PROFESSOR: As long as we are talking about global economies and, uh, how globalisation has affected local economies, I want to spend a little time touching on what I think is a brilliant alternative to the current neoliberal economic model…the sharing economy. I know it sounds clichéd, but there’s a lot more to it than first appears.
So, at the core of this economic model is an age-old principle, which is, well, sharing. Now, sharing is nothing new to human culture, and is probably an evolutionary adaptation to, you know, ensure the survival of our species. No man is an island, right? And that’s because a human literally cannot meet its most basic needs without others. I mean, have you ever tried to harvest a rice field on your own?
And this notion of mutual interdependence applies to how we use what we have as well. The ‘tragedy of the commons’ theory developed by Garrett Hardin points out that when people act out of self-interest, they inevitably contribute to the depletion of the resources that they depend on. Take, for example, how wastefully we have depleted the world’s oil reserves so that we can drive nice cars and fly to vacation destinations all over the world. Sharing resources rather than acting selfishly actually makes sense from the perspective of self-preservation.
Right. So, the sharing economy is an economic system designed around the peer-to-peer sharing of assets. In some cases, this means neighbors sharing items such as ladders or tools, items that cost a lot of money and aren’t needed on an everyday basis. It makes much more sense if there are a couple of ladders in the neighborhood that everyone has access to. Uh, but there are other types of sharing too, such as bartering. One person offers an hour of his or her time per week to teach Chinese, and then takes from someone else an hour of massage. This may seem rather common sense, but is difficult to implement in complex modern societies where so few people actually know their neighbors.
And you see, that’s where the innovation comes, and in the form of high-tech solutions. The Internet and the spread of accessibility of technology through which to access the Internet have allowed for platforms on which complex societies can build networks. Um, there are several types of platforms that serve such a purpose. One is social media. Just having instant access to people throughout your local community and the world opens up avenues of exchange. Another is crowdfunding, which is basically an online marketplace that allows individuals to contribute financially to someone else’s dreams or projects. Then, let’s see…ah, innovation marketplaces. Yes, these are quite interesting. They are online marketplaces where people of different professions can share their intellectual capital to help solve problems or develop an idea.
All of these are excellent platforms for peer-to-peer sharing, and really take the control of assets…um, both material and intellectual…away from large corporations and institutions. But more than just an equitable economic model, the sharing economy is a way of building community. On a basic level, you get to know new people in your community by renting from or bartering with them, and people you probably wouldn’t have met otherwise in today’s world. And, uh, participating in this sharing economy requires…requires trust. If you’re going to let someone you’ve never met rent your car for a day, you have to just trust that they’ll take good care of it. You might think people would take advantage of this, but actually, people tend to be even more responsible when that trust is afforded to them with no strings attached. So, the sharing economy model builds up trust, which is an essential element in any healthy society.
All right then. Um, any questions so far?