Steven, thanks for your feedback. My comments are inline below (I've retained your full email to provide context for this new thread).

On 31/01/2014 07:32, Steven Rowat wrote:
On 1/29/14 6:40 PM, Andrew Mackie wrote:
To date my focus has been on the economic/theoretical side of the
problem - it needs more thinking on the technology side, particularly
on how it might be integrated with existing/upcoming projects. What
I've written so far, however, can be found here:

Thank you for this fascinating high-level analysis of the trading space post-Internet.

I agree with your interpretation of advertising and how reliance on it is a distortion.

I like how you've formulated how in our current logistical and regulatory framework small corporations, with little control over the demand/supply loop, naturally progress into large ones that control both what we know and what we can do -- Google being the preeminent example, among many others -- and how this limits our ability to express our own individual demand.

I'm intrigued by the idea you present that there are in fact two sets of demand/supply information in any transaction -- and that these are not being well served by the current framework.

I believe a deeper discussion of your work might merit its own thread, but FWIW I'd like to note here three things that came to mind:

   1. You presuppose the continuance, essentially unchanged, of the bottom-line legal definition of corporation, which does not allow it to consider the public good in its decisions. But what about the growth of legislation of the Benefit Corporation (or Company, or LLC, in different legislations)? These have been created in many US states. There are also many states with pending legislation to create this form. A Benefit Corporation explicitly *must* consider both governance and the environment -- create social good -- in all decisions. Thus the problem of the corporation's bottom-line is not monolithic and unchanging. Which leads me to...

Yes, it's possible that other corporate models might supersede our existing profit-maximising model. The paradox here, however, is that even the most self-centred information-processing corporation creates demonstrable social good - by providing new information processing they create new markets which in turn provide new opportunities for us to trade with each other. What we're not sensitive to, however, is the economy that's missing because their processing is constrained and distorted. For instance, we can see all the people that Amazon employs (good) and all of the new opportunities to sell books and other products through their Marketplace (good) but we don't see the opportunities that are missing because Amazon captures attention away from competitors (bad), taxes every transaction that goes through their Marketplace (bad), exercises significant influence over pricing (bad), has all of our reviews (bad), is the only provider of information processing for those transactions (bad), acts as a gatekeeper (bad), creates immense profits to acquire other business and expand their control into other verticals (bad) and so on. We see the millions of transactions that these processors create, but don't notice the billions of transactions that *could* take place if our information environment was actually optimised for facilitating transactions rather than for capturing and sell attention. This means that we need to abandon the idea of extracting profit by owning (being the sole provider of information processing for) markets, whether that is by a profit-maximising corporation or a B-corp.

   2. In your "the concept" essay you suggest a radical, large-scale, and I'd have to say Utopian solution to the problem, by creating a public corporation for the common good which will handle agents which will allow all of us, as individuals, to express our own demand and supply needs, unfiltered by corporations. But to use an old analogy, our economic system is like an airplane that has to keep flying, in the air, -- we can only make those changes in the airplane that will still allow it to keep flying during the repair process. So a gradual move in society towards more Benefit Corporations, by legislation (such as is already underway) might be a more likely scenario than trying to do it all with one new large pubic corporation.

I think 'utopian' is a fair description in the sense that my goal was to design information processing infrastructure that we need (and work out how to build it later) rather than to build some attention-capturing MVP and work out what to do with it later (which is the logical practice for a for-profit startup). My idea behind the public corporation, however, is that it doesn't do anything other than to bootstrap the system and provide public standards and commons under which other entities make agents, provide services, etc. (as TBL did in creating the first browser & web server and then founding the W3C). This would make our transition gradual - the usual challenges and benefits of network effects will apply. Also, it would not be a one-shot process as the standards and commons would be updated, changed and diversified over time.

What I'm really proposing here is a new public information space to complement the web (which I intended to describe for you in a blog post today, but will now have to wait until next week).

   3. I feel your analysis might have overlooked a way that society has recently evolved to counterbalance the narrowing and filtering of our experience that the information-control of the corporations has allowed: and that is reviews. The concept of the review (on Amazon, Ebay, etc., and more recently to Facebook's 'like') has taken hold in what I'll suggest was an unexpected way, and serves to allow the filtering and distortions of the corporations to be balanced. Speaking personally, I often find I use what other individuals say, in reviews, to find new information, new links, and new solutions to problems, as well as merely to check whether the claims made in advertising are valid. I know this answers only part of the problem of the narrowing of the filter, but where it applies it can work.

Yes, our information landscape is multi-faceted and constantly changing, making it difficult to provide a critique which is clearly applicable to all situations. In the case of reviews I agree completely that they are valuable pieces of information which we wish to retain and improve upon (not that my concept post speaks to this specifically). The problem is that our reviews are locked into silos owned by Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Google, etc. and used to consolidate their power - this is part of the data that they take from us by providing us with trinkets (the approval of others or freebies for the hardest-working reviewers e.g. Instead we want recognise that these reviews are supply in and of themselves, supply which we own and can be offered to others on our terms (whether that's giving friends access to them or selling them as part of other information processing services). We need to look beyond the way things are (what we can currently sell and what we must currently give away for free) because all of this is a function of our current information processing environment (which we can change).


Steven Rowat


Andrew Mackie
twitter: @SupDemand