Socialism is a dirty word. So, the 21st century economy has come up with a bunch of Wired magazine-friendly catch phrases as stand-ins: "The Share Economy;" "The Peer Economy;" "Shared Consumption;" and "The Mesh."
The concept—and I wrote about it for this month's magazine in a blurb about a new car sharing service called Sidecar where people give lifts to virtual hitchhikers via an app—is that a DIY economy based on monetizing your ability to share what you've got and others don't, is the new third way. Über is probably the most well known example of how this new equation works.
And, well, Wired explains the philosophy pretty well.
If this new model of resource maximization succeeds, it won’t just put extra money in the pockets of everyday people like Jankosky and other Uber drivers. It will also change the way we think about work and consumption, with every purchase becoming a potential investment, every idle hour a potential paycheck. In an Uberized world, there will literally be no such thing as a free ride, because every seat will be filled with a paying customer.
And entrepreneur Lisa Gansky, in her 2010 book heralding the birth of this new type of business, put forward a metaphor to describe how it works: the “mesh.” It’s an apt image, because it captures the seamless way that producers and consumers blend together, with transactions happening wherever the resources are available: Everything can be rented or consumed everywhere. Besides Uber, the most impressive of this new generation of startups is undeniably Airbnb, which allows people to rent out their home or rooms in them.
Car2Go, which Erica wrote about this morning, is a more corporate-friendly version of this.
Rather than any individual profiting off sharing, a company invests in the common assets and everybody pays them. However, it's still the sharing part, tied to sustainability, that makes it work. At least for me.
My first experience with Car2Go started out on a disappointing note. I drove the car from my apartment in Capitol Hill to a dinner party at my girlfriend's in Queen Anne. But by the time I was done fighting the Mercer Mess and finding parking, I was pretty stressed and, I realized, I was out $6 more than if I had simply taken the #8 for $2.25, which is covered by the Orca card that my work pays for. And I could have gotten some reading in too.
The bus, it seemed to me, trumped this deal.
However, a few hours later, a couple was leaving the dinner party, and they mentioned that they had just joined Car2Go. Oh, I told them, I parked right outside—if "my" car was still there, they were free to take it. It was. And they did.
I felt much better about the new equation—socialism with a corporate membership card.