From accommodation to cars, the internet is turning us from consumers into providers and challenging established business models. We talk to Martin Varsavsky, founder of Fon – the largest Wi-Fi company in the world – and profile two more pioneers, from TaskRabbit.com and BlaBlaCar.com
In 2006, serial entrepreneur and investor Martín Varsavsky – inspired by a conviction that he could cloak the world in free Wi-Fi by encouraging people to share their home connections – founded Fon in Madrid. The company is now the largest Wi-Fi network in the world, with almost 12m hot spots in more than 100 countries.
“My general thinking at the time was that we live in a world in which benefits are only accrued through economic growth and the endless consumption of resources, and that there have to be other ways that are of more benefit to people,” he says. “Why should everyone have their own car when most of the time they are not using them? Think of a marina full of boats. How frequently do those boats go out?”
Today, it has been argued that the sharing economy – which is perhaps best defined as a way of sweating underutilised assets, by building communities around them and turning consumers into providers – has the potential to reboot businesses across most economic categories. Indeed, Forbes magazine recently estimated that total revenues for the sector could top $3.5bn this year, with growth exceeding 25%. However, when setting up Fon, Varsavsky became convinced that people needed a nudge or financial incentive before they'd happily share their assets.
Back in 2003 visionary artist Anne-Marie Schleiner wrote an inspiring paper entitled “Fluidities and Oppositions among Curators, Filter Feeders and Future Artists” describing the future role of online curators as nature's own filter feeders. Anne-Marie is clearly referring to curators to and filter feeder in art world, but her rightful intuitions are equivalently applicable to the larger world of information, data, digital and content curation as well.
But let me explain better.
First. The term “filter feeders” is used in nature to describe a group of animals which thrives on its ability to filter organic matter floating around them. From Wikipedia: “Filter feeders are animals that feed by straining suspended matter and food particles from water, typically by passing the water over a specialized filtering structure. Some animals that use this method of feeding are clams, krill, sponges, baleen whales, and many fish (including some sharks). Some birds, such as flamingos, are also filter feeders. Filter feeders can play an important role in clarifying water, and are therefore considered ecosystem engineers.” From Wikipedia: “In marine environments, filter feeders and plankton are ecosystem engineers because they alter turbidity and light penetration, controlling the depth at which photosynthesis can occur.”
Second. If you re-read this last sentence slowly and look at what it could mean if applied to the field of content curation, it would read to me something like this: “In large information ecosystems like the web, filter feeders/content curators and content itself are ecosystem engineers because they: a) directly influence our ability to inform ourselves effectively and to discern truth from false and useless info (turbidity) b) shed light and clarity on different subjects which would otherwise remain obscure (light penetration) c) determine our ability to make sense of our own generated information streams (photosynthesis).” A very inspiring parallel indeed, giving a way to visualize the true importance and role that curation, disenfranchised from the confines of museums and art galleries, could have on the planetary information ecosystem. Anne-Marie writes: “Most web sites contain hyperlinks to other sites, distributed throughout the site or in a “favorites” section. Each of these favorite links sections serves as a kind of gallery, remapping other web sites as its own contents. Every web site owner is thus a curator and a cultural critic, creating chains of meaning through association, comparison and juxtaposition, parts or whole of which can in turn serve as fodder for another web site's “gallery.” Site maintainers become operational filter feeders, feeding of other filter feeders sites and filtering others' sites. Links are contextualized, interpreted and “filtered” through criticism and comments about them, and also by placement in the topology of a site. The deeper a link is buried, the harder it may be to find, the closer to the surface and the frontpage, the more prominent it becomes, as any web designer can attest to. I am what I link to and what I am shifts over time as I link to different sites… … In the process, I invest my identity in my collection – I become how I filter.” Anne-Marie vision (2003), pure and uninfluenced by what we have seen emerge in the last few years, paints a very inspiring picture of the true role of content curators and of the key responsibility they do hold for humanity's future. Inspiring. Visionary. Right on the mark. 10/10
I think your thought piece on NATO is excellent, but somewhat incomplete. NATO is the diplomatic and administrative headquarters, but the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) is the actual C2 for NATO military operations
In my opinion, the U.S. needs to back out of NATO and its operational counter part SHAPE and leave both to the EU (as you suggest). The U.S. could join Russia in an observer status at NATO, but would no longer be a voting member. Both NATO and SHAPE would be under the EU, but would include non-EU members (e.g. Turkey).
This would do two beneficial things: it would provide Europe with a dedicated all European military force; and it would facilitate the move towards greater integration of EU member countries.
The benefits to the U.S. would also be significant by forcing the U.S. to recognize that the Cold War is over and there is no longer any reason to have a major U.S. Military presence in Germany (Italy is another matter given its proximity to the still volatile Maghreb)
I think that your proposal for a dedicated EU-NATO Intelligence Organization is absolutely brilliant, but again I would add a second intelligence entity to SHAPE for support to military operations (SMO). Both of these organizations would be all European.
I too am a non-player in the power games inside the DC Beltway. If I had any influence you would not be unemployed. Frankly I believe that the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. Government have lost interest in governing this country and are just going through the motions. So expecting the U.S. to take the initiative with NATO is fruitless.
Susan Rice is a brilliant and effective woman who I suspect will be ignored by President Obama, just as he ignored the super competent General Jones (who I became acquainted with when he headed the U.S. DOD Delegation at NATO).
Keep fighting the good fight!
Richard (AKA Retired Reader)
Green party politician Malte Spitz sued to have German telecoms giant Deutsche Telekom hand over six months of his phone data that he then made available to ZEIT ONLINE. We combined this geolocation data with information relating to his life as a politician, such as Twitter feeds, blog entries and websites, all of which is all freely available on the internet.
By pushing the play button, you will set off on a trip through Malte Spitz's life. The speed controller allows you to adjust how fast you travel, the pause button will let you stop at interesting points. In addition, a calendar at the bottom shows when he was in a particular location and can be used to jump to a specific time period. Each column corresponds to one day.
Rachel Botsman advocated the advantage of reputation capital at Wired Money in London yesterday. She noted that an economy based on reputation is incredibly empowering, and will take us away from a financial world “based largely on faceless transactions and moving us to an age built on humanness that we [have] lost.” The reputation economy has already begun to take effect—Airbnb user Kate Kendall used Airbnb reviews to secure an apartment lease.
A reputation-based system will take time to establish, but has the potential to revolutionize the financial sector. This type of credibility adds “context, cause and character” to currently anonymous transactions. “How we treat people and how we behave will ultimately drive our world,” Botsman says.