We are living in an era of makers. The objects being made are diverse: quadcopters, decorations, blog posts and hand-bound notebooks. The ones we hear about have some aspiration of commercial viability but the vast majority of these are labors of love or, perhaps less romantically, contributions to a vast status game played by an increasingly creative populace.
If Thorstein Veblen were still around, he might have a less rosy view of all of this conspicuous production than Chris Anderson or the folks at Make.
Nonetheless, you can’t help but feel there’s something wonderful about it. Was not the Marxist dream to overcome the “kingdom of necessity,” the world in which you had to do menial work in order to get by and had time for little else? There might be no better description for this time of indulgent creative energy, in which have abundant time to channel outside of work.
Moreover, in the past, one sought to legitimize such channeling by attempting to make it your day job. Now, people like Austin Kleon are actively defending the choice to stick with the boring job that pays well so you can have the freedom to do whatever you want creatively, on your own time and on your own terms.
Kleon also urges a most conspicuous kind of production. His rallying cry is Show Your Work. Not only should we be sharing our creative objects to the world once they are completed, but we should put the whole process out there. Make it public.
The problem in the world of policy is that law was long ago optimized to the head and remains unaware of the long tail. This may not have been so big a problem 10 to 20 years ago, but now hobbyist activities are a single Kickstarter project away from commercial viability.
Laws that raise barriers to entry that are acceptable at the usual scale of business may be prohibitive at the scale of integrating our conspicuous production into the ecosystem of regular commerce. Now more than ever, we need a permissionless approach to regulation. Not an everything-goes approach, but laws that make use of after-the-fact corrections, rather than prior restraint.
We live in flexible times and we need a regulatory regime that is flexible, and able to change with this changing reality on the ground.