Does the Sharing Economy spell the end of the Gross Domestic Product?

iu-2A few weeks ago there was quite some fuzz in the Dutch news regarding Airbnb. Housing Corporations in Amsterdam were hiring private detectives to spy on people who rented the houses of the Corporations, and check whether they were allowing people to stay in their houses through Airbnb. This is prohibited in the leasing contract.

For the leasers of the house it makes perfect sense. Some people made up to 20K additional income from the Airbnb arrangement. Money that is probably unreported to the Taxes and which the Housing Corporations will not see a dime (or Eurocent in this case).

Should this be a problem? Platform Companies like Airbnb are thriving on the fact that people are willing to make extra money from the assets they possess (or in this case lease). My personal belief is that we will have a whole generation coming for which personal possession will be less relevant. The sharing economy will be there and platform companies will be part of it.

On the other hand you can argue that from an economic perception this might be too disruptive. As Jaron Lanier argues in his great book “Who Owns the Future”, the collective income we generate will be less and it could potentially destroy economic value causing mass unemployment especially in the middle class.

Indeed, if we all stayed in hotels, we’d spend more on our nights out and create probably more employability for more people. On the other hand those people could also be renting out their houses on Airbnb and generate their income from this source, again sweating their assets (they own or rent).

The paradigm shift we need to make is about ownership and valuation. Will we move to a society where people can chose between ownership or an “Asset free” life? Will money still be the major driving force to measure exchange and where should it come from?

During a session we held on one of our Financial Products (Payment Service Bureau) a product manager for a large bank, stated it clearly. The main role we still play is the facilitation of the “current account”: a safe place where people can store their money and from there can settle the individual debts towards each other.

Platform companies like Airbnb and Uber are here to stay and will grow in number and industries see the rise of the “Sharing economy” and “Asset free” lifestyle. But the same technology that drives these companies can and will also allow us to come with different ways of trading our goods and thoughts. Perhaps in the end the Gross Domestic Product” measurement will change to “Gross Traded Value” measurement.

As published on Capgemini’s CTO blog

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