As Marx observed, power belongs to those who control the means of production. My grandfather could invent the automatic sprinkler system in his workshop, but he couldn’t build a factory there. To get to market, he had to interest a manufacturer in licensing his invention. And that is not only hard, but requires the inventor to lose control of his or her invention. The owners of the means of production get to decide what is produced.
We’ve seen what the Web’s model of democratized innovation has done to spur entrepreneurship and economic growth. Just imagine what a similar model could do in the larger economy of Real Stuff.
These projects represent the ideas, dreams, and passions of millions of people. Most never leave the home, and that’s probably no bad thing. But one of the most profound shifts of the Web Age is that there is a new default of sharing online. If you do something, video it. If you video something, post it. If you post something, promote it to your friends. Projects shared online become inspiration for others and opportunities for collaboration. Individual Makers, globally connected this way, become a movement. Millions of DIYers, once working alone, suddenly start working together.
We need this. America and most of the rest of the West is in the midst of a job crisis. Much of what economic growth the developed world can summon these days comes from improving productivity, which is driven by getting more output per worker. That’s great, but the economic consequence is that if you can do the same or more work with fewer employees, you should. Companies tend to rebound after recessions, but this time job creation is not recovering apace. Productivity is climbing, but millions remain unemployed.