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Innovating in The Sharing Economy: A Sequel to Parasite?

Blue Whale | 02.12| 77

Innovating in the Sharing Economy: A Sequel to Parasite?

By Will Lee

As a South Korean, I was proud to see award-winning film director Bong Joon-Ho make groundbreaking history with his latest dramatic thriller film, Parasite, by being the first director of his nationality to win the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 72 years of festival history.

A thrilling and satirical suspense drama which follows the brazen story of a poor four-membered family infiltrating a rich household, some film critics have noted that Bong’s latest film almost feels like a resentful declaration of surrender to the status quo of patrician caste and mounting societal aspirations. Parasite displayed withering commentary of the lower class — those who do not have financial wealth become “parasites” in society and must be pushed out.

I felt that the various themes raised in the film echo existing issues in our society today, an example being the ongoing turmoil between Korean taxi drivers and ride-sharing service providers. These are not problems caused by new technologies, but issues regarding societal perspectives on the sharing economy. It is clearly necessary to innovate, but is it right to encourage the development of new technologies and industries to shatter and destroy existing structures? Do people view taxi drivers as expendable manpower now that they are no longer the ones driving the personal transportation industry? If we follow this train of thought and apply this logic literally, we will eventually come to the dire conclusion that when artificial intelligence exceeds human capabilities, our humanity too must be dismissed.

However, I choose to believe that artificial intelligence should exist as a tool to enrich and enhance the qualitative value of human existence. With the introduction of innovative business models like the sharing economy and the fostering of new technologies like artificial intelligence and blockchain, we can create a world where individuals do not need predetermined conditions to feel a true sense of ownership in society.

However, the current concept of ownership is one rife with social conflicts and inequity due to class differences. When I see “ownership” being determined in nominal values throughout my life in school, the military and the workplace, I found that it isolated people in a rigid, black-and-white framework which pigeonholed them into categories of “people who have it” and “people who do not have it” and limited their freedom to grow.

Years of deliberation on my discomfort about this nominal sense of ownership led me to ask: “Is it possible to create a society where every individual can both have ownership and grow at the same time?” I went abroad in search of an answer upon completing my military service and after gathering extensive experiences from UK, New York, San Francisco and Singapore, I finally found my solution in artificial intelligence and blockchain technology.

One aspect of this solution is to utilise blockchain technology to simplify and divide the ownership of large assets, such as real estate, to allow more people to have easier access to asset ownership. A good illustration of this solution would be our present partnership with Incheon Free Economic Zone Authority (IFEZ) for future research and development collaborations for a blockchain hub city. The objective of our collaboration is to create a global hub to not only establish a competitive, incubator environment for entrepreneurs, but to also attract foreign investors from countries like Singapore to Incheon and South Korea. This physical hub would also allow these participants to have fractional ownership of the building via blockchain technology, based on their contributions and operational results.

To expand and promote this idea for startups and small and medium enterprises primed for new and innovative industries, I also had the opportunity to meet many government officials and share new ideas and perspectives with them. At one of the recent meetings, I was asked about the potential of the sharing economy and this was my response:

Gyeongnidan-gil at Itaewon, Seoul was once considered the role model of our local economy. Passionate entrepreneurs came together to reform an ordinary residential neighbourhood into a bustling hub of food and entertainment and attracted visitors and tourists from all over the world. However, what is happening at the moment is that these same individuals who have contributed to the newfound popularity of the area are unable to fully reap the benefits of their efforts. The influx of visitors led to rising rental prices with these businesses being kicked out due to their inability to keep up with the rent hike, while landlords of the area enjoy their increasing profits. This vicious cycle caused by gentrification can be solved by blockchain technology by giving business owners a small stake of ownership in the area that they are hosting their business. This will allow them to break out of the shackles of skyrocketing rental fees and focus on their contributions to the local economy.”

Later that evening, after concluding the meeting and watching Bong’s film, Parasite, I reflected on these thoughts and wanted to wrap up this article with the following questions:

Do people who do not fit into swiftly changing structures, like taxi drivers, deserve an opportunity to keep up? Or are they condemned to be “parasites” where they must be pushed out due to their inefficiencies and lack of innovation? Instead, can we all not try to grow towards adopting more humane innovations and utility of technology, where everyone is granted equal chances to grow?

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Innovating in The Sharing Economy: A Sequel to Parasite? was originally published in Blue Whale Global on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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