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Capital Ideas

The thoughts of Matt Olson, a systems thinker, hacker, and social entrepreneur, on retooling consumer culture

Kids Can Hack, Too


I’ve been blessed with two bright, young boys with inquisitive and capable brains. The oldest is reaching an age where he’s asking more questions about my work, and when I use terms like programming, software, algorithms, or languages, his curiosity is piqued, but when I tell him that I can make a computer do anything I want, he really perks up. “Can you make a computer that shoots lasers?” Why yes, yes I can. “Can you make your phone shoot lasers?” Probably, I say, noting the extremely impressed look on my son’s face. (The problem is, now he’s going to want a demonstration.)

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Collaborative Consumption and the Emerging Reputation Currency

Collaborative Consumption

One of the most exciting trends in the web startup world—for me, at least—is the growing number of companies in the so-called “collaborative consumption” space. These companies are using technology to reinvent market behaviors that are as old as human civilization itself—sharing, bartering, and trade.

Let’s get specific: I’m talking about tools that let you share your car with your neighbors (Getaround, Zipcar), tools from your garage (Streetbank), or your couch or guest bedroom with visitors from around the world (Airbnb, Couchsurfing); tools that let you raise support for your next venture directly from your customers (Kickstarter, Indiegogo); online markets for handmade or restored goods (Etsy); tools that revolutionize education by enabling experts outside the university to teach courses online (Skillshare).

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