Tyree: The “sharing economy”: Proceed with caution
May 17, 2014
People globally are embracing the sharing economy."
So says an article in the May 9 "Newsweek."
We've long had scrap metal recycling, garage sales and neighbors lending leaf blowers; but the unholy trinity of computer chips, the Internet and enterprising entrepreneurs is ushering in a brave new world of maximized use of our existing tools, clothing, vehicles, lodgings, cooties, etc.
I hate to rain on anyone's parade (especially when someone else has possession of their umbrella), but a lot of things concern me.
Certainly the carbon footprint fanatics are at the forefront of this trend, but what sort of scheduling logjams will ensue when they get "sharer's remorse"? ("I know my 15 minutes of hugging the tree are up, but can't I hug it just a few minutes moooooooore!")
Are we really that nostalgic for the days when you had to rent the VCR as well as the Betamax movie? Do we really want to adjust from appreciating "new car smell" to appreciating "clown car smell"? Do we want to see a middle-aged Brooke Shields purring, "Nothing comes between me and my Calvins — except a #@%^ waiting list"?
If we suddenly, drastically cut back on the things we manufacture, Mother Nature MIGHT thank us ("Here! Have another earthquake!"); but the displacement would be infinitely more widespread and wrenching than a buggy whip craftsman retraining to make "horseless carriages."
The unemployed will wander around like zombies, crying out for "Brains! Brains!," but finding brains a scarce commodity among the extollers of the sharing economy.
Don't get me started on Murphy's Law. What happens when we have the inevitable software glitches? ("Lady, my app says you've got the Shroud of Turin, a breeding pair of Yeti and an honest politician here somewhere, and I'm not letting you renege.")
People with just the right personalities and logistical advantages could really thrive with sharing. But some of us would balk at carting everything to a centralized location OR having strangers traipsing around our property. Some of us like our privacy, our solitude and the knowledge that we can be spontaneous and on a whim play the William Shatner LP we haven't touched in 30 years. And having 24-7 access to our own baseball bat, so we can demolish the phonograph after remembering WHY we hadn't played the album.
Let's put this into perspective. With all the ethnic/racial/sexist slurs, psychobabble and political doubletalk assaulting our ears, do we really want to single out "my" as the single most deplorable word? When we critique civilizations for their shortcomings, do we really want to rank "Offered human sacrifices" and "Enslaved millions" as no worse than "wears that cardigan only once or twice a year"?
The sharing economy is only a half-baked response to consumerism, anyway. It's touted as "living better" and enjoying even more things, so it focuses just on the resource-depletion end and not our actual materialistic fascination with STUFF. So we're swapping "Whoever dies with the most toys, WINS" for "Whoever dies with DIBS on the most toys, wins."
Sharing is great — as a purely voluntary choice. But how long until we start ostracizing nonparticipants? How long before Uncle Sam makes sharing MANDATORY?
Do you really want some bureaucrat salivating over your components? ("You're really wasting those dentures between meals. And the NSA says you barely use that perfectly good pacemaker while you sleep…")
Contact Danny Tyree at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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