The Chainsaw Theorem
The sharing economy will change the world. The Chainsaw theorem illustrates why.
Sharing is not new. It is as old as humanity, maybe older, but technology has changed the rules. With social media it is easier, but even that doesn’t explain it. We have also seen a new mind-set, a new way of thinking, emerge. The younger generations, the so called millennial generation, and the generation to follow, are more willing to share.
It is part of the digital way. A more collaborative way of doing things. Business is becoming more social.
According to research from Pew: “The typical internet user is more than twice as likely as others to feel that people can be trusted.” It also found that users of Facebook “are even more likely to be trusting.” It found that a regular Facebook user, that is to say someone who uses the social media tool several times a day, “is 43 per cent more likely than other internet users and more than three times as likely as noninternet users to feel that most people can be trusted. See http://www.pewinternet.org/2011/06/16/social‐networking‐sites‐andour‐lives/
So that means we are more likely to share: share desks, drives and cars, for example. The likes of Uber and Airbnb are examples of sharing economy companies.
But imagine the economic consequences of sharing. If the same asset, be it a car, spare room, or even a chainsaw is used more often, shared between more people, demand for that asset will fall. We may end up better able to meet our needs from less production.
This may free up resources and enable us to consume in more ways. The economic space created by the sharing economy may be filled by new opportunities. Conversely, it may mean that since less resources will be required to meet our needs, the economy will contract, even if we feel better off.
The sharing economy may create new opportunities or lead to massive levels of unemployment?
Combine the sharing economy with 3D printing, and you get what John Straw calls the Chainsaw economy.
The Chainsaw Theorem, the Anecdote
Imagine this scenario.
I have some dead trees at the end of my garden and I make the decision to cut them down.
I visit my local DIY store and buy a chainsaw for £80.00. I cut down the tree on a Saturday afternoon.
The chainsaw goes into the shed. It stays there collecting dust.
Now imagine the effect the sharing economy will have.
I am easily able to rent the chainsaw via the internet.
A few weeks later someone in the same village finds my chainsaw on the internet and comes to borrow it for £30 – half the price of hiring it from a company, causing further disruption in the retail hire business.
The disruption caused by the internet of sharing in this case causes a number of chainsaw manufacturers to fail.
If I want to buy a chainsaw all I now need to do is download a schematic from the internet, add the functionality I require and email it to Amazon who will 3D print it for me (using disruptive new material science from LiquidMetal Technologies) for a pittance.
A little later an industrial designer invents an entirely new method of cutting technology based on graphene. In the process he makes the design of the new saw totally free to download for 12″ blade models – for anything larger you pay a licence fee to download it and arrange to have it 3D printed. A whole new industry is born.
3D printing combined with robotic technologies have massively taken off by this point and a looming problem becomes a major political issue – raw materials for 3D printing are running out…a territory war breaks out between America and China.
But that’s OK because no one is killed – it’s fought by robots. This may sound like an implausible statement, but bear in mind that usually (and with some obvious exceptions) the object of war is not to kill people, but to destroy or damage infrastructure. The more sophisticated the technology, the lower the risk of human casualties.
As an aside – unfortunately, the person who borrowed the chainsaw had an accident and they cut their leg badly. But that was solved in a few hours – their stem cell profile was already known by their local private doctors’ surgery (state run medical services have ceased to exist because they were over‐run by folk self‐diagnosing due to new information provided by the new Apple iPhone and Google Health), who then proceeded to print new replacement skin that was knitted together using an injection of nanobots.
As for reading books, or learning a new language, will we need to do that when our brain interface to the internet is so fast we can download all we need to know in seconds?
As for worrying about the tree in our garden, with virtual reality, maybe we would be better off sitting in our virtual garden?