In a NYT Op-Ed today, former boy genius and current Discover magazine columnist Jaron Lanier says that it's time for the Web to grow up and start paying people! I know, right? That's sort of huge, coming from "one of the most influential philosopher-scientists of the computer age" in a Silicon Valley where user-generated free content is, like, the only content! (Oh, YouTube!) How'd this change of heart come about?

Well, Lanier admits, in the past, "Internet idealists like [him]" felt that the whiny creatives demanding to be, like, paid for their digital contributions were going about things all wrong, as proved in a previous essay called "Piracy is Your Friend." Kind of like the old "the invisible hand of the market will eventually correct everything" theory.

But! "I was wrong. We were all wrong." Coulda told you that ten years ago, buddy.

"Idealism and hope are no longer enough... to help writers and artists earn a living online," he says, adding that "People happily pay for content in certain Internet ecosystems," citing the virtual marketplace of Second Life (he's also an adviser to its creator, Linden Lab).

This idea seems to be based on the "Radiohead method" which is that most people might sorta pay at least something if given the choice.

So can artists & creatives make money on-line after all? Is the honor system better than no system at all? In a word: Maybe!