Friday, February 20, 2015

Just in Case

I haven't owned a car since arriving in England just over six years ago. This is weird for a South African where car ownership feels like a rite of passage to adulthood. Johannesburg , the largest city, is apparently also the world's largest urban forest. This means it is very spread out and you can't just hop on a tube like you can in London. There are efforts to change that with improved taxis and Rapid Bus Service springing up. In a country with lots of space, it will likely take quite some time to tempt people away from desiring their own wheels. Clearly there are lots of people who can't afford wheels, and their lives are made much more difficult.

When necessary, I have been using ZipCar rather owning a car outright. You rent it when you need it. They are parked all over the city and you get a credit card style 'key' to tap on the windscreen to let you in. The actual keys are in the cubbyhole. The petrol card is on the side of the dashboard and you just need to keep the tank more than a quarter full. You rent it by the half hour. You need density for this sort of thing to work but it is an awesome idea.

I am in the process of moving out of my flat as I am going to be doing a bit of travelling. It amazes me how much stuff you can accumulate. This is crazy since I am not using most of the stuff. Even in moving out, there is a big temptation to put things in storage. I am trying to be aggressive in giving things away. I can see a picture where I store things for a while, then eventually take them out of storage and give them away.

We talk of an 'internet of things' in terms of connectability. Perhaps another way of thinking of it is in terms of reduced waste. I have written a couple of posts on how money isn't actually a thing (Bankers and Poets, Custodian, Mini Me). One of the things money is good at is keeping things working. There aren't piles of cash sitting idly. Even if your money isn't working for you, it is working for someone. You choose who. If your cash is in the bank, the bank is able to lend this out to someone else. If your money is invested in bonds, you are loaning that money to someone else to use. How that borrowed money is used is another story for another time. Whether the banks are too scared to lend the money out or borrowers too uncertain to borrow also becomes an issue. A process, warts and all, is there to keep things moving. Non-financial assets are more static. If you aren't using them, no-one is. That is the stuff that is hoarded.

We store things because of the difficulty of them not being (almost) instantly available when we need them. Whether it is food, cars, clothes, crockery, books or whatever, there is a lot of stuff that doesn't get used. As friction gets smashed by technology, wouldn't it be great if we could slowly decrease the amount of stuff we have just in case.
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