Friday, October 22, 2010

The End of Stuff?

Is technology making us less anxious to own stuff? Lisa Gansky, author of the book, The Mesh: Why The Future of Business is Sharing, says yes. Speaking to this year's PopTech conference on new ideas in social change, technology and innovation, Gansky says new Web tools and remote sensors can help us track the real-time location of physical objects. That makes it less necessary for us to own them, Gansky says. As long as we can access stuff when we want it, she says, the more comfortable we are with the idea of living "less large."

Bottom line? Access is 'the new ownership,' she says. "There's a fundamental shift in the relationship we have to the stuff in our lives," Gansky told PopTech conferees gathered at a restored, 19th century opera house in the picturesque seaside village of Camden, Maine. Gansky defines "the mesh" as a thicket of relationships and connections enabling new way of doing business. The mobile Web, she says, gives people the ability to get more of what they want, exactly when they want it and at less cost to themselves and to the planet. "We are actually starting to see products and services designed to be shared and experienced rather than owned," she says.

Among such products is Zipcar, a car-sharing service. "The key ingredient, the perfect storm of meshiness, are mobile devices and social networks and physical goods," Gansky says. "We can locate each other in time and space now, in real time. If we can track goods, it takes the friction out of sharing."

Gansky said the concept came to her when she began to feel like she had too many things. "I started feeling that the stuff in my world started to be noise. I wanted to give up stuff for experiences, to music and film that I could enjoy without owning it. And now I feel like I'm not alone, like whole generations of people and cultures may well skip over ownership altogether."

For more on the Mesh, go to PopTech continues through Saturday.

-- Marcia Stepanek

(Illustration by Lisa Gansky for The Mesh)

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