil, and in fact energy itself, are in effect no longer resources.
At the same time as this has happened, demand for a brand new resource has swept the entire globe, reaching even farther and growing even faster than demand for oil ever did.
That resource is information.
We don’t think of information as a “resource,” perhaps because it’s limitless. We create information every time we say or think anything. What’s so valuable about that?
What’s valuable is its power once aggregated. A short list of the websites you’ve visited in the last hour won’t tell me much about you. A list of the websites you’ve visited in a whole year would help me decide exactly what to sell you, where to place the ads and how to make sure you see them.
This power can’t be understated. A state that aggregates data on its citizens would need answer to no court. A company that gathers data on its employees could use it to bully them into compliance.
With energy no longer a factor, the arms race for the next global resource has begun—but unlike last time, it’s not just governments and companies competing. This time, because of the way this new resource is produced, big, centralized bodies may actually be at a disadvantage in the race, compared to the typical consumer.
The information they seek to control is, after all, not theirs to begin with: It is ours. The only information about us that a government or company can collect is that which we voluntarily give them.
The key point here is to take responsibility. At the precise moment of its creation, information is most readily available only to its owner. The moment you decide to visit Facebook, you own that information about yourself. Facebook merely takes it from you the moment you act on it—but not before.
That’s why they provide their services for free. By using their service, you’ve sold them your information. Think of it as a trade.
Once Facebook, Google, and Microsoft are outdone by decentralized competitors, you’ll be able to set your own price for that data, or choose never to release it at all. Conceivably, you would be able to purchase other users’ information off of them if you so desired, and use it for whatever kind of analysis you wanted.
This isn’t futurism, either. There are already blockchain-based browsers, which let users retain 100% of their own browsing data, to do with as they please. A blockchain based social network is slated to launch this year, providing the same functionality.
Realize how important it is to take responsibility for your information.
Realize that the chapter of human history titled “Oil as Power” is over, and the new one is titled “Information as Power” —that you are the thing that the world’s most powerful interests will be fighting over; that by definition, this makes you even more powerful.
Realize that to give up your information is to give up that power.
And realize that information, unlike oil, can and will be made use of by anybody—not just a powerful few. That the 21st century, by the very nature of its underlying commodity, will be one unlike any defined by scarcity—any that has come before.