Why we should not let the ‘sharing’ economy make the act of giving irrelevant

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“A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.” Albert Einstein

Through giving, one recognises the interrelated nature of human beings. Rather than the selfish arrangement where an individual maximises his own profit by charging a price for delivering a service, giving is this outward looking gesture that seems to say “hey, I’m here to help. Your wellbeing concerns me. And anyway the health of my own sphere depends on yours – we are connected”.

Regrettably, this act of gesture is being subtly shelved by the so-called sharing economy as peer-to-peer service providers such as Airbnb and Uber are making any kind of help available, but to anyone who is willing to pay the price. By this effect of embedding a transactional aspect to some gestures that were until now untouched by market forces, it is steadily commodifying every aspect of our life. Whereas before individuals would probably offer their accommodation for free to friends and family when they were away, loading it on Airbnb will now grant them an extra buck for it. Even the impulse to help a friend with writing his or her CV is being challenged by platforms such as People per Hour that will allow anyone to monetise similar advice by marketing it to strangers. Continue reading

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