There is a great deal of disturbing discussion regarding Collective Consumption and Cloud Information Storage. They are both important subjects that are definitely related to each other. Both things looks extremely enticing and logical at first glance, but their implications are far reaching. Collective Consumption in a nutshell is finding ways to barter, trade or share goods and services in order to decrease waste and cost. Cloud Information Storage is when information like computer files and music and/or movies are stored on servers online, and people are able to download or ‘stream’ that media from their computers. By doing this, a person does not actually own the DVD or CD in his/her library. Instead, one logs into a service and experiences the media remotely. The root theme in both of these issues is this: Access vs. Ownership.
Let’s take a look at Netflix. It is a great company that provides an excellent service. People are able to watch tons of movies that they may have not had access to in the past. Netflix is a form of Collective Consumption because people are all sharing the same disks for a monthly fee determined by how many movies that they want out at a time. But what happens if/when Netflix changes the price for membership? The collective will have to deal with that consequence, usually by paying a higher fee.
Netflix also has a Cloud Information Storage system in the form of its streaming DVD films. For a fee, you can stream movies on a computer. So that means you don’t even need to necessarily own a DVD player in your computer, although most modern computers come with one nowadays. This makes it where the user doesn’t need to keep stacks of videos in the house.
But what happens when you can’t pay for the subscription anymore? Well, when that happens, your ‘access’ gets denied. ACCESS DENIED.
If you actually owned those movies and had them in a drawer or bookcase, you could watch them even if money was tight.
Here’s something interesting, a friend was talking about cloud computer storage. He said that he keeps all his data online, and doesn’t keep physical backups of hard drives and/or paperwork. I can understand not wanting to have tons of papers around. But not having actual hard drives is reckless. At any time the Terms of Service can change on a Cloud Information System and your access could be severely limited or cut off completely.
Some people purchase their music from online stores that limit the amount of devices or computers that the music can contain the music. So a music file can go on 5 computers or something like that. That’s neat, but the problem is that music files are not any cheaper than if you were to buy a physical CD. And if you actually own the physical CD, the music files are in MAXIMUM audio quality. There is no digital format for CD’s that beats actual CD quality. And also if you own a CD you can always make Mp3′s and put them on as many devices that you own and have access to. By actually owning hard copies of things, you have ultimate access.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. If you’ve heard of Net Neutrality and the debate surrounding it, there is discussion on whether or not an Internet Service Provider will be able to create bottlenecks on access to different internet media outlets like YouTube or NetFlix and they may even go as far as to change pricing options for people who use streaming video content. The implications are enormous. Depending on how things turn out with Net Neutrality the costs of accessing data online and retrieving information from cloud computing sources could go up in price.
The Fourth and Fifth amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America relate to property rights. The reason for this is because property is key to a free society. Yes, it is appealing to live in a collectivist society where everybody shares everything. But the cold reality is, that every family should own its own toolbox full of functioning tools. You never know what’s going to happen, and borrowing things is great. But it should be the exception, not the rule.
I looked at some trade and barter websites and they actually look pretty cool. I like how they have people who want stuff and they are able to get what they want by trading for it. It is like a huge Santa Claus list on the internet. But this should be a supplement to our primary economy. If people actually stop consuming things then there will be serious consequences for the economy. And if not enough people actually purchase things to compensate for production costs, then we might see an end to hard copy books and CD’s and DVD’s. We need to make sure that the producers in this economy acquire enough profit to maintain the incentive for creating things.
Kindles and iPads are great, but what happens when the battery runs out? Let’s say you want to bring a book on camping trip?
My favorite is the power-screwdriver argument. Some people are saying that since people only use a power screwdriver a handful of times in their lifetimes, that people should rent their power screwdrivers out. This is interesting, but have you ever let someone borrow something? I once let someone borrow my car. It was a Chevy S-10 Pickup Truck and a friend who I worked with at my coffee shop needed to borrow a car. And I thought that the guy was cool, so let him borrow the car. A couple days later I got a call from him and he told me that my car was in the shop for some kind of massive engine malfunction and repair.
I had no prior problems with the car in the past. And I guessed that he didn’t know how to drive stick shift. That was the last time I let someone borrow my car who didn’t have one of their own. I ended up needing to ask my father to pay for the repairs because I couldn’t afford it. I was so naive that I just assumed that the person would take care of my vehicle. Fortunately my dad was able to help me out, or else I wouldn’t have had a car any longer.
One thing that I’ve noticed with the raise in gasoline prices is that there is less traffic. I’m able to get back and forth from Long Beach to Newport Beach in record time lately. So maybe the price of owning gasoline can actually be a good thing.
When analyzing the trends with prices and especially the cost of ownership and the ability to store goods, I see something that bodes well for people that are doing well. If you have money to actually own things and the means to secure those possessions, you can access those items whenever you want. But since the economy is going the way it is, many people are reverting to more collective consumption lifestyles. Interestingly, the people who have the money to actually own things, will also have the benefit of living in a society where there is more virtually stored and collectively shared goods and services.
So the best position to be in, would be to live in a culture that is experimenting with Collective Consumption and Cloud Information Storage, but to not rely on it one bit. The people who rely on access to these collective methods will be in a state of permanent vulnerability, while the people who own things will be able to dabble in the commons while strategically and methodically getting their ducks in a row.
The line to the internet can always be cut at any time. Access to freeways can be blocked. Gasoline and oil prices can become so prohibitive as to make air and automobile travel unrealistic.
At the end of the day, our ancestors quite literally struggled and many of them died in order to secure the property rights that we enjoy as citizens today. To hand these over for convenience. Or to erode these tenets with concerns over the environment is reckless. The environment will survive with or without us. If we pollute the planet too much, the species that is going to go is going to be us. So let’s think twice before closing any libraries anytime soon.