Season 1: Episode 15

The End of Employment. In Conversation with Dr. Arun Sundararajan

Last month I sat down with Dr. Arun Sundararajan, NYU Stern professor and author of The Sharing Economy: The End of Employment and the Rise of Crowd-Based Capitalism. Over the course of our spirited discussion, we touched on the emergence of hybrid institutions and the ongoing tug-of-war between community and brands.

In Arun’s mind, the sharing economy is a concept that includes a handful of necessary characteristics:

  • A reliance on crowd-based networks rather than centralized hierarchies or institutions
  • The supply of labor capital, assets, etc is not accumulated by an institution and then put to use; rather this mesh of resources is available amongst a distributed crowd
  • A blurring of the lines between the personal and the professional

These emerging platforms are more market based than the dominant, hierarchy based entities that prevail today.

In a relatively short amount of time, the sharing economy has moved from low-stakes interactions – think, a person across the country having access to your address via eBay in 1999 – to significantly higher-stakes interactions like getting into a stranger’s car or even sleeping in a their guest bedroom. This evolution all comes down to trust: every time society invents a new basis for facilitating trust between two people, it expands the economy. But with trust must come transparency, because when we obscure our journey, we’re making it hard to see where we are in the process while also making it difficult for other people to jump in and join the fray.

We’re seeing inspiration, innovation, and people coming together from all over the world during this massive economic transition period. What does the future have in store? What new metrics are emerging to measure progress and value, as we become increasingly aware of the blind spots of GDP? Will the lagging regulators catch up, or will we see regulation go by the wayside? In Arun’s own words, “We’re defining a new model of organizing economic activity. At this critical formative stage, the policy choices we make over the next decade will shape the decades to come. It’s an exciting place to be.”


Connect with Arun Sundararajan