Now that we know the sharing economy is here to stay, it’s time to do what we do best: make it better. And today, we have a lot of opportunity to do just that.

And though there are many avenues to explore–new industries/services to disrupt, new monetization models to increase returns, more effective marketing strategies–trust is the word we keep hearing, the one that all the thought-leaders come back to.

Trust is an enormous part of the sharing economy. To get into a stranger’s car, stay in their home, trust them with your dog… that requires a faith that, if broken, can’t be rebuilt by vouchers, PR, or discounted services. It’s a customer faith that has to be maintained above all else, one of those pieces in Jenga that simply can’t be moved.

“What we’re left with isn’t so an era of futuristic convenience; it’s a throwback to community-based exchange.”

So how do we, as an industry that relies on trust–and not just that but various levels of trust–handle things like the Uber incident(s) or various AirBnB scams? How do we build safeguards protecting people when they use our services from data misuse, from bad experiences, from uncomfortable situations?

The short answer is that we use artificial intelligence (and no, I’m not talking about robots).

How Big Data Built A Throwback Era

In the last 2-3 years, we’ve seen the beginnings of a new relationship between businesses and their customers. Big data collection and processing are here and, with fairly minor pushback (all things considered), customers enjoy the high degree of personalization and targeting, and the ability for a service to understand what they want.

Add to that the democratization of service providers ushered in by the sharing economy, and what we’re left with isn’t so an era of futuristic convenience; it’s a throwback to community-based exchange.

It’s buying donkeys from your neighbor, cheese from the woman three streets over, and it works because of trust. Because you trust them, sure, but also because they have major pressure to perform. There are no other markets for hyper local services, and a large part of the “trust” created by the sharing economy comes specifically from that fact. If one person’s livelihood depends on selling goats, there’s a pretty good chance they’ll do a good job raise and sell them honestly.

“If one person’s livelihood depends on selling goats, there’s a pretty good chance they’ll raise and sell them honestly.”

Unfortunately in our current age of rapid mobility and digital anonymity (to some degree), that’s not the case. There’s less impetus not to sell as many sick goats as you can and move on to the next town. Or, at least, there was.

Why AI Is The Next Step For The Sharing Economy

What the sharing economy needs to continue thriving, then, is a safeguard, and artificial intelligence is a perfect fit. Because it delivers safe, reliable results free from human interference, AI can be used to protect against review manipulation, data misuse, and false identities, and can also be used to anticipate customer needs, match customers and “employees” based on any number of preferences (to create an even better experience), etc.

Just as digitization pulled us apart from each other (linking us only in our anonymities), the marriage of the sharing economy and AI has the ability to bring us back together, to break down the virtual walls of mistrust built over the years by an irresponsible few. It has the power to connect and protect us meaningfully, like the unspoken law of neighborly trust or the retaining wall that keeps the hills from falling into our roads.

It’s great that economies are being centralized again, localized, etc. People are empowered, businesses are making money, and the future looks bright. Let’s just be sure that we build the appropriate infrastructure for a large-scale, sustainable infrastructure that allows us to thrive.


Interested in seeing what this looks like? CircleBack, the world’s first artificially intelligent contact manager, takes a sharing economy approach to keeping your address book updated and accurate always. Try CircleBack now for iOS or Android, for free!