Arguably one of the biggest impacts of smartphones ubiqutous, always-on computing, has been decentralisation. An “on-demand” economy is being created, as smartphones combine to organically bridge supply and demand across industries.

Freed from traditional gatekeepers, huge efficiencies have been found. Consumers are pleased by increased supply, wider variety and lower prices. A massive amount of employment and alternate income has been generated. Surplus has been captured, a new kind of worker has been created.

From a fantastic post on Medium by Simon Rothman of Greylock partners:

The uncollared worker is a new class of worker — born out of the Great Recession and the ubiquity of mobile technology — that makes a living by leveraging their time, and sometimes their assets, on marketplaces like Airbnb, Uber, and Lyft. These uncollared workers work independently, but collectively offer a singular service — like hotel, transportation, or delivery.

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It’s that last bit we need to really focus on – thousands of individuals are combining to provide the utility of a hotel, only without the hotel. Without much of the massive capital outlay and organisation required to start and keep one going. In these industries, the monopolies and rents afforded by capital, location, licenses and even entrepreneurialism could vanish.

The barriers are gone.

But there’s more.

The corporation is centralized and controls everything. In distributed marketplace platforms, uncollared workers have more control over their work life. Uncollared workers work when they want to work and do the job that they want to do. They are able to control the “when” and “what” of their job.

Not only do they distribute the workforce, but also the distribution of the assets. Airbnb doesn’t own any rooms or homes; Uber doesn’t own cars. None of the share economy or on-demand service companies have large retail buildings.

Removing assets from the balance sheet, and costs from the income statement, unlocks profits. Combine this with higher profits per transaction and the fact that many of these platforms are expanding the absolute size of the market, and you start to see how powerful decentralization can be for the bottom line in a marketplace.

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On-demand platforms might not take over the world, every industry and sector. But what Uber is doing to taxis, Airbnb to hotels, and Amazon to cloud servers, is hard to ignore. It’s the world as a service, even for the entrepreneurs.

And it’s hard to imagine exactly what it will look like when the dust settles.

Employment without much of the culture and norms that have shaped the last hundred years of work – defined hours, lifetime jobs/careers, micromanaging  and steady wages etc.

Changes to physical landscapes as resource use shifts – hotels without skyscrapers, taxis without fleets, microtaskers without offices…

I really, really recommend reading Rothman’s entire article.