The Pirate’s Dilemma

The Pirate's DilemmaThe Pirate’s Dilemma is a fascinating new book that takes an in depth look at the impact youth culture is having on nearly every aspect of modern life, including society, economics, and technology. Matt Mason delivers a book that is highly entertaining and filled with thought provoking new perspectives.

As the book explains:

Youth cultures often embody some previously invisible, unacknowledged feeling in society and give it a name.

Often times, this name is applied to entirely new genres of music, which are used to express the ideals behind a movement. The book explores the origins and ideas behind punk, disco, and hip-hop as well as how these forms spread through pirate radio and remixes. Matt Mason’s experience in the music industry gives him unique insights on this topic.

As these trends gain acceptance, they are absorbed into the mainstream. Meanwhile, technology and the Internet is accelerating the pace and increasing the impact. The Pirate’s Dilemma, then, is as follows:

“How should we react to the changing conditions on our ship?”

Harnessing file-sharing technology, youth culture has once again changed the direction of the music industry as songs are swapped openly and freely. This is just one example of many where pirates are innovating, even if illegally, by operating in markets not being served by traditional industry. By working at the edge, pirates drive social, economic, and technological progress.

This raises interesting challenges for incumbent companies. Should the pirates be dealt with on purely legal terms, through lawsuits and criminal allegations? Should corporations shift their thinking, and compete along side the pirates in the new markets that have been opened? Where is the balancing point between those two extremes?

Some people might be tempted to judge this book by its cover, dismissing it as irrelevant to the “real world” after reading the audacious subtitle How Youth Culture is Reinventing Capitalism. That, however, would be a mistake. Industries that generate hundreds of billions of dollars every year are impacted by the trends occurring within youth cultures. The Pirate’s Dilemma addresses the challenges and opportunities created by those trends.


Lonna Hanson
February 24, 2008 at 3:35 PM

I, again, really enjoyed your entry, Jared. As always, I think through your writing and compare it to what I have done for my career the past 34 years. I also think the youth culture impacts society in the form of their education. It seems to me that parents of our youth culture are demanding more and more from school systems. Schools are in a sense taking on parental responsibilities, as in before school programs, after school programs, lunch and breakfast programs. It also has an economic impact on our society in the form of tax dollars to fund all of these “extra” sides of education that go beyond the “book learning.” I also think it has had a huge social impact on how our children enter their teenage years and adult roles. Hopefully we are impacting their lives to make them fiscally responsible adults and not more and more dependent on government programs.

Tim Burks
March 10, 2008 at 6:00 PM

Thanks for introducing me to this book. It’s a big question: how does an established generation react when a new one arrives with different rules? I think we naturally first try to defend against change; but time and time again, that approach loses. Learning to live with change is a natural part of growing up and older. As they say, it beats the alternative, but the question here is about business: if a company’s business model is threatened by an open source copying culture, maybe the problem isn’t with the culture, it’s with holding to a doomed way of doing business.

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