When Ideas Become Gold - Dilbert Blog

When Ideas Become Gold

Someday you’ll be able to write software by talking. Sit in front of your computer and simply describe your requirements: “I want an app that lets me organize hiking trips. There should be a sign-up page, a map of hiking places, a calendar of events …” Just keep describing your requirements while the site takes shape right in front of your eyes. If you forget to include something, your computer will helpfully suggest features borrowed from similar websites on the Internet.

Maybe the future of software won’t be quite that simple. But I do think that creating apps and websites will someday be no harder than building a PowerPoint presentation or using Excel. It’s heading that way.

Creating a new business might someday be that simple too. Today, starting a business is the most annoyingly inconvenient process in the world. You need lawyers and accountants and contracts. It’s complicated stuff. But I can imagine someday all of that becoming easy. Simply tell your computer you want to start a business and it will ask you a few questions then set up your corporation or partnership for you. It will outsource your logo design, set up your bank accounts, and have you ready for business in a few days. You might have to incorporate in the Cayman Islands to get that level of simplicity, but that’s okay too.

In today’s world, ideas are free and plentiful while implementation is the hard part. You and I can brainstorm ten new business ideas in ten minutes. The hard part would be implementing them. I think today’s situation will someday be the reverse. Implementation will be easy and all of the obvious Internet business ideas will be used up.

I’m not suggesting there will be no new inventions. Technology will keep moving forward. But business ideas for the Internet will be exhausted. For example, once you have an eBay, the category of “online auction site” is pretty much filled, give or take a few variations on the theme. Once Facebook exists, the world doesn’t really need a second social network.

Someday it will be a rare and amazing thing if anyone comes up with a new Internet business idea. Thanks to technology, starting a business in the future won’t require hard work, deep pockets, or a good network of contacts. Implementation will be easy. But a truly unique idea will be worth a billion dollars.

We’re already seeing the start of an idea bubble with patents. My understanding is that a new patent with no immediate application can be sold to investors (speculators?) for up to $20,000. Some of these patents are used by big companies to defend against patent claims. Some patents are bought with the intention of resale. Whatever the reason, the market for “ideas” has never been this active.

I’m in the process of filing a patent now. I’ve been through the patent process several times with other ideas. I’m motivated in part by the thought that the gold of the future will be ideas. I might be better off owning the rights to an idea than owning stock in an actual company.

My question of the day is this: Do you think the value of ideas (patented or otherwise) will increase, decrease, or stay the same in the future?