But what is information? According to Gregory Bateson, information is 'difference that makes a difference'. In his extended discussions on information and communication theory, Bateson demonstrates how, mathematically speaking, information is characterized by having zero dimensions, that is to say, information is dimensionless. This is a very significant discovery, the one that carries profound implications and ramifications, especially in the world that is making a swift transition from the natural resources based economy to the information based economy.
One of the most important implications stemming from the fact that information is dimensionless is the implication that information cannot be located. It is found nowhere and everywhere at the same time. This fact is forcefully demonstrated to anyone who uses the world wide web, as it is obvious that it is impossible to determine where is the information that is being consumed on the web coming from. The fact that we can consume a web page in our browser does not mean that this web page is coming to us from a specific single location, identifiable via its geographical position (latitude and longitude). As such, information is, in its consumable form, intangible.
How is this arrangement affecting our everyday activities? Information-based economy challenges the very foundations of our society. Since the basis of our economic structure has been established in the world where all the resources are unambiguously locatable in the physical space, once we make the transition to consuming resources that are not locatable in the physical space (i.e. the dimensionless information), all the axioms and paradigms of economic dynamics get forcefully challenged. Our current economic model is based on the fundamental assumption known as scarcity of resources. Natural resources are limited in their abundance, which creates unavoidable race conditions, whereby more aggressive, or more shrewd humans collect and amass said resources, leaving the losers on the other side of the fence, drooling and coveting such resources. All the economic dynamics have been established around the 'have and have not' concepts.
Enter the age of information: being of zero dimensions, the information lives on the world wide web that's been erected on the backbone known as the Internet. The web is basically a giant copy machine, making copious identical replicas of the information artifacts. Thus we see a rapid transition from living and operating in the world of scarce resources to living and operating in the world of abundant resources. By the virtue of the fact that information-based resources are dimensionless, we have been given the almost magic ability to make unlimited number of copies of such resources at no cost at all. Moreover, not only can we make limitless copies of desirable resources, we can now distribute these copies to anyone at no extra cost. And finally, unlike physical resources which diminish in availability with each act of consumption, information-based resources become more and more abundant with each act of consumption. In other words, the more such resources get shared, the more prominent these resources become.
Why is this arrangement problematic? Our society is based on a very fundamental principle known as sharing. Human culture cannot exist without an uninterrupted and constant stream of events that could be described as acts of sharing. Our language, our customs, our cultural artifacts (such as stories, songs, clothing, crafts, arts, etc.) all stem from this unencumbered series of acts of sharing. The very act of sharing is based on the idea of the existence of the limited quantities of shareable resources, and based on that, important societal milestones such as forming a mercantile society that is based on the laws of supply and demand, were able to take hold and flourish. But what we're seeing right now is the emergence of the unlimited resources which people can share, and this new arrangement is something that is totally messing up the time tested economic model. Thanks to the limitless availability of previously scarce resources, the law of supply and demand has been turned on to its head. With shifting the focus from having to deal with scarcity of resources to having to deal with abundance of resources, a serious gauntlet was thrown into the face of the society that is based on the model of buying and selling. When the coveted resources become this abundant, who could get tricked into paying for something that is freely available? Could anyone devise a sales strategy that would convince the suckers (which are, according to the urban legend, born every minute) to pay for the air, or to pay for the wind, or to pay for the daylight?