Awhile back I wrote an article for Fast Company where I talked about the “death of ownership.” The other day, I got a nice note from a writer at HuffPo Canada about it, and we proceeded to have a fascinating conversation about how the nature of what it means to “own things” is changing.
He will be writing more about this topic, which I’m very much looking forward to, but there was an interesting idea that came up in our talk I wanted to share.
When I was a kid, I saved everything. While part of my pack-rat-ness might be genetic (you know who you are, Dad!), I also inherently understood that if I got rid of a particular comic book or Transformer or magazine or trinket or whatever that I would probably never see it again. So, I lined the shelves of my closet with keepsakes, and when I moved, my treasures migrated to large tupperware storage boxes (which is where they’ve stayed, much to the chagrin of my parent’s basement — hey, there’s just not much space in my LA apartment).
But it isn’t like this anymore, is it?
Now, if I were to lose a comic book (or anything else), I just go online and find one just like it. Today, almost everything is available, right at my fingertips. It doesn’t matter how old or how obscure; I can acquire almost anything that I want — assuming I have a nimble clicker finger and a high-balance credit card.
Everything has been commoditized.
(Or if it hasn’t yet, it will be soon.)
The newfangled über-connectedness of humanity is re-wiring what it means to own anything. I talk about scarcity quite a bit (and even more in Igniting the Invisible Tribe), but that’s because it’s a pretty key part to understanding the world’s changes. The simple truth is that owning things just isn’t as difficult as it used to be. And whenever scarcity/accessibility moves, value shifts.
Will people still own stuff in the future? Of course. But the reasons for doing so are shifting beneath our feet.