The basic social currency in this world is love. If you surround yourself with people who reciprocate love then the more you give, the more you will receive. The traditional economic model that powers society runs counter to this and has everyone competing for finite resources with an underlying narrative of scarcity. What if this core belief was overturned by an emerging technology that caused us to perpetuate abundance instead of scarcity?
When we “share the love” we learn to share resources and goods to increase each others wealth as well as our own individual worth in the larger community. This is how we create value, but the ways that we exchange value in our current economic system are filled with taxes and tolls. In the same way that a power line loses up to 30% of it’s electricity if it has to travel a long distance, what if we were able to exchange value more directly, in localized clusters?
Millennials and the Changing Economic Landscape
Millennials, who have grown up in less thriving economic times seem to grasp the sharing concept better than previous generations. They are more likely to invest in experiences than “things”. In contrast, the Baby-Boomers generation came of age during thriving economic times and are more prone to equate wealth with material possessions. We are witnessing a cultural shift in the way we define wealth, and exchange value.
Young people are living more with less and getting by with a little help from their friends. Instead of competing to be on top of the heap, millennials are more prone to cooperating in order to make sure that everyone gets their needs met. This perspective allows wealth to be seen in non-material ways while generally producing less-stressed and happier individuals with community values. Perhaps a cross-generational exchange will encourage a hybrid of understanding between material wealth and non-material wealth. Technology and media will assist in this balancing of cultural ideologies and wisdom.
A Paradigm Shift
This profound lifestyle shift from competition to cooperation is based on a community model of commerce that allows individuals to exchange goods and services one on one (peer to peer). Sharing or leveraging our collective wealth has the ability to create more abundance for all of us and technology is helping to make this possible. Concepts like social equity or social capital allow individuals to think of value or wealth in non-monetary terms that can also easily translate to economic abundance for the creative entrepreneur.
Technologically savvy individuals are re-inventing the economic game. Concepts like crowd-sourcing, Internet of Things (IOT), tokenization, and the distributed ledger of Blockchain are helping to put a technology backbone to these new ways of understanding and exchanging value. With the advent of Blockchain and emerging distributed ledger technologies, we will have a full suite of distributed, secure, transparent, end-to-end software to apply these ideas on a global scale and deploy them at lightning speed.
“What’s happening here is people are realizing the power of technology to unlock the idling capacity and value of all kinds of assets, from skills to spaces to material possessions, in ways and on a scale never possible before.” -Rachel Botsman, TED Talk
The Age of the Conscious Consumer
How you spend your time and money reflects your value system. For example, “buying local” means that you want to support your neighbor instead of a large or foreign corporation. Buying organic means that you value your health and want to support agriculture that isn’t heavy on pesticides. When you choose to rent through Airbnb, or purchase through Ebay you are able to directly support individuals while lowering your cost by cutting out “the middle man”. This is merely the beginning of what is possible through Blockchain.
Commerce thrives in an environment of trust. With expensive greenwashing campaigns to cover the negative environmental practices of large companies, or fancy advertisements to cover socially unethical labor practices, consumers are becoming increasingly cynical about standard corporate practices. Social media and blogging have led to an unprecedented transparency in the way that business is conducted, emerging technology has also enabled new ways for products and services to be exchanged in the market.
Blockchain is a quantum leap in this regard. Through a distributed ledger that has both a public and private encryption key, information is verified through a consensus model and validated without the need for a third-party. As society grew over the centuries, third parties were a great asset in verifying exchanges. Whether it is a bank, or a government agency, or a title company, these third parties record exchanges and hold individuals accountable. As centralized agencies, they have become prey for corruption, domination, and arbitrage.
In the old days, when we lent our neighbor a cup of sugar and some eggs, we knew they would return the favor some day. In a small community people know who is trustworthy and who is not. The internet gave us our very first glimpse at a how a global community could work, but there was no way to establish secure systems of trust when we are exchanging values across hundreds or thousands of miles with people we have never met in person. Centralized gatekeepers in one state/country became a gauntlet when commerce stretched around the world.
These days, it seems that any platform that uses the power of the internet to efficiently match people’s wants with people’s haves is labelled the ‘sharing economy’. -Collaborative Consumption
Imagine living in an urban environment where storage is minimal and you need a drill to complete a project around the house. Rather than purchase a drill that you may use once or twice a year, you can borrow one from a neighbor for a fraction of the cost. Through Blockchain you may even choose to quantify this exchange through a digital/crypto token. This helps you and your neighbor. Consumers recognize that access is more important than ownership and technology increasingly helps consumers find, borrow, rent, share goods instead of buying them. This is the essence of collaborative consumption. It can happen peer-to-peer without a middleman, and it can be trusted through a technology platform that is accessible from our smart phones.
The Up-Side to a Down Economy
During the depression era, people turned to self-reliance and community resilience. Neighbors grew more of their own food and bartered to meet their needs. People threw out less stuff, finding innovative ways to repurpose goods and return them to market. A great example was women who turned old flour or potato sacks into clothing. This sharing of ideas led to influence, fashion and cultural trends which created new markets.
We see the same trends emerging today with digital swap-meets like E-Bay or Craigslist, up-cycling, ride-sharing and more. In modern times the sharing economy grew in prominence during the economic crash of 2008 which also coincided with internet and social media technologies coming of age. As people learned they could not depend on banks or the greater economy, they turned to each other. While the elites compete, the struggling and middle-class are learning to work together to leverage their resources to lift each other up.
A Model for our Times
The sharing of resources also has the added benefit of being good for the environment as people learn to do more with less. Social justice suffers when there is disparity between the “haves’ and “have-nots”, and when people’s basic needs are not met. In a world where greed and scarcity threaten all of us, cooperative models and sharing help to level the playing field. This economic model is more sustainable in the long-term because it encourages the sense that we are all here to help each other and work together. The best part about it is that it mimics natural systems that perpetuate abundance!
A tree produces lots of fruit and many seeds. The exchange between the soil and the roots, the clouds that rain, and the sunlight that nourishes is something that we can model in our technology as well as in our social economy. Within this we expand our notion of the commons while recognizing that each of us belong to a larger network, community of thriving life-forms. For a deeper dive into the relationship between social commons and Blockchain, please read my previous article, Blockchain and a Renaissance of the Social Commons.
The commons is the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. These resources are held in common, not owned privately. -Wikipedia
Sharing is Caring
The sharing economy is not a private brand owned to profit a few, and it is a whole lot more than Uber or Airbnb. This is an open-sourced, participatory movement that is based on the ethics of community living. Cultural Creatives are leading the way and turning ideas into social capital that translates to real-world wealth. The end result is increased value for everyone.
The resources, information, and inspiration are endless just like the human imagination. It will require an open dialogue between generations. This is a collaboration between technology experts, systems-thinkers, organic gardeners, community organizers, legislators, and artists. This is not a product or a fad, it is the awakening of a conscious global community of individuals striving to make the world a better place for all life.
While the crumbling economic order preaches austerity and bail-outs for failed banking models, a new paradigm is being birthed by a generation that is no longer willing to wait for change. Through Blockchain and other peer-to-peer, decentralized networks the self-empowered and woke individuals from every sector of society now have a platform through which they can collaborate and create unlimited value. This is an expression of love for life itself, and it has the power to transform every aspect of how we do business, how we interact, and how we think of our global community. We are at the dawn of learning how to think as one species accessing our collective potential. Each of us have a role in the healing our troubled world, and this is the evolutionary technology that will power it.