Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Less Waste, More Taste

I used Airbnb for the first time this weekend in Edinburgh, and now for the second in Lisbon. I love using Uber. I don't think 'Sharing Economy' is the right term since these are still businesses. They are also controversial businesses because we are figuring out new rules as we go. And we are going quickly. I fall in the fan camp. That doesn't mean I am in the fan camp of every provider, every user and every innovation. An Economy at its best is similar to Science at its best. It is not an answer. It is a question probing at problems, making mistakes, and fixing them. It is messy. 
There are two specific things that I really like. An economy which wipes out transaction costs and gives more transparency has the ability to lead to significantly less waste and more trust.

Less Waste

I love walking along the streets imagining a world without all the cars lining the road. Picturing wide open walk ways with tables, chairs, benches, trees and the like. Most of the cars I see aren't moving. They are sitting idle. In the same way there are masses of other 'sitting assets' - rooms, appliances, clothes and other 'in case things'.

There is an irony when people look at rich lists which are typically based on financial assets. The easiest wealth to 'see' is ownership in listed businesses. These do not fall into the sitting assets category which are tougher to value and easier to hide. Money isn't actually a thing. If the money is invested in businesses, it is busy making things or doing things. Efficiency through social networks and electronic administration increases the chance that more of the sitting assets will get off their bums. I get bothered when inanimate objects get more leisure time than people.

More Trust

The more exciting new developments use trust in interesting ways. There are all sorts of wasteful industries that exist primarily because we don't trust each other. Through a combination of introductions, user reviews, identification etc. we end up with a new way to trade privacy for trust. We value both. We are far more tentative in our use of trust and privacy as a currency than cash. For the reason that cash is gone when you hand it over and the deal is done. A cash transaction is temporary. A trust interaction is an ongoing relationship. Trust grows. Trust is fragile but it can be incredibly powerful. We can start to invite 'strangers' into our homes. We can personalise the world. We can standardise the stuff that doesn't matter (like admin) and savour the stuff that does. We can enjoy the unique combinations of flavours creating individuals. Trust tastes good.
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