The Internet is a City

Cities are hubs of progress — before cities, when everyone was a hunter of a gatherer, information was shared slowly. Most people did most things. As people moved into bigger and bigger cities, they could specialize. No cities considerably bigger than Santa Barbara (which is very small, and hardly has a cobbler to its name) existed until sometime around 1000 BCE.

Cities connect people and let them share ideas, but more than that, they allow people the luxury of not being a jack of all trades. I can specialize in accounting and you can specialize in law and he can specialize in growing food and she can specialize in making armor.

When you’re all on your own, little house on the prairie style, you have to take care of everything you need. When you’re in a small village, you can trade, but only to the extent what they’ve got matches what you want and vice versa. When you’re in a city, if a few dozen or a few thousand (depending on transaction size) want what you’ve got, you can make a living.

The internet has effectively turned most of the world into a giant city. Amazon is the only bookstore the world needs (at least for buying books).

If you live in a place connected to the internet, and can produce something that thousands of people who are also connected to the internet want to consume, you can probably make a living. That sounds daunting, except that there are 3 billion+ people on the internet, so 10,000 of them is 0.0003%.

We’re entering a very interesting age, where we only need one bookstore, but if I can write a book that just 0.03% of people read, I’ve had an enormous impact in terms of how many lives I’ve touched. The first Harry Potter book, by the way, sold enough copies for about 3% of the internet connected world to have read it.

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