The Medieval Sharing Economy

Still hate Thomas Friedman. Still read The New York Times and his senseless articles — last Sunday one on the “sharing economy.”

Most of his article is, essentially, an interview with the head of Airbnb, Brian Chesky. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re going the way he thinks we are with this “sharing economy.” Further, it isn’t all that different from the current world in its institutional bias.

Chesky claims,

[W]e’re moving back move back to a place where the world is a village again — a place where a lot of people know each other and trust each other . . . and where everyone has a reputation that everyone else knows.

I don’t have a problem with this idea, necessarily. But I think the village analogy may be more significant than he believes. He later says,

Today, said Chesky, “you may have many jobs and many different kinds of income, and you will accumulate different reputations, based on peer reviews, across multiple platforms of people. … You may start by delivering food, but as an aspiring chef you may start cooking your own food and delivering that and eventually you do home-cooked meals and offer a dining experience in your own home.” Just as Airbnb was “able to find use for that space you never found use for, it will be the same for people. That skill, that hobby that you knew was there but never used it,” the sharing economy will be able to monetize it.

Starts to sound like we’re going to return to our roots — where our surnames reflect our jobs.[1] Farmer, cook, courier. In fact, as Misty notes, we’ve always tried to monetize the things we do in our off-time.

But to get back to Chesky’s medieval village, we just need a unicorn. For, In Unicorns We Trust if we believe true community and trust can be built on the Web the way it is offline. [2] We aren’t building communities and “sharing.” Sharing shouldn’t come with an economic cost. It shouldn’t even be calculated economically unless about sharing a bank account. We’re engaging in business transactions — we just happen to be using our personal items and not business items.

1. Let’s be honest. Those aren’t real jobs. In reality, not many people make their livings Ubering or Airbnbing. They have real jobs to pay their bills. And it automatically disqualifies those without broadband connectivity and the elderly, poor and minorities.
2. Otherwise, why all the digital detoxes?


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