The Sharing Economy: For Better or for Worse?

With the rise of the Internet and always-on smartphones, new opportunities for connecting people together became possible. This allows platforms such as Airbnb and Uber (classical mentions) to become very efficient as the coordination of  service providers and users, is easy and cost efficient. The rise of the sharing economy has been fast over the last few years and has caused all sorts of issues, good and bad. One of my New Technology 2016 students, Gunnhildur Finnsdóttir, wrote a paper on this topic:

“My thesis is that, for better or for worse, the sharing economy is going to grow even further and be more and more integrated into out lives so the effects of it so far are likely to be magnified in the near future. The main focus of this research is to examine these effects of the sharing economy on individuals and societies.”

One point she makes is the importance of local. While traditional accommodations can be friendly, visiting a host in their home can be more like staying with someone you know. One reason is that the payment is actually never between the guest and host, as it is taken care of by the platform. Gunnhildur writes:

“And this is at the heart of the appeal of the sharing economy, the transactions it organizes are more than simply exchanging a service for cash, they are framed like acts of neighborly kindness or making new friends in a strange city. This emotional value is combined with the resources of a multinational corporation that has access to a lot of user data and infinite ways of processing it to create a very powerful mixture.”

One point made in the paper is about a major trend that is happening in the connected worlds: the end of ownership. This is about understanding a fundamental shift in the way people behave. Gunnhildur quotes Brian Chesky, CEO and co-founder of Airbnb:

“People still want to show off, but in the future I think what they’re going to want to show off is their Instagram feed, their photos, the places they’ve gone, the experiences they’ve had. That has become the new bling. It’s not the car you have; it’s the places you go and the experiences you have. I think in the future, people will own whatever they want responsibility for. And I think what they’re going to want responsibility for the most is their reputation, their friendships, their relationships, and the experiences they’ve had”

The paper also contains a section describing the sharing economy in Iceland. This small country has been experiencing a travel boom in the past few years.

“The number of travellers who used Airbnb to find accommodation in Iceland in 2015 grew by 152% from the previous year while the traditional hotel business saw a growth of 18%”

If you want to understand the sharing economy – the good and the bad, and how it works in Iceland, check Gunnhildur’s paper out:

The Sharing Economy: For Better or for Worse?


New Technology Paper: 2015 as Displayed in Back to the Future II


As the year 2015 came upon us, people got thinking about the popular 80s film, Back to the Future II. This is the film where Marty McFly goes forward in time to the year 2015. The film was released in 1989 and thus tried to predict the world 26 years on. That is by no means easy to do but some of the predictions are quite accurate  while others – think fax machines, are pretty off.

New Technology 2015 student, Gadidjah Margrét Ögmundsdóttir, chose as a research topic to examine the technology predicted in the film and how accurate it was. As she says in the introduction of the paper:

The predicted 2015 has flying cars and thus floating road signs and traffic regulations in the sky. It also includes hoverboards, self-drying and fitting clothing, automated homes, dehydrated pizzas, video conferencing, dominant fax machines, and many other peculiarities. Many things collide with the real 2015, other things are far off, and some things are completely missing.

This report discusses the predictions made of the year 2015 in the 1989 movie Back to the Future Part II. The predicted technologies as well as the predicted behavioral changes based on those technologies are evaluated and analyzed. How well can the future be predicted? Is it possible to foresee the chain effect of innovation, leading to new technology and behaviors? Why were some advancements of technology easier to predict than others?

One of the interesting points made in the paper is the observation that the movie totally lacks smartphones, probably the most popular technology in 2015.

Gadidjah Margrét’s paper can be found here:


PAPER: Technological innovation of Psychology


Image a system that can, in a blink of an eye, scan a person and determine any emotion. Not only does the system recognise the person, it can look up more information in real-time. Such system have application in airport security for example. While recognising a person may be one thing but determining hidden emotions of people, even detect lies, is much harder problem. It is this problem that New Technology 2014 Student, Anna Louise Ásgeirsdóttir explores. This is from the abstract:

“A general, yet perhaps a novel approach on how technology could be used to recognise facial micro expressions, how they can be identified and why that is beneficial.

Micro expressions are involuntary movements in facial muscles revealing strongly felt emotions, and can be a great clue of what people are feeling. By automatically scanning, for example in security surveillance systems in airports, for some basic emotions such as anger or fear, a flag can be raised for people who show these emotions to be taken aside for a further check.

Not only can we have the system scan for hidden emotions, but to see if the faces passing by have a connection to a face in the systems database, which contains mug shots of people with outstanding warrants, terrorists and people reported missing. Both of these features could possibly foresee criminal intent, and possibly prevent crimes and terrorism.

For over twenty years facial recognition and automatic facial expression analysis has been an active area of research – it is about time this yields some practical results.”

The paper can be found here: Technological innovation of Psychology (PDF)