When following the news about restrictive legislation, the likes of SOPA, PIPA and ACTA, when watching the strife between "Hollywood" and "Silicon Valley", when thinking about the struggle between service providers and content owners, between the new and old economy, one wonders whether a country that would firmly stand behind the "Silicon Valley" model and lovingly embrace the emerging "post-scarcity" economy wouldn't reap a great benefit from doing so, the same way as England did during the industrial revolution.
Back then, embracing the industrial economy raised Britain to the status of superpower and left its rivals far behind in the trenches of economy based primarily on agriculture.
What if a small and progressive country like Iceland decided to dump the classic "intellectual property" model based on the outdated assumption that information is scarce and precious and adjust the legislation so that it rather promotes the new emerging economic model?
It's not completely inconceivable.
Iceland has a small population which makes it much easier to pass non-conventional laws. Heck, Icelanders have even rewritten their constitution based on the public opinion communicated over the Internet. There are no big content owners there to lobby against the change.The country is conveniently placed between Europe and America. It has a lot of geothermal power to power the datacenters and climate that makes it easy to cool them.
Of course, the task is not easy. Nobody really knows what the post-scarcity economy is and how it should look like. Not even speaking of what kind of legal framework is needed to promote it. Obviously, simplistic "just get rid of intellectual property" approach won't do. They'll need a way to regulate the new economy and a way to resolve disputes. They'll need to adjust their foreign policy to ease the friction between their brave new economy and the old world drowning in death throes of the antiquated system.
But maybe the issue is even more complex. What if the new economy isn't primarily based on money? While it would be great to have Google located and paying taxes in the country, the biggest value in Google is not the tax money it produces but rather the search that it provides for everyone and for free. That's not a monetary asset and its benefits spread evenly all over the world, bringing no specific advantage to Iceland as such. So, maybe embracing the new economy isn't that good an idea after all?
On the other hand: Are the means to become new superpower necessarily going to be guns and tanks and money to buy them? Maybe this time the weapons in the struggle for power will be reputation and moral credit? After all, if the whole population of a foreign country respects you as the moral authority, you've won the war without firing a single bullet.
So, what do you think? Are we going to see Vikings rising to the power once again? Is Althingi, the Icelandic parliament, wise enough to rise to the occasion? Are the geysers hot enough to power the datacenters? Are the glaciers cold enough to cool them?
Let us know!
Martin Sustrik, February 13th, 2012