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文章標題書摘 The great stagnation (大停滯)

Does the Internet Change Everything ? (2)

 

To be sure, the internet does generate some revenue. Google ads

improve the quality of advertising, and The New York Times

sells ads on its Web site, and Amazon sells books; eBay recycles

used goods more effectively and makes it easier to sell new stuff.

Maybe your Facebook friend helps get you a job, or businesses

make peer-to-peer deals based on Web site connections. So the

internet is by no means totally cut off from traditional measures

of economic activity. Still, relative to how much it shapes our

lives and thoughts, the revenue component of the internet is

comparatively small. A lot of the internet is a free space for

intellectual and emotional invention, a kind of open-ended

canvas for enriching our interior lives.

It's also the case that a lot of the internet's biggest benefits are

distributed in proportion to our cognitive abilities to exploit

them. That's a big difference between the internet and the major

technological advances of the nineteenth and early twentieth

centuries. The internet is a public good, but you don't benefit

from it automatically in the same way you do from a flush toilet

or a paved road. Learning how to use it is a much more

specialized skill.

 

In the last chapter, I presented some reasons why GDP figures

overstated economic growth. Now we see one reason why GDP

figures understate economic growth. Much of the value of the

internet is experienced at the personal level and so will never

show up in the productivity numbers. Buying $2 worth of

bananas boosts GDP, but having $20 worth of fun cruising the

Web does not, at least not above and beyond your minuscule

consumption of the electricity it requires. Cruising the Web may

even lower GDP on net if instead you would have gone out to

buy an ice-cream cone or otherwise spent some money, even if

you would have had less fun away from your computer.

There's nothing intrinsically wrong with an economic sector that

doesn't generate a lot of revenue, and in fact it's really nice to

have the internet freed from a lot of commercial constraints. For

instance, you can start a blog or read a blog without much in the

way of financial resources. Still, this more distant connection to

revenue generation has some problematic economic

implications.

 

製作日期:2012.9.8

 

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