It's dangerous to blog on a dinner of Ritz crackers and peanut butter, but I couldn't resist a couple reactions to The Economist’s long article about the on-demand economy.
As The Economist points out, the smartphone, demographic and cultural underpinnings of the on-demand economy are profound and irreversible. It's still early days, but companies like Uber, Axiom, Medicast, and many more seek to bring power to the people, as consumers AND producers. OK, add Spare5 as an aspirant to that list. The industrial revolution reduced transaction costs by bringing together thousands of people under one corporate roof (vertical- and Dilbert-ized). Today's information revolution is enabling people to deliver value from wherever they are, with an evolving set of network-based infrastructure that provides good experiences, infrastructure and quality:
"This boom marks a striking new stage in a deeper transformation. Using the now ubiquitous platform of the smartphone to deliver labour and services in a variety of new ways will challenge many of the fundamental assumptions of 20th-century capitalism, from the nature of the firm to the structure of careers."
Collectively we have the opportunity to make our economy more productive and our lives more fulfilled. The hard reality, though is that creation sometimes requires disruption. Creation always requires care, learning and adjustment. On-demand providers, like any marketplace, are imperfect. Occasionally these inefficiencies result in mistakes and mishaps. So those of us laboring to create revolutionary new on-demand services bear a particular responsibility. We hope to make proud the entrepreneurs who laid the transcontinental railroads, and who built the first airplanes.
There's no doubt in my mind that our children will enjoy the benefits of targeted products more or less whenever, and wherever they want them. So it's up to us to make sure that our companies match the supply of services with demand, along with the best possible infrastructure. "Us" includes entrepreneurs building new marketplaces and services; and, as The Economist points out, politicians and voters who make sure that everyone wins from this inevitable innovation while providing the right incentives for innovation. Personally, I'm all in.
Durkheim would be blown away, but not surprised.