It struck me this morning how my experience of London has changed in the last few years. I swiped my Oyster card to get on a bus to go along to a meeting of School of Everything Unplugged (organised using Meetup), then hopped on a TfL bike to get back to the office. I’m about to pop out for my weekly Good Gym run and then I’m going out for the evening using a Streetcar. Now none of those activities is new in itself but the way they’re organised using technology is.
Fred Wilson has a neat little blog post today called Retooling Stale Businesses which is something I’ve been thinking about for a while. While the car was a pretty smart and lucrative invention on its own, its biggest impact was that it led to suburbia, fast food, and many other completely new social systems — many of them things we now see as bad. But I couldn’t help feeling a little bit emotional watching the Top Gear piece about the decline of British sports car manufacturers, especially the eerily quiet Jenson and TVR factories. But of course the Lotus factory (the other place Clarkson and chums visited) is actually turning out the Tesla Roadster.
There are no shortage of new ideas in the car world, many of them suggesting the model of organisation will change radically. I’d be surprised if car ownership was anywhere near as common as now by 2020. The riversimple guys are doing some of that. Liftshare and Streetcar too. Maybe Better Place will pull some of it off too. And the interesting thing about all those is that they are only possible because of the internet.
For me we’re getting to the most exciting phase of the internet’s development, when it gets beyond novelty and into reorganising society at large. The need to help shape that reorganisation for social benefit is why we’re starting Bethnal Green Ventures to offer support to projects that set out to use the internet and mobile for social good. It’s early days but you can find out more here.