Economic properties of information
13 proprietà economiche dell’informazione, da Robert M. Hayes. Dateci un’occhiata, ne vale la pena.
- While information is represented in physical form, that form can be changed without changing its content.
- In contrast to physical goods, intellectual goods can be created with limited physical resources, frequently as a by-product of other operations.
- Information is easily and cheaply transported. The first copy represents most of the costs in creation, and reproduction costs are relatively small. It can then be distributed with minimal physical resources.
- There is an evident and direct relationship between physical goods and the materials used in producing them. One knows exactly how much steel is needed to produce a car. But there is no comparably direct relationship between any kind of good—physical or symbolic—and the information used in its production. The value of research, market information, advertising is uncertain, at best probabilistic, and much of the value is potential rather than actual.
- There is a complex relationship between the time of acquiring information and the value of it. For some, the value lies in immediacy—yesterday’s stock information may be worthless tomorrow. For others, the value is likely to be received in the future, not the present.
- Persons differ greatly in perceptions of the value of information, in kinds of use, in ability and willingness to use, in assessments of costs, and in ability to pay. Typically the distribution of use of information is highly skewed, with small percentages of users frequent in their use and the great majority infrequent.
- Use of information is affected by the distance users must travel to get access to it. The theory states that the use of any facility decays as the distance increases, as a function of the cost of travel; if the cost is linear, the decay is exponential and, if the cost is logarithmic, it is quadratic. Of course, the impact of networking, which effectively eliminates distance, is profound!
- An accumulation of information has more value than the sum of the individual values because it increases the combinations that can be made. The information technologies have greatly increased the ability to make combinations. The number of databases, their size, the means for processing and relating them, the ability to use them—all are growing exponentially.
- There are immense economies of scale. Combined with the value in accumulation, this provides strong incentives for sharing information, especially since it can be distributed cheaply, which makes sharing easy.
- Information is not consumed by being used or transmitted to others. It can be resold or given away with no diminution of its content. Many persons may possess and use the same information, even at the same time, without diminishing its value to others. All these imply that information is a public good.
- However, there is the need to invest in the creation, production, and distribution of information and that implies a wish to recover the investment. Furthermore, there may be value associated with exclusivity in knowledge, so there must be an incentive to make it available to others. This implies that information is a private good.
- Most information products and services lie somewhere between pure private goods and pure public goods, and the same information may alternate as a public and private good at different stages of information processing and distribution.
- Given that mixture of public and private good, private rights must be balanced with the rights to use the information. Copyright is one means of doing so, and the copyright clause of the Constitution of the United States embodies this balance: “The Congress shall have the power…to promote the progress of science and the useful arts by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive rights to their respective writings and discoveries”—progress implying use and rights implying protection.