4 thoughts on “The Rise of the Platform Economy

  1. Lance Daniel

    Buckminster Fuller, Peter Drucker, Alvin Toffler, Newt Gingrich and a whole cast of other characters have all warned our social institutions are not capable of keeping up with the exponential pace of technological change.

    More recently its Douglas Rushkoff chiming in here with a critical view of digital platforms. From his blog and his book Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, he warns that the promise of the digital age is being hijacked by a rampant form of old-style capitalism, a modus operandi akin to that of the robber-barons of the 19th century.

    ‘These platforms don’t exist to help people exchange with one another,’ he says. ‘They really are scorched-earth efforts at achieving monopolies in particular industries, not in order to serve those industries or even sustain them or grow them, but in order to hop over into another industry altogether.

    Has rampant capitalism hijacked the promise of the digital age?

    University of Maryland legal academic Frank Pasquale, who focuses on the ethical, legal and social implications of information technology, calls them the ‘Silicon Valley oligarchs’.

    ‘I think the fundamental problem is that people don’t like to face up to the reality of monopolisation,’ says Pasquale, speaking about the global rise of Uber, Airbnb and other so-called sharing economy companies. ‘It’s much more convenient to believe the comforting myth that these markets are always contestable.

    ‘A firm like Uber is an appeal to venture capitalists—speculative capital—that wants to see massive returns via monopolisation. Let’s not mistake the business model here. The model here is for one of these firms to come in and to take over various aspects of commerce, to take over the rides that are in an area, to take over availability of non-hotel rooms to sleep in, et cetera. I think that this is really a perversion of the original aspirations of the sharing economy.’


  2. Robin Farrell

    An excellent multi-faceted article. The rise of global (and more localised) platforms has far reaching implications for current socioeconomic and governance infrastructures. Transitions that might historically have taken decades might now occur in years (and without the same degree of localised investment). These will no doubt be accompanied by complementary developments in property rights and governance frameworks, to better suit the emergence of these new constructs and technologies. We can expect to see further innovations in alternative forms of societal / common rights, alongside the development of automated governance / self-regulated platforms, to better suit the increasing instancy and interdependence of the networked world.

  3. Rudolf Olah

    Very surprised that there is no mention of rent-seeking especially when Uber is mentioned. Many of these platforms are based on lock-in and rent-seeking. I will always remember how Twitter and Facebook cracked down on 3rd party applications using their API and especially how Twitter has bought out or shut down 3rd party apps. Uber is notorious for burning through venture capital and artificially lowering taxi rates. Taxi drivers and UberX drivers are already making less and less thanks to Uber’s profit increases.


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