At present some young people become movie stars or sports stars and become millionaires at an early age. Modern communications select small numbers of people for stardom. The mechanism may select the best in some sense, e.g. in sports, or it may be chaotic and select at random. However, the number of categories of stars is far more limited than the size of the public, so stardom is concentrated.

The star phenomenon will grow in the future. Of course, the market for stars will grow with the world population. However, it will grow as increasing equality of access increases the size of the public. Just as an example, China will add a billion people to the number of potential fans of a world class soccer player. It will probably add a substantial fraction of that to the number of fans of an actress, be she ever so blonde.

The stars of the future will make more money than the stars of today. Some movie stars will routinely get $200 million per movie. Some soccer players will be paid in the hundreds of millions.

In the last 25 years there have appeared a number of billionaire technologists. As late as 1984, Forbes Magazine published an article in which three technologists were featured with the caption, ``If they're so smart, why aren't they rich?''. The third was Bill Gates. It seems to me that in the previous 50 years, many fewer technologists became enormously wealthy, and technology was thought to be the property of corporate laboratories. The previous era in which invention and company formation brought great wealth to the stars was in the second half of the nineteenth century with Edison, McCormick, Otis, Westinghouse, Carnegie, Rockefeller. I don't know whether the drought had a social cause or that the opportunities for innovation in technology took a form that required corporate labs to lead the way. It isn't guaranteed that there will still be great opportunities for individual technological stars, but on present evidence, that's the way to bet.

Gates did not achieve his almost monopoly by overcoming rivals one at a time. Instead his $80,000 contract with IBM made him the supplier of the operating system for the IBM personal computer, and when the clones appeared his operating system had already become standard in a field that welcomed a standard. I have to admit that this picture is considerably complicated by the success of Linux, originally a one man effort.

Web communities and microstars

The web has allowed the formation of many small international communities based on common interests. Most have been organized by unpaid enthusiasts, but surely some have and more will make a living servicing such a community. I suppose a worldwide community of a thousand people can support a professional, maybe as few as 100 if they are very enthusiastic or very rich. I suppose we can expect net-based gurus of many kinds. The increasing prosperity of China and India will increase the number of specialized interests that can support professionals.

The number of specialized interest capable of supporting their own stars will grow, but I don't think it will grow as fast as the public grows. Most members of the public have and will continue to have rather standard interests.

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