• Chelsea Rustrum

Post Industrial Revolution & The Economics of Sharing

Updated: Feb 21

The story of our economy is externalized and reinforced through our thoughts and actions. But, we’ve become robots to systems that no longer work. During the post-industrial revolution, society benefited from producing goods, reducing costs, and building the infrastructure for living more efficiently. Now that we’ve created cheaper materials and have reduced marginal costs to a point of no return, there are hardly any more efficiencies to exploit in manufacturing.

So now that we have enough stuff and predictable formulas for keeping costs low, where do we find new growth in the economy?

The sharing economy represents a shift into looking for the extra time, space, resources, and stuff that would traditionally sit idle. Instead of looking to produce more, market forces are pushing us to think about “sharing” what we already have.

On one hand, this whole sharing thing is merely a business proposition where startups can disrupt legacy industries in a way that integrates the power of the crowd. On the other hand, the internet is the ultimate sharing platform is exactly what the world wide web was built for. With all different types of value exchanges, and the convergence of trends like the maker movement, open source software, open education, more consciousness about the commons, the rise of flat hierarchies like cooperatives, and peer-driven financial systems, we’re on the brink of something much, much bigger and much more interesting than Airbnb and Uber.

This movement is about opening up and changing the fundamentals about how we view stuff, how we think about possession, what it even means to own something, the power of access, the strength and value of community, what it means to be qualified/educated/good at something, the ever increasing importance of digital trust and reputation, the benefits of organizational transparency and shared profits based on contribution, and ultimately — a lot of this is pointing to:

What creates value? How can we best exchange that value? And, will the future need traditional fiat currency?

And beyond that, when the sharing economy starts creating shared housing systems, transportation, and restructuring the economy with technological systems — at what point does the government itself become displaced? At what point does their role change? And when do we become a truly globalized economy where peers extend beyond borders?

So many questions. But let’s not get sidetracked by shiny object syndrome. Rest assured, this is just the beginning of an economy that has the power to be supportive of our true needs.

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