It’s easy to imagine how the Sharing Economy can promote sustainability – with more people sharing more things, scare resources can be conserved. In this paper, Pargman et al. acknowledge this potential, but ultimately focus on where the two concepts diverge and how better alignment could be realised in the future.
To illustrate their point, the authors employ the concept for Computing within Limits, which refers to the absolute limits in our use of physical resources. While increased sharing could lead to better use of resources and improved environmental outcomes, the authors outline a number of contradictions in this line of reasoning. For example, growing use of Airbnb could reduce the need for hotel construction materials, but could equally increase car and air travel, thus boosting emissions. A person re-selling their mobile phone is extending the product’s life-cycle, but is also subsidizing the purchase of a newer device, thus expanding the market for consumption.
The authors conclude that a ‘limits-compliant sharing economy,’ – one that is designed to operate for a future of increasing scarcity – is the ideal way forward. Pargman et al. briefly outline what a transition to such a state would take, including the necessary technical infrastructure and rules for governing its usage.