Someday we’ll look back at the twentieth century and ask why we wanted to possess so many things.
Looking even further, after thousands of years of the subsistence economy, in the twentieth century the industrial economies of the West and the rest of the world threw themselves into the production of consumer goods: cars, refrigerators, televisions, telephones, computers, … it appealed to an ownership society that advertising took care to build.
Why not sharing a car, finding accommodation at the home of someone you do not know or renting a bike when you’re travelling?
“The trend is clear: access defeats possession Access is better than ownership“. (Kevin Kelly)
Where is the origin of Collaborative Consumption? Internet and the recession.
- Napster let the digitization and the possibility to share, that made owning CDs something superfluous.
- In 2008 the financial architecture that was built to manage the property (subprime mortgages, toxic funds…) collapsed.
People can not afford to purchase items if they are unemployed. This is even more pronounced among young people who have borne the brunt of the recession, with an unemployment rate of 25% in our country (Spain). They are the ones who are leading the change towards a different form of consumption, the consumption of the collaboration: rent, loan and even share goods instead of buying.
Companies like Netflix with over 20 million subscribers offers DVD sharing: this is just an evolution of the old video rental companies, adapted to the Internet age.
There is an environmental component: exchanging and renting means producing and spending less, which, besides being good for the planet, makes us better. Renting a drill the day you need to make that hole on the wall, is cheaper and more sustainable than get a new one.
The movement matches with an urban lifestyle where we all have neighbours and we lack storage space.
The real benefit of this type of consumption is on society: sharing, even with strangers who we only know online, and exchanging with someone implies a resurgence of the community.
All this only works because a new currency has been launched: trust. If not, how on Earth would we let a stranger live in our home, mount on our car or lend him money?
“There is no pleasure in having an unshared thing” (Seneca)