Aristotle proposed the law of
Aristotle proposed the law of the excluded middle, which is accepted as a fundamental law of logic. Generally, the law of the excluded middle means that any given statement must be either absolutely true or false - it can't be sort of true, or in the middle. Of course, paradoxes seem to defy this rule, as paradoxes defy most rules of logic.
That as an aside, I propose the myth of the excluded middle, not regarding logic, but regarding economics, especially modern Internet-age economics.
E-commerce seems to be based on the principles of excluding the middleman. By providing direct business-to-consumer and business-to-business transactions, transactions will be cheaper and more efficient because the intermediary is eliminated.
However, I believe that the Internet does not truly eliminate the agent. He simply becomes more abstract. Allow me to explain:
Scenario A: pre-Internet
You need toilet paper. Fortunately, you live in walking distance of a convenience story, so you walk to the store and buy toilet paper. Now let's examine the costs you've incurred in buying that toilet paper.
There was no cost for your transportation to the store (unless we're agreeing that time is money, but for simplicity's sake, we won't). The cost of the toilet paper included costs for the convenience store (maintenance, employees, etc.), transporting the toilet paper to the store, and costs to manufacture the toilet paper at the factory.
Now imagine scenario B: Internet hipster
You need toilet paper. You go to kozmo.com, and they deliver it to your door in under 60 minutes or less. Now take a step back and examine the costs involved in the transaction.
First, to use kozmo.com, you need a computer, which probably cost around $1500. Also, you need an Internet service provider, which costs around $20 per month. In the cost of the toilet paper, you are not only paying for transportation and production costs, but also the technology used on kozmo's end - servers, databases, and people to administer the technology.
In a fractional way, thousands of people have contributed to bringing the toilet paper to your door - the corporations who develop the hardware that powers the Internet, the people who write the code that is used on kozmo.com, the people who build the trucks that deliver the toilet paper to kozmo's warehouses, the people who built those warehouses, the people who deliver it to your door, and the companies that built the bicycles that the deliverers use.
When we think of the Internet economy as more efficient, we are merely thinking about the very last step of the transaction in which we merely click a mouse. Perhaps true efficiency was in the absence of technology, when these scenarios were as simple as reaching up to pick a leaf off a tree.
This is the myth of the excluded middle - the inherent belief that advanced technology will make our lives simpler, more efficient, and more productive. Some people are starting to realize that this is not true.
Though I don't agree with the tactics the Unabomber used, he has a point that much technology today is not benefiting humanity. Today, people spend more time working and have less free time than ever before, despite technology advancing exponentially. Does technology invariably make our lives more complex and inefficient? What must be done so that we stop chasing Utopia Deus ex machina-style?