SAN FRANCISCO--A conference about Silicon Valley innovation invariably will feature at least one talk about how the old order of American business is hopelessly broken and needs a tech-savvy recharge. At this year's Web 2.0 Expo here, it was author Douglas Rushkoff's "How the Web Ate The Economy, And Why This Is Good For Everyone."
It was a tantalizing title. But most of Rushkoff's talk wasn't about the Web or how it can help steer the world out of a global financial crisis. He focused instead on how the idea of "currency" as we know it, not to mention the notion of the "corporation," is profoundly archaic and that with the market meltdown, we have a golden opportunity to get rid of them altogether.
"We can make pretty much everything great," said Rushkoff, whose book "Life Inc." is coming out in early June, "and if we don't, they will recover and make us miserable for another few centuries."
Corporations and monetary systems, he said, are vestiges of the late Middle Ages when kings and aristocrats were struggling to exert some kind of authority over the fast-rising mercantile class and to rein in independent currencies before they became too powerful. "It was against the law to create value through one another. You had to do it through a corporation," Rushkoff explained. "That was what corporations were for. Centralized currency came up because most towns in late Middle Ages Europe had their own currencies...they had so much extra money they built cathedrals."
(Tip: if you want to make something sound really awful and backwards, talk about how it has roots in kings and feudalism.)… Read more