Indeed, we tend to treat many things that are scarce as if we have an endless supply of them (fish in the ocean, clean water, a stable atmosphere), and, at the same time, create artificial scarcities for things we have in abundance, like ideas, digital content, and knowledge.
The main reason for such confusion might be purely economical. It seems so much cheaper to treat natural resources as abundant, and it has proven a successful business model to make abundant stuff seem scarce in order to make tons of money selling it.
However, the consequences can be dire. We have not only wasted precious natural resources and created global warming, we have also limited our potential to create better solutions in order to clean up the mess by preventing “ideas from having sex”.
Fortunately, there is good news. The Internet is changing the underlying dynamic. The first fundamental change is an unprecedented level of transparency, global awareness and coordinated action that helps companies realize the cost of destroying common goods. Through collective action, society has started to print the costs of common goods in big red ink on corporations’ balance sheet–a language corporations understand well.
The other fundamental change lies in the astonishing ability of the Internet to create and exchange astronomical value without any money being involved.
I guess I should explain that statement a bit more. Our economy is based mainly on the exchange of goods or services for money: the transfer of value generally involves cash. Barter deals and gifting are minor exceptions.
However, the Internet has changed this dramatically. Most of the value created on the Internet comes for “free.”