Robin Chase: Excuse me, may I rent your car?
A decade ago, Robin Chase founded Zipcar in the US, now the largest car-sharing company in the world. Now she’s exploring the next level of car-sharing: Buzzcar, a French startup that lets people rent their own cars to others. The details are fascinating (how does insurance work, exactly?), and the larger vision (she calls it Peers, Inc.) points to a new definition of ownership and entrepreneurship.
With Zipcar, Robin Chase introduced car-crazy America to the concept of non-ownership. Now she’s flipping that model with Buzzcar, which lets you rent your own auto to your neighbors.
WHY YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO HER?
If she weren’t a proven entrepreneur, you might imagine Robin Chase as a transportation geek, a dedicated civil servant, endlessly refining computer models of freeway traffic. If she weren’t such a green-conscious problem-solver, you might take her for a startup whiz. Case in point: In 2000, Chase focused her MIT business training on a car-sharing scheme imported from Europe and co-founded Zipcar, now the largest car-sharing business in the world. Using a wireless key, location awareness and Internet billing, members pick up Zipcars at myriad locations anytime they want one.
Now Chase has launched Buzzcar, a car-sharing service in France with a twist: instead of a fleet of green Zipcars, the service lets users share their own cars and make money off their unused capacity. Call it peer-to-peer auto rental.
“Robin Chase has already changed the way we drive, but she’s not satisfied. Now she wants to change the way we live as well.” Harvard Gazette
Clay Shirky shows how closed groups and companies will give way to looser networks where small contributors have big roles and fluid cooperation replaces rigid planning. Clay Shirky argues that the history of the modern world could be rendered as the history of ways of arguing, where changes in media change what sort of arguments are possible — with deep social and political implications.
Why you should listen to him:
Clay Shirky’s work focuses on the rising usefulness of networks — using decentralized technologies such as peer-to-peer sharing, wireless, software for social creation, and open-source development. New technologies are enabling new kinds of cooperative structures to flourish as a way of getting things done in business, science, the arts and elsewhere, as an alternative to centralized and institutional structures, which he sees as self-limiting. In his writings and speeches he has argued that “a group is its own worst enemy.”
“Shirky is one of the handful of people with justifiable claim to the digerati moniker. He’s become a consistently prescient voice on networks, social software, and technology’s effects on society.” WIRED
We’re all embedded in vast social networks of friends, family, co-workers and more. Nicholas Christakis tracks how a wide variety of traits — from happiness to obesity — can spread from person to person, showing how your location in the network might impact your life in ways you don’t even know.
Nicholas Christakis explores how the large-scale, face-to-face social networks in which we are embedded affect our lives, and what we can do to take advantage of this fact.
Why you should listen to him:
People aren’t merely social animals in the usual sense, for we don’t just live in groups. We live in networks — and we have done so ever since we emerged from the African savannah. Via intricately branching paths tracing out cascading family connections, friendship ties, and work relationships, we are interconnected to hundreds or even thousands of specific people, most of whom we do not know. We affect them and they affect us.
Nicholas Christakis’ work examines the biological, psychological, sociological, and mathematical rules that govern how we form these social networks, and the rules that govern how they shape our lives. His work shows how phenomena as diverse as obesity, smoking, emotions, ideas, germs, and altruism can spread through our social ties, and how genes can partially underlie our creation of social ties to begin with. His work also sheds light on how we might take advantage of an understanding of social networks to make the world a better place.
At Harvard, Christakis is a Professor of Medicine, Health Care Policy, and Sociology, and he directs a diverse research group investigating social networks. His popular undergraduate course (Life and Death in the US) is podcast [available on itunes]. His book, Connected, co-authored with James H. Fowler, appeared in 2009, and has been translated into nearly 20 languages. In 2009, he was named by Time magazine to its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, and also by Foreign Policy magazine to its list of 100 top global thinkers.
Renowned scientists Christakis and Fowler present compelling evidence for our profound influence on one another’s tastes, health, wealth, happiness, beliefs, even weight, as they explain how social networks form and how they operate.
In 2000, the UN laid out 8 goals to make the world better by reducing poverty and disease — with a deadline of 2015. As that deadline approaches, Jamie Drummond of ONE.org runs down the surprising successes of the 8 Millennium Development Goals, and suggests a crowdsourced reboot for the next 15 years.
Why you should listen to him:
ONE (whose co-founders include rock star Bono) advocates for aid, trade, debt cancellation, investment and governance reform to help the citizens of emerging countries drive and determine their own destiny. Right now, the group’s focus is the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, eight benchmarks for health, justice and well-being announced in 2000 and targeted to be achieved in 2015. ONE is working to accelerate attention on the MDGs in the last four years of the challenge.