Archive for the 'Collaborative Consumption' Category

Decoupling Society

April 8, 2015

Tight Coupling NO

In programming, we have a design principle of loose coupling, opposite of tight coupling where services are highly dependent on one another. Most of the time, tight coupling is bad practice because it reduces flexibility/reusability and increases complexity. We can use the same analogy for society. In the past, we have examples throughout history where things were once tightly coupled and later shifted to a more loosely coupled model like separation of church and state. Presently, in sustainability, I hear that we need to decouple natural resources and environmental degradation from economic growth. First off, there is a word for out-of-control growth. It’s called cancer. There are limits to growth, as Robert Kennedy once said,

“Gross National Product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”

I believe we need to decouple growth from the notion of progress. In the future, I believe we’ll need to decouple many more aspects of society to as we evolve to new levels of collective consciousness:

Decoupling technology from success

Humans have always been fascinated by tools. Sometimes, this leads to overconfidence that human ingenuity and newer technologies can solve the problems of today. In fact, this type of misthinking leads to a dangerous game of “our wits vs their genes” as seen in the rise of antibiotic resistance over the last few decades. Bacteria can replicate itself in under 20 minutes, evolving each time, while human generations span longer than 20 years. What would you rather place a bet on?

A less known phenomenon in economics is called the Jevons paradox. It states that as technology increases, efficiency increases, but then our consumption of the resource increases as well, negating the positive effects of that technology. From Wikipedia, “The Jevons paradox indicates that increased efficiency by itself is unlikely to reduce fuel use, and that sustainable energy policy must rely on other types of government interventions.”


Jevons Paradox

Decoupling work from income

The idea of getting paid to do an unfulfilling and unengaging job seems so Industrial Era factory thinking to me. Our societal systems of neoliberal capitalism and a gridlocked political system that seems more like a plutocracy than a democracy have wrecked havoc on our intrinsic motivations and social human nature. We know what motivates uspurpose, autonomy, and mastery. Why are we living in outdated institutional and societal structures that no longer best serves our needs, and what then can I do? I believe in a world where every human has the basic right to all levels below self-actualization in Maslow’s hierarchy, including, but not limited to (physiological needs) clean air/water, healthy food, clothing/shelter, (safety) personal/financial security, well-being, insurance/safety net, (love and belonging) family/friends/mentors/colleagues, (esteem) respect, autonomy, and mastery. This unprecedented level of equality would give everyone the real opportunity for “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” In self-actualization and beyond (self-transcendence, etc) could we truly have enough energy to explore our unique individual and collective purpose, contribution, and gifts. To do so, would require radically changing our economic and political systems, which decoupling work from income for the basic human needs of physiological needs, safety, and love and belonging, would be a good step in that direction.


Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs


Lifetime impact using collaborative consumption

March 14, 2014

Being a digital native, I use a decent amount of collaborative consumption services. I wondered over the span of my life, how many interactions and how much money I would spend on these services. This is what I came up with. My favorite part is the 1,000+ experiences shared with others.

Open Full Infographic

View spreadsheet data

Consuming Collaboratively

February 7, 2014

Lately, I’ve been using more and more collaborative consumption services and the infrastructures that support and enable them. What about you? Have you noticed CCC (collaborative consumption creep) into your daily lives? Any good ones I should check out?

List of services used in the last couple month:


November 29, 2013

Over Thanksgiving break, I caught up with a friend who’s been traveling the world whenever possible. To keep costs low, she leverages methods like couchsurfing, guest rooms, hostels, and AirBnB. We chatted about how amazing it was that people were just so trusting even with complete strangers. It must boggle an economist’s mind, but it makes perfect sense that the human behavior of sharing became an evolutionary trait that was crucial for survival. I see it with my two year old daughter, who loves to share her toys and food with us. Must be ancient wisdom passed on throughout the generations. If we view humans’ time here on earth as a two year old compared to the billions of years the earth has been around, watching my daughter grow up gives me hope for humanity. My wife was telling me an NPR story about how there is a correlation between the older a country is and the more likely it is to invest in environmental issues. Lately, I’ve been really fascinated by collaborative consumption, currently reading What’s Mine Is Yours. As resources become more scarce and climate change/overpopulation/energy consumption/diet changes/[insert countless other global issues here] puts increased pressure on our social, economic, and political systems, we’ll need to embrace old traditions of sharing to help us weather the turbulent storms and transition from current unsustainable political/economic hegemony to a model that will make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time.