On Information

Concepts in Information Management – blog by Ronald Fuller

Information is a Business Resource

Information is the sine qua non of all commerce – a status not even money can claim.  Money is, after all, a form of information.

A business resource is anything that brings value to a business.  Classical economists described business resources in terms of factors of production.  Land, labor and capital are the primary factors because they do not become part of any finished product and are not consumed or significantly changed by the production process.  Resources such as raw materials and energy are secondary because they are derived from the primary factors.  From the classical perspective even things like entrepreneurship, intellectual property and the time value of money are derived from labor and capital, so they too are considered secondary formulations of the primary factors.
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So where does information fit in?  Information is obviously an important business resource, but is it a primary factor or is it secondary?
 

Information is consumed in the production process but not in the sense that it is depleted or reduced; in fact new information is created by every act of production and commerce.  Further, information is non fungible, which means it cannot be substituted one unit for another such as a kilowatt of electricity, an ounce of gold, or a computer.  Information cannot be replaced the way a building or a manager can be.  No business resource can be effectively utilized without information.
 

For these reasons information must be acknowledged as the superior business resource.  It is more primary than the primary factors.  Information is the sine qua non of all commerce – a status not even money can claim.  Money is, after all, a form of information.

As late as 1946 there were in the combined professional, technical and scientific press of the United States only seven articles on the subject of information

So why did the classical economists not have anything to say about information as a factor of production?  My guess is that information is so essential to every aspect of commerce that until the mid 20th century it was not even recognized as a distinct resource class.  In 1963 a professor of management noted “As late as 1946 there were in the combined professional, technical and scientific press of the United States only seven articles on the subject of information" (see here). 


Information is like the air we breath – nothing can happen without it, but it is easy to ignore until you have reason to notice.

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