AMIX was the American Information Exchange, the brainchild of economist and futurist Phil Salin. Starting in 1984, Salin worked to create an international network for the exchange of information, consulting contracts, computer code and research. He envisioned a world in which the ready exchange of expertise would reduce transaction costs, with wide ranging beneficial effects. In particular, he predicted that information markets would reduce the need for redundant employees at different organizations, so that companies would become smaller and more efficient, relying on each other as external sources of expertise. He also expected revolutionary political changes as the markets became widely adopted.
The AMIX project originated long before the widespread deployment of the Internet, so the challenge of creating the market was compounded by the technical difficulty of creating the network on which it would run. The project was closely associated with Ted Nelson’s Xanadu project, and might have run on it, had Xanadu ever launched.
Autodesk acquired a controlling interest in AMIX in 1988 and funded it until shortly after Phil Salin died in December 1991. The mission of AMIX narrowed in its final years, so that it focussed on providing research and analysis on the computer industry, and ultimately became a network for the exchange of libraries of object-oriented computer code. AMIX closed its doors in 1992.
AMIX came too early — by antedating the Internet, Salin’s plans were much more difficult to implement. In another respect, AMIX was too late. By the time the system was actually available for customer use (December 1991), the Internet was about to reach consumer desktops and obviate the need for some of AMIX’s services.
Perhaps the most impressive implication of Salin’s plans was the realization that efficient markets for information affect not only on who gets the information that is produced, but also what gets produced. In the words of Esther Dyson, “If you believe in the efficiency of markets, more of precisely the right stuff will get produced, and the low-quality redundant stuff will diminish.”