The sharing economy

The Herald reported:

By PricewaterhouseCoopers’ projection, the biggest sectors of the “sharing economy” – including transportation and travel companies like Uber, Zipcar and Airbnb – could be pulling in as much as $335 billion in global revenue by 2025.

That’s a massive number (PwC puts it today at about $15 billion), and it reflects, according to a market analysis the company published this week, some fundamental shifts in consumer behaviour. “Access is the new ownership,” and such.

I’m already a big fan of Uber. Yet to use Airbnb, but intend to the next time I want to find a place to stay in the Wairarapa.

PwC does point out one trend in the report that’s a little more revelatory: We’re witnessing the rise of companies predicated on trust among strangers at the same time as general trust in society is actually falling. Only 29 per cent of consumers PwC surveyed said they trust people more today than they did in the past. And 62 per cent said they trust brands less today.

Yes, but while you may not trust individual people, you trust the wisdom of the masses.

Many years ago I used to decide which movies to go to on the basis of if the Listener film reviewer hated them, they were likely to be very enjoyable. I didn’t trust their reviews as we had different tastes.

But the reviews of 100 or so professional reviewers (accumulated on Rotten Tomatoes) I do tend to trust, like I may trust the ratings from 100,000 people on IMDB.

Here is PwC’s smart answer: “If trust in individuals and institutions is waning or at best holding steady, faith in the aggregate is growing.”

In other words, I don’t trust you, Random Guy Giving Me a Ride Home, but I do trust the 4.9-star average rating of all the people who’ve been in your car before. Maybe I don’t have all that much trust in one woman renting her home on Airbnb, but I do trust the aggregated input of the 24 people who’ve given her high marks.


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