Back in the 1920s, Bronisław Malinowski, a Polish cultural researcher described a ritual in which members of New Guinea tribes traveled miles to exchange treasured religious objects. The custom required that no such valuable item be kept for long, and that its owner pass it on to another person. The ritual had a significant result: it created strong interpersonal bonds that were based on mutual respect. And that, in turn, created a whole new culture centered around the exchange of goods.
Later that century, an American futurist, designer and inventor called Jacques Fresco developed “Project Americana”, a scheme in which “sensitive machines” were to cool and clean entire cities in response to environmental pollution. He promoted communication between cars, to prevent accidents. He had a high esteem for computers, which he argued were better than humans because they had no harmful ambitions. He devoted his entire life to promoting economics based on the principle of free and universal access to natural resources. He claimed that at this stage of civilizational advancement, we had everything we needed (natural resources and computer technology) to lay the groundwork for a new economy.
These thinkers foresaw ideas that are being realized today. The exchange of resources, sharing, focus on the resources that are available “here and now”, emphasis on bond building and collective satisfaction are all part of what we refer to as the “sharing economy.”
This “sharing economy” grew at 22 percent in 2016, up to 12.6 million users and was predicted to grow to 14.5 million in 2018. These figures need to be increased by the addition of online shopping data from such websites as Pinterest and eBay, which are used by a self-declared 50 percent of the adult population. These sites allow people to connect, to shop for products without having to visit traditional retailers.
This revolution, which started around the turn of the century, but was foreseen nearly a century before that, is a direct consequence of new technologies. The revolution is unfolding right before our eyes. I believe that the age of the “sharing-economy” business is still to come.