The more I think about it, the more convinced I become that this is the best path to ensure a network that is a lasting and useful infrastructure to society at large.
Attracting people to use the network and upload data/content:
You do this by building a great product so people get better service than they get with other products. Getting that better service at an even lower cost is icing on the cake. But there’s no need to pay people on top of providing them with a great product/service at a competitive price. There are many people who would use the network if it works well (e.g., recently, someone posted here a twitter thread from Mathew Green exploring Filecoin where he stated clearly that he’s in need of and would pay for a secure data storage that’s easy to use). AWS doesn’t pay people to use AWS. People and companies use AWS because it’s a great product, and AWS charges them for that use.
The many rewards for uploading popular content:
Popular content provides all kinds of rewards to the owner/uploader of that content that go far beyond what the network can see. For instance, popular content might provide fame to the uploader, and in many ways and depending on what they’re after, fame could be far more valuable to the uploader than any additional token incentive from the network. The network paying them on top of the fame (and attendant benefits) they might achieve from their content would be like society mandating a universal income for good looking people, even though they already draw various direct and indirect societal benefits for their good looks.
All data is the same, but all data doesn’t have the same value (maybe to entropy but not to a well functioning society):
At the byte level, yes, all data is the same. But not so in the reality we live in. Even the safe network differentiates between different types of data as it prioritizes its infrastructure messages (different priorities within those too) over the more numerous client messages. Imagine if the network didn’t do that and on top of it, favored the popular client messages over the boring infrastructures messages. The network would grind to a halt. Such would happen to society too if the unglamorous but society-preserving work wasn’t rewarded, encouraged, and even prioritized in some way.
Human beings appreciate and rewards a useful thing at the end, but they don’t tend to appreciate and reward the long and painful process it takes to get to that useful thing. Most people would agree that bridges are useful. But before they are erected, it takes a long period of conceptualization and boring surveying/planning/calculations work that the average person would not reward with their attention. The safe network’s construction is case in point. The safe network would be useful to humanity and yet the community most likely to appreciate that fact is busy speculating on rug pulls and ugly images of monkeys. How much worse would it be if the internet, in its code, actively made it even more expensive to build something like the safe network by taxing it and sending that tax to the masses who already have plenty in cryptopunk riches?
The risks of pushing people away in an overzealous attempt to attract them, therefore achieving the opposite of the desired aim and killing the network:
There are some predictions that rewarding all content the same will lead to the network being dominated by spammy, non-critical, antagonistic, etc. content that provides a quick dopamine hit. Assuming that outcome comes to pass, is the network going to survive? Eventually, people get tired of that sort of content. And once they do, they’ll move on from the network (as people moved on from Facebook) and it’d be hard to reverse once that happens because the network would have already cemented its reputation and alternatives would have sprung in the gap it left.
Baking such a strong incentive in the network introduces an uncontrollable, unpredictable variable that might get the network’s usage tied to a specific generation or type of people (a la Facebook being for old people, IG for millennials, ticktock for…, etc.) On the other hand, the internet has been used across generations because it’s agnostic and apolitical. It just sits in the background and works.
There would be strong opposition to paying for views or content one does not support. If people know that their money goes to support/subsidize content they find objectionable, they might refrain from using the network. It might be a lot easier for them to co-exist with content they don’t like if they know that the network in its essence is impartial and agnostic (like the internet is), and it’s human beings who are responsible.
Political fights over what the network should favor could damage the network. What facts should the network reward most? Popular opinion/belief may be attractive (e.g., crypto at large) but expertise/ability matter a great deal (e.g., it’s what’s building the safe network). In that ebb and flow, what if some demanded that a certain type of data (e.g., scientific) must be rewarded over all other type of data? If such an incentive were baked in the internet, would crypto at large agree to being taxed for building a competing network that they are convinced would never work and is possibly a scam?
There are so many other considerations (a critical one being network security which depends on token economics), but I’ll add just one more. The safe network’s current design is to outsource as much as possible to the client. It would therefore be a continuation of that design spirit to also leave it to the client to determine the value of content on the network.