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Beautiful Teams by Jennifer Greene, Andrew Stellman

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Chapter 12. The Copyfighters Take Mordor

Cory Doctorow

THERE'S A LIMIT TO HOW MUCH OF THIS WE CAN PULL OFF. TRY TO FIND A RESTAURANT THAT 10 friends can agree on, or a wedding plan that everyone will sign off on, and you run up against some hard limits of collective action. By the time you hit the scale of a midsize company or a large family, it becomes apparent that an ever-larger slice of your "doing-stuff hours" must be devoted to "figuring out how to do stuff."

This is the transaction cost: the cost of getting stuff done, the overhead of getting everyone to agree on a restaurant, a course of action, or the truth. The cost of doing stuff that requires large groups of people and lots of labor is high enough that there's lots of stuff we don't even contemplate doing ("This weekend, my buddies and I are planning on whipping up a skyscraper!").

Transaction costs go by many names, like overheads, and red tape—but at the end of the day, the correct term for them is bullshitt. As in, "There's no way I'm going to try to get the whole office to agree to that—do you know how much bullshit I'd have to wade through to get that done?"

As a society, we can only do stuff that produces more value than bullshit. The bigger the project, the more of the cost will be just bullshit.

But the Internet clobbers overheads.

WIPO is the United Nations' World Intellectual Property Organization. WIPO epitomizes the danger the Internet faces: a room full of diplomats meeting in Geneva in closed session, aggressively ...

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