I've been thinking about a particular idea recently: how the perception of value is changing in the 21st century. What I mean by "perception of value" is the idea that people value intangible assets less than tangible assets. And people value assets that are private in nature much less than things that are public. The image below will change over time as I receive feedback on this observation. It is an embedded Google Docs drawing that will introduce examples of items in all 4 quadrants of tangible vs. intangible and public vs private. The interesting insight I am trying to make is that civilization started mostly from tangible items that are held in private regard. That is, we all started thousands of years ago only with things we could touch, see and make and things that we owned personally. Eventually as civilization grew the stuff we held in private started becoming more public in nature. It could be observed by more and more people, and potentially was used by the public in a shared sense.
As technology took hold and the industrial age gave way to the information age in the 20th century and interesting transformation started to happen -- the rise of the intangible asset such an idea or a patent. These things were firstly something that was held in public view as well, as intangible assets were first the manifestation of a public asset that become intangible. The Internet for example can be thought of a public, intangible asset. It is hard to hold it in your hands, for example, but it surely can be considered a gigantic asset to us all. A public washroom waste bin can be thought of as a public tangible asset.
In the late 20th and early 21st century an interesting transformation occured - intangible assets became private in nature, just like the tangible assets that we strarted with. We started owning assets that we did not make, that we could not hold in our hands. In fact, many of the items you hold in your possession today are simply intangible assets -- for example your citizenship or your collection of music.
The main insight I would like to make is that during this transformation, civilization appears to have started to value the intangible, private assets less and less. It appears that the notion of private, intangible items are valued so little, we are comfortable with stealing them. The producers of these intangible, private assets are intent on making it as difficult as possible to keep the items full of value, when the audience appears intent on finding ways to devalue them.
If you can agree with this observation, or disagree I'd like to hear from you. If you think it is nonsense, please chime in. But I do want to leave you with this: does the cycle continue? That is, will we continue full circle and cycle right back to private, tangible assets as the only way to recreate value again? Is the only way to ensure value to again create and consume assets we can see, touch, taste and really own?