Strange but True
Sharing a new economic model
Q. It's been called “Zipcar capitalism” or “collaborative consumption” and reflects a whole new way of looking at and doing things. It has even generated a whole new vocabulary. Are you in the know here?
A. In this new economic model, consumers rent, share or trade services, extending the old idea of “time-sharing” for resort properties into “communal purchases” that give people “fractional ownership” of expensive items, says Paul McFedries in “IEEE Spectrum” magazine. “Zipcar capitalism” comes from the car-sharing services where subscribers — “Zipsters” — rent vehicles by the hour. Since many cars just sit in a driveway or parking lot anyway, why not try “social car sharing,” or “peer-to-peer rental.” And if you're not going to be using your house or apartment for a while, why not consider renting it out. “Collaborative travel” services will help match you with prospective renters and even ensure the safety of your abode. As one New York Times writer put it, sharing is “clean, crisp, urbane, postmodern; owning is dull, selfish, timid, backward.”
“Tool sharing” also has taken off, as have “co-housing” and “social lending,” done without a bank as intermediary. “Carrotmob” comes from “flashmob,” where a group gathers to purchase products from an environmentally friendly store. Adds McFedries, “My favorite communal purchase idea is ‘cowpooling,' buying a whole cow or side of beef from a local farmer.”
Collaborative consumption leans heavily on social networking and depends on the “reputation trails” we all leave behind us testifying to our trustworthiness.
Which is the smarter beast?
Q. Who says dogs are smarter than pigs?
A. Isn't it just like us humans to want to rank everybody and everything in terms of speed, size, beauty, intelligence, you name it, ponders Mr. Know-It-All of “Wired” magazine. The trivially true answer to the dogs-pigs question is that they're equally smart, as both are equally well adjusted to their niche in life, even though they took dramatically different evolutionary paths to domestication — one a hunter, the other a forager, says David Washburn of the Georgia State University Language Research Center. So it makes sense that their mental gifts would differ. Pigs seem to enjoy playing video games, for example, while dogs intuitively understand addition and subtraction of small numbers.
But such a standoff is hardly likely to satisfy our competitive species, meaning we've got to lean on facts like the following: When body sizes are considered, canines have slightly larger brains, “a trait that does seem to matter.” More to the point, dogs have obviously been far more successful at convincing human beings not to eat them. Says Mr. Know-It-All, “That's got to count for something, right?”