Society today is arguably less trusting than it has been in centuries past, and reasonably so. But is that all changing? Companies like Uber and AirBNB are allowing us to put our faith in strangers, with (usually) very few consequences.
The idea is simple: by using the internet, you can get anything you want. That’s been true for awhile in terms of finding products you need (hello, Amazon). But now, with such companies like Uber and AirBNB, you are one click away from a ride anywhere you want, or somewhere to stay while you travel.
Margaret Wente, writer for The Globe and Mail, argues that these peer-to-peer based companies are changing the world. Uber is a lot easier than waiting around for a taxi, and AirBNB makes your stay in a foreign country feel like home. In today’s society, where we expect everything to be as quick as our internet connection, these companies are thriving.
“When you stop to think about it, it’s amazing. Millions of people are willing to take a chance on renting places they’ve never seen from people they’ve never met, and to be chauffeured around by unregulated strangers. They’re pretty confident that it will all work out, and it usually does.”
Wente makes the point that this interaction with strangers requires a high level of “social trust.” But most Internet-users already put their trust in strangers, when they use Amazon, Trip Advisor or Yelp. Reviews from strangers help us decide what restaurant to try, and what products to choose. A lot of people are hesitant to use these types of services, mostly because they don’t actually know the people they will be interacting with. But these companies aim to remove that fear, with built-in features to give your Uber driver or AirBNB host a rating.
AirBNB CEO Brian Chesky thinks that companies like the one he runs will indeed change the world, and he wants them to. His aim is to go back to the type of society we had pre-industrial revolution, where small villages were more common than sprawling cities. VB News explains his goal as creating a society that is “highly trusting and filled with micro-entrepreneurs who shared their assets to make a living.”
Chesky says that he often receives emails from hosts who have been able to keep their homes thanks to the money they make from renting on AirBNB. The company makes people into businesses in just one click, and the tradeoff seems to be positive in Chesky’s mind. His aim is to fill the world with smaller businesses that function on openness and avoid discrimination, as opposed to the way government-run businesses operate now.
But these “mutually beneficial” services are forgetting one thing: the industries that they are forcing to shut down. The taxi service industry is really struggling, and hotel chains are reeling from the empty rooms. Cities across the world are trying to make these sharing companies illegal–Uber is already being attacked in Toronto, while New York City is taking AirBNB to court.
But the people seem not to mind. Society is choosing ease over brand names. The 55,000 locations on AirBNB have a market valuation of $10 billion. Uber, despite it’s only 550 employees, is valued at $18 billion.
So are sharing companies like Uber and AirBNB the future? Most experts say yes. It’s hard to know for sure, especially if cities work together to shut them down now. But if it were up to the people, it looks like a resounding ‘yes’ to keep them going for a long time to come.
[Feauterd Image Credit: weathdaily.com]