The Future of the Digital Economy

  • 12 Apr 2016
  • 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
  • Cafe Express, 3418 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78705

“The Sharing Economy”. Peer-to-peer. Gig-economy. On-demand economy. Whatever you like to call it, modern technologies and new popular sentiments are challenging existing business models. We are entering an era where the link between producer and consumer is increasingly regulated by algorithms rather than middle-men.

In Austin the gig economy has recently generated some controversy related to the Uber and Lyft ride-hailing services. Some activists insist that stricter screening standards including finger printing be required of drivers, claiming this is a rider safety issue. Other people view Uber and Lyft as union-busting efforts aimed at the taxi drivers union. The Austin City Council has punted on the issue and has asked the voters to weigh in on these maters in a special election on May 7th.

For futurists the issue of disintermediation and what this does to the overall economy is of growing interest. The sharing economy breaks old monopolies and union strongholds, enabling economic autonomy for entrepreneurs and micropreneurs outside traditional economic institutions.

But are we eradicating old monopolies only to raise new ones? A growing number of intellectuals long steeped in Silicon Valley’s magic express concern that the few digital titans who control the world’s most successful platforms are growing too powerful. Benefiting from network effects and global scalability, we could end up with new monopolists rather than the decentralization of economic power these platforms promise to enable. In this scenario, logistical platform owners who control transactions between “prosumers” usurp competitors on their way toward global dominance of money and data. Will the New Digital Economy democratize transactions between people and communities or will the invisible hands of Google, Uber and AirBnB control, regulate and profit in ways that weakens a truly free market.

Mike Ignatowski and Anne Boysen will deliver a short presentation followed by a spirited discussion and we need your input!

Please know that our venue requires a minimum food and drink order of $8.90 per person.

Relevant Reading:

Jaron Lanier: "Who Owns the Future?"

Andrew McAfee & Erik Brynjolfsson: "The Second Machine Age"

Douglas Rushkoff: "Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus"

Jeremy Rifkin: "The Zero Marginal Cost Society"

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