“You don’t need to have a car, or book a hotel when you go on vacation, oh by the way this mixer is a gift.”
In your opinion, will the sharing economy be the leading tendency in the future?
The sharing economy is very promising – ultimately, we should be moving towards a society grounded in the commons, and that prefers shared access and ownership to assets rather than individual ownership. This would better serve us both socially and environmentally, especially in a future that is likely to be scarce of resources. However, the sharing economy is currently being co-opted by capitalist platforms, which in some ways is undermining the social and environmental potential of the sector. We need to address the challenges that these platforms pose as we move towards greater adoption of sharing economy practices.
It depends on what you mean by the "sharing economy" — the term has been largely used by industries and policymakers who label anything related to people sharing goods with each other under this term. In my opinion, mega-corporations that take advantage of the sharing ethos to ultimately extract cheap labor and capital from people (such as Uber and Airbnb) without treating them fairly in return, do not represent the kind of sharing that I think will lead us to a more resilient or sustainable society. This kind of "sharing economy" will not last long, because more and more people will realize that having such companies serve as a digital intermediary to sharing will not only be unnecessary, they undermine the well-being of those who use their service.
How do you respond to people who say that "the sharing economy does not help creating occupation or paying the taxes”?
The sharing economy, whether cooperative or capitalist in nature, is generating more jobs than it is destroying. That is because it is driving up overall demand for services through cutting costs and removing barriers to entry. This may change in future as there is a possibility that platforms will begin to eat into the profit share of incumbents through appealing to their customer base. Some platforms are working with governments to ensure that taxes are being paid or implementing new fees. For example, Airbnb applies a tourist tax in some cities. Governments should continue to explore what more can be done to ensure that platforms and their users pay their fair share of taxes.
In some ways they would be right, because the kinds of occupation that many of these sharing services create are not long-term and they are not stable sources of income for the people who are employed by them. Uber for instance, may be employing millions of drivers around the world, but they are seeking to make those jobs disappear as soon as they can by automating their cars. Even on a more short-term scale, these "sharing" platforms do everything in their power to hold the least legal liability over their customers and even individual service providers. At the same time they do everything in their power to avoid paying taxes because they are "tech" companies. Together, extractive capitalism and the sharing economy, have led to these monopolistic platforms that are disrupting the design of how goods and services are exchanged between people, but are not disrupting the overarching economic operating system in which people continue to get exploited for their capital at every turn.
Do you expect to see the government taking a more active role in regulating these services over the next few years, or will this continue to be a largely local issue?
It requires both local and national oversight in terms of regulation. We are starting to see signs of government taking more proactive steps to regulate the sharing economy. For example, in the UK the government has commissioned a review into modern working practices to address concerns about Uber drivers and Deliveroo couriers.
It is hard to say at this point. What is clear is that these major sharing economy platforms are catching up the public policy lobbying game and may able to get what they want from higher levels of government. The reason why local government might have been able to push back harder against them (such as Austin, TX in the US) is because local government is more directly accountable to their constituents. I expect to see cities taking a more active role in defending their communities overall, and doing more to regulate these sharing services for the public good might be one of the ways this is manifested. Another way they may do this is by creating and overseeing the management of municipal resources for use by the public, as Amsterdam is planning to do with city-owned properties.
What other developments would you like to see in the future of the sharing economy space?
I would like to see the platform co-op movement gain strength in the UK and rest of Europe.
I'd like to see the further blossoming of the platform cooperativism movement. There is no reason why the people who use and rely on these sharing platforms need to relegate the operation of the software to some third party. The platform co-op movement is about having the people own and control the digital platforms themselves — I think this will not only lead to better treatment of workers and users, it will lead to better products that do not need to sacrifice quality for the sake of profit.
With the increasing advance of technologies, how do you think will the sharing economy evolve?
Technology can be used to advance co-operative aims as well as capitalist aims. If there are concerns about capitalist platforms, more can be done to realize alternative ambitions using similar technology.
As I said above, there may be more platform cooperatives and hopefully more software available that make it easier for people to share their goods, skills and time with each other directly.
In the future do you think the interactions between users will occur with ever closer distances, returning almost to a barter economy?
How the sharing economy will evolve in the next 100 years?
Information and communications technologies (ICTs) have enabled the rise of so-called “Collaborative Consumption” (CC):the peer-to-peer-based activity of obtaining, giving, or sharing the access to goods and services, coordinated through community-based online services.
‟The phrase “shared economy” emerged in the mid-2000s and grew in popularity between 2008 and 2010.”
‟In response to the financial crisis and global recession, several companies noticed consumers’ emerging desire to earn money on the side through shared profit models.”
‟One of the early leaders and pioneering companies of the shared economy was AirBnB, a technology company with an online platform matching room seekers to homeowners.”