Or even if you don’t, you can’t afford to not share anymore.
Access, rather than ownership, is what drives the future of commerce, according to this theory.
**ANOTHER UPDATE: Los Angeles Times ran a story today on Airbnb issues in Silver Lake.
When I was a little kid, I never really understood why everyone on the block had to have their own lawnmower – mowing was such an odious task (I grew up before the explosion of the service economy, so dads and kids – and the occasional mom, to be sure – took care of the yard work). I hated cutting the grass. We tried to avoid it as long as possible. The truth was, though, the longer the grass got the harder it was to mow with those manual push mowers (see above), which is what we had. But I digress. The point I was trying to make is that the mower was used maybe once a week, once every two weeks if there wasn’t much rain. So the “block” we lived on probably could have shared one or two mowers if someone had figured out how to organize it. (I’m sure there were smarter localities that probably did. BTW, the photo isn’t of anyone I know.)
Rosenberg divides the new sharing economy into what are called full mesh schemes (like Zipcar) and own-to-mesh (like Airbnb, etc). Full mesh means a company owns something and rents it out (as in cars, for Zipcar) and own-to-mesh is a gazillion little owners renting out what they have, like Airbnb, or like the personal car sharing companies I talked about in my previous post.
I never understood why people didn’t share WiFi in small apartment buildings or areas that could be wired appropriately – like they already do in office buildings or hotels. Obviously, the telcos have much dinero to lose and that’s why they’ve “encouraged” everyone to lock up their WiFi. (For those of you who’ve been on it a long time, you know this was not always the case and most people didn’t password-protect their service when it was first rolled out.)
I’ve even heard of people who make their monthly rent by renting out a few nights on Airbnb and staying elsewhere – even, at times, in their cars (if they have them) – which seems a little extreme to me, but hard times can call for desperate measures. Maybe Airbnb is the 21st Century equivalent of the “rent party?”
But how does this all work in a system where the economy is dependent on consumerism and continued consumer spending, largely made possible by debt? Well, the answer is kind of simple. It doesn’t work for that kind of economy.
Perhaps we’re on the threshold of something new, both for the way we live our lives and for the health of our yearning to be sustainable, finite planet. (But expect a lot of wailing and gnashing along the way. It won’t be pretty.)