Why Buy Things You Only Use Once? Enter the Subscription Economy | Kevin Kelly

Why Buy Things You Only Use Once? Enter the Subscription Economy | Kevin Kelly


More and more of the things that we find valuable
weigh less and less. More and more of their value is in the things
that don’t have any weight or mass. These intangibles are really what becomes
the driver of our economy and if we can deliver these intangibles anytime, anywhere to anybody
that instant aspect of them means that we, in fact, don’t have to own them anymore. So I really don’t own any movies. I subscribe to Netflix. I don’t really own much music. I have Spotify or Pandora, Apple Music. And increasingly that’s going to be true
for games and books. And if it’s true for all those things that
we can make intangible very easily, it also is true that the benefits of subscribing to
something rather than owning them are moving to the physical world as well. And we can see something like Uber as an example
of that where if you can summon a car anytime, anywhere you want to, why would you own it? It’s going to be as good and maybe even
better than owning because ownership has a lot of liabilities – storing, cleaning,
maintaining, upgrading that we actually don’t really want to have. If we can subscribe and not own a car but
have all the benefits of using a car what about other things? How far can that go? And we can kind of imagine pushing this to
some far logical extreme where maybe some individual in the future doesn’t really
own very much of anything. They can access or subscribe to everything
in their lives. Maybe we can put all these together in kind
of an extreme form and imagine a day in the life of somebody who is going about without
owning any of the things that we normally associate with owning. Maybe even like clothes. So the way that would go is if you could have
instant delivery to your box somewhere within a few hours of anything that you need anywhere
you were in the world maybe you subscribe to clothes and clothes come to you. You wear them once, they’re taken away,
they’re recycled and cleaned and they’re given to someone else who may only wear them
once. And with clothes this is already happening
in the high end of tuxedos and things that we know we only wear occasionally but can
even go into daily wear as well if again it was something that was being recycled and
cleaned and sent on to someone else whose body was scanned and digitized, and we knew
from experience that these clothes were going to fit their body particularly. And you could have digital avatars where you
could try clothes on. If we could imagine clothes, why not furniture? Why not toys? Toys are used for a short time by kids as
they grow up and maybe they could be subscribed to instead of being purchased. What about tools or kitchen stuff that you
only use occasionally? The turkey roaster that you could summon on
Thanksgiving, have delivered to your house within an hour. You use it, give it back, they clean it, they
store it and they’ll be ready to deliver it to you whenever you need it again. Camping equipment: Everybody wants the latest
and the greatest high tech this year’s most sophisticated camping technology. Why would you buy camping equipment when you
only use it occasionally and you could subscribe to the best instead. So we can kind of multiply this again and
again to this vision where we’re moving from ownership to access. If you can get access to things, instant delivery,
maybe even 3D printing. Things given and manufactured and put in front
of you on demand then that in many ways for most people becomes better than owning it.

100 Comments on "Why Buy Things You Only Use Once? Enter the Subscription Economy | Kevin Kelly"


  1. And then man will no longer be kings in their own castles. We will be owned by the powers that be. This is Cyberpunk/1984 bullshit right here. You have to own your own things in order to have value as a human being and have something in which to bargain with. Without owning anything you will inevitably be a slave.

    Reply

  2. In New York City there is a Club with a bunch of supercars that you can borrow as long as you pay a subscription for the Club!!!

    Thats pretty sick!

    Reply

  3. When you go out and change the economic model without much thought to the consequences of the economic model

    You essentially are willfully rejecting the ethical issue of the model by ignorance

    And you draw suspicion that the model may be exploited by others and yourself. our current model is less exploitable and not as profitable for the exploiters

    New model would drive such thugs to embrace it.

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  4. Some things are better off with private ownership, and some things are better served with subscriptions or rentals. Pride of ownership is a factor that shouldn't be ignored. Material goods are usually better taken care of if they are privately owned. I think subscriptions could be an option rather than a replacement for ownership.

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  5. So not only will they know your internet history, they'll also have an exact 3D model of your body…

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  6. I recall a few times over now. New thing comes in at a cheaper rate and gets us to switch to a "more cost effective" way. Only, as soon as the competition is missing, suddenly the prices go up to all new high levels. If you can no longer own, as there is no for sale option, the rental prices will go up and consume a much larger portion of your income. There is also the usefulness of the item. Do you really think the rental clothes will come in without defects? They will continue to ship them to "renters" as long as they can get by with it, and as your options are limited, we will just suck it up.

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  7. Owning a house means I can sell it for most of what I put into it. Renting an apartment I get nothing back of what I put into it. Some things just don't work with a subscription model if you want to actually build a life and have things to pass on. If anything, we need to find a better idea than apartments, something like condos where we could buy the apartment and just pay a maintenance fee for the property. But only if it didn't come with a Housing Association, I hate those groups.

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  8. I think a subscription is a form of resource sharing. Certain resources that are a waste to mass produce and have under ownership may be better vitalized under a shared ownership. Certain essentials that are physically particular to the individual (such as clothes, especially underwear, God forbid) will maintain an ownership economy. But ride-sharing, streaming, etcetera are better because they are cost effective, effortless, and aren't wasteful.

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  9. I would say that most people commenting here have not traveled to the rest of the world. This can only apply to a cosmopolitan city in the West. Kevin is basically expanding on the rental market. We already rent most things that are only used occasionally. Large tool. Cars. Fancy clothes. Homes. And that works, but there is a profit being made behind the rental scheme. So whats new? Most of the stuff we own, we use regularly. Sports gear. Bicycles. Cars. Kitchen equipment. Tools. Desks. TV. Furniture. Spectacles/sunglasses… and we rent the expensive stuff that we need. So we do all this already. I don't get it.

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  10. Agreed for the most part. However, I am a car enthusiast and taking care of my car is one of my favorite things to do. It brings me endless joy, although I am not a fan of my insurance premiums. haha.

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  11. Why so many dislikes? We can have "Uber for clothes" or "Netflix for kitchen appliances" without Communism. The subscription model is just a different business model with a different value proposition.

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  12. What a time! Although I'm skeptical that highly personalised items, such as clothes, will become largely subscription based. But my opinion may be skewed by the fact that I'm very attached to my clothes. And if you're as vain as me, the service will need to deliver 15 outfits so I can go through 'feelin it' cycles.

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  13. This is another step to dictatorship of the elite.

    They will be able to take anything away if you missbehave

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  14. One solid solar flare and all your digital money and supscrption's are toast. If you can't access the Internet you loose everything and this kind of disaster would wipe out over 100 trillion dollars of wealth in one day. Such a stupid thing to rely on internet. I hate this sort of mentality, it's what's gonna get us blindsided worsee than anything that has ever happened in history. Stupid is what this is

    Reply

  15. i like my toys
    I don't want Scooty, Spikey, or Sheepy taken away from me
    They're not just my plushies
    I'm 19, I don't grow up #DontJudge

    They are my friends
    and that's where you can't subscribe to
    well technically you can, but not my point

    Reply

  16. Are we simply shifting resources and effort from mass production/consumption to mass packaging/transportation?

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  17. so many comments against that whole idea…. and this is another one of those comments.. yes this idea is something ideal however human brain doesn't function properly for this to be done in reality yet…bottomline.. I prefer owning stuff..

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  18. contradicting himself. Things you would only use once, Car? costs of owning and maintaining a car vs getting uber every day to work.
    Any program you use for work, fuck subscriptions.

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  19. people who have roommates know that nobody cares about shared things. When you own something you actually care about taking care of it.

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  20. I've owned the same clothes for the last three to five years and bought them all at thrift stores for pocket change. I've owned the same car for the last ten years and have no payments and low upkeep and insurance. What benefit would I gain from adding rental expense just to not own anything? None. Uber is a terrible example of this type of non-ownership paradigm. They are hemorrhaging so much money by artificially keeping the prices low that they will be out if business soon. They are not a sustainable model.

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  21. This idea, like most innovative idea, makes logical sense. But the biggest push back is the already long established human culture of ownership. How do we change the way we think about ownership and actually usage. The advantage of the subscription model will have to have significant advantage over the ownership model to be to change people's mindset of ownership.

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  22. Benefits? no, no, you are fucking yourself in the ass, but limiting your access to a thing you should own, but don't, despite paying more for it.

    Reply

  23. this guy thinks he just thought of this lmao…..someone tell him about the venus project.its already been concieved a whole economic system based on the sharing of all resorces imaginable and it would be a much better system than this bullshit dog eat dog system where people will literally sell their mothers just to keep up with the joneses

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  24. It breaks down as follows- you want to own things that appreciate over time and rent things that depreciate. The key is always the price of the rent compared to the cost of ownership.

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  25. There is still ownership. It might be hard to see but it is still there. The person rent things from owns the product you want. The movie or music is own by the renter and artist who made it. Ownership gives something value, if there was no ownership there would be no value. The fact I have something that someone else does not have, creates value. Ownership and value is what make societies work. As soon as you get rid of ownership and value tbe society falls apart. The idea of working hard, getting a paycheck, earning a degree, or getting a promotion is all base on ownership. He is creating a false reality based socialism idealism.

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  26. We have that already. pre-furnished rentals that include utilities in the rent price is more and more common as people rent out extra rooms and have B&B type lodging available, we have delivery services for laundry and ironing services, most common services like food and groceries also have delivery services, there are food preparation services that sent out preparing instructions and tools to make your own food out of the box, toys, clothing and such is delivered to your door and instead of the lack of ownership, there is more of a stay-at-home system where everything from basic needs to entertainment is sent to your door and you need not leave the house. Once there is a way to simulate actual sensory experiences via later generation VR or some new tech, there will really be no need to ever leave the comfort of your home which will be the last thing you own since by then there will probably be some sort of pod technology where you just stay in a tube and experience life, travel, romance, sights, sounds and perhaps even sickness and pain.

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  27. well. this doesn't apply to the things we use every day, like dishes. this applies to thrift stores as well, where you own things for an extended time, but not forever.

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  28. This is clearly a beneficial economic model for digital goods, but for physical products that you use daily, the cost to rent will very quickly outpace the cost to own.

    In Canada, it's common to "rent" a water heater… Many people do this and end up grossly overpaying over the life of that water heater. It's not always smart to subscribe/rent instead of own. Same with owning a house… At least someday I'll get money back for paying my mortgage, unlike the years of wasted money from renting.

    In terms of camping equipment… Well, I got mine on sale and spent a few hundred bucks… The cost to own is low enough that I'd rather own than deal with the hassle of renting. Don't forget that if you rent, you're responsible for damages, returns, and all that additional hassle.

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  29. I agree with the principle broadly, but the example of the turkey roaster is pretty ridiculous. Come Thanksgiving or Christmas, you'd need to employ tens of thousands of employees to deliver tens of millions of turkey roasters for two days of the year and then employ the same tens of thousands of employees to collect them. And where would you even start storing the tens of millions of turkey roasters that are only used once or twice a year? When you think of the knife, fork and spoon, things get even weirder.

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  30. Well, that would be a heaven for the corporations. You basically subscribe to life.
    After a while to be easier to have instant access you will have to live in a corporation defined space/city/area where your needs will be defined and satisfied by what you can subscribe to and if you are not "in the system" well to bad for you.
    You probably will be recycled.
    Creativity will be subscribed from Ikea, you personal touch in your life will be recycled every week and you memories will be stored in a cloud under a data subscription plan.
    Should i subscribe to happiness also?
    Not for me, thank you!

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  31. CRAPitalism and Entepenurership at their finest – I don't wannat work at some drone j-o-b, so I"m going to advocate some SCAM to make me rich so I can provide for my shit eating family! Fuck you and your shit eating family, I hope you all die of something lingering and excruciatingly painful, making the world a better place….and providing us with cheap and fulfilling entertainment.

    Intangibles are WORHTLESS, marketing(the propeganda of selling usless shit) ploys. Value is expensive, if you can not afford something of value, you have to live without it, if that means your pathetic existance is even more hellish than was and that you will never have nice things, so be it, what are you crotch droppings to me? You are LOSERS, the historical mistake was not knocking malcontent losers such as yourself off their feet and kicking the teeth out of their heads while they are down, before spiting on them….get up, I'll take one of your eyes.

    Accept the fact you are shit eating plebs and stop disrupting the planet, the rest of us live here.

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  32. If it comes to like in Ubik where you have to pay to open your home door or shower, I am out.

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  33. This sounds great in essence, but as a business opportunity I wonder… it's nice for the consumer, but the business man has to deal with customers who break or damage the stuff they rented and then try to get out of being held responsible. It seems like a terrible fuss to me to have discussions about responsibility I don't know how many times a day.

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  34. Yeah, but you are still in a monetary system. Without money you can't subscribe, order, stuff. So the solution is a resource based economy as defined by the Zeitgeist movement, TZM. If not there will be the haves and the not haves. And poverty, with automation, will only grow.

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  35. The main issue is microbial contamination. It may be acceptable with a car, but less with kitchen tools or clothes.

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  36. Wow. Lots of concepts I never considered that fall under ownership. Everything he says makes perfect sense. On the opposite foot, it would totally crush and bury the global economy as we know it today. Jeff Bezos would become a pauper in a matter of months unless he turns his warehouses into product storage and distribution, rather than product fulfillment. Any big box company, for that matter.

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  37. First argument why one could resist this is, that in the longterm the subscription will be more expensive then the ownership option with maintenance time and expanse.

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  38. the turkey roaster was a terrible analogy because there's only one turkey day a year and everybody's going to want one so when it goes back and gets cleaned up and just goes to a different person next year let's try again maybe let's not have anything available that is major holiday. however for some things it may be a really good idea

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  39. Sharing makes sense in a few areas like Netflix but sharing EVERYTHING will never happen

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  40. if you subscribe to music, then you never really liked music. companies would love renting out everything because not only do they get more money, (no matter how cheap the rate is, it is only a matter of time before you paid more for an object via renting instead of buying it) but political persecution would be so much easier since big companies could just use their right to refuse service to anybody for any reason (when of coarse the company would state that it was because the customer violated the terms of service, which are inherent in rental services) to persecute political enemies. (which does not garner as much outrage from liberals when the company is liberal and the target is conservatives e.g. twitter and facebook)

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  41. Recently it occurred to me that it's crazy that we pay a certain amount of money to get to keep something forever basically. And then we get more money to do more of that, the things we get to keep pile up more and more and we just get to have them forever. Like ??????

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  42. I'm not a big fan of this trend, but I don't dispute that the American consumer economy will continue to evolve according to this paradigm. Hopefully, the option of ownership will remain for most things. However, it's more important to find a sustainable alternative to American hyper-consumerism of the past 50-60 years. At the very least, that economic model needs to be streamlined to be more conscious of the environment. As long as America's economy remains largely capitalistic, maybe this trend is a big part of the answer to that problem. The businesses make more money, and we feeble-minded consumers aren't manipulated into buying more stuff at the expense of a functional living space.

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  43. we certainly can be better off subscribing to certain things, and I hope we get there one day. But the idea of not owning stuff is highly unsatisfying. While we have access to tens of thousands of books, movies, and video games, we spend thousands of dollars on them with nothing to show for it. Cancel your subscription to Netflix or Google Play Music and you've got nothing – no movies and no music. Compare that to deciding to stop buying DVD's and CD's, where you're still left with hundreds of discs to use for years to come (or sell, or pass down, or donate, etc….).

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  44. This is going to be hell for the poor. Just when they need essential stuff it's taken away. And this is a great to make you pay more for less and a great way to keep people with jobs in line. Losing your job will now be downright dangerous. Not good for democracy. Thus certain businesses should be forbidden to run these kind of schemes.

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  45. Because ownership means control, and I prefer to have as much control over my life as possible.

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  46. I'm pretty sure this guy's beard is only white because he spends so much time masturbating over the sound of his own voice

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  47. This leaves everyone dependent on a small number of people, you know, the people who actually OWN all the shit.Think about it, all well and good if they are benevolent absolutely catastrophic if they are not…

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  48. He doesn't play a musical instrument. And oh, my theory is his garage is full of junk.

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  49. I feel this conversation coups extend to 3d printing. Why buy a spoon when you can subscribe to the cad file of the spoon and you get x amount of uses out of it.

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  50. Elon Musk explains the future of Uber in great detail, and it's fascinating! He's a blooming' genius that guy

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  51. What kind of bullshit is this?
    What about security you get from this,i buy clothes once a year,and they last longer,no thanks

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  52. So if we all borrowed a car at 8:30am on a Monday morning courtesy of Uber just how many Uber cars would you need and how many Uber drivers? I reckon you'd be back at square one.

    And just how good is his 4G mobile connection where he lives that he can always rely on low-cost streaming of broadband music and video data?

    We used to share washing machines but people can't wait to own one of their own to get away from the places.

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  53. This sounds like a terrible idea. What if you are denied "access" in a subscription economy? This is a great way to exclude someone from a society and thus have a tighter control on the population. Also the fact that ownership is going to become a thing of the past means that we are getting poorer as a society. We would constantly be relying on a subscription to fulfill daily activities. Meanwhile if something goes astray in your life you end up with nothing. Rather than actually having things you own now just in case you end up in a financially sticky situation. Man oh man this is scary stuff.

    This guy seemed to be championing the idea of a subscription economy. Fuck this, if we don't continue to follow the path of subscription into the physical world an extreme majority of what he is saying simply will not occur.

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  54. Maybe I can get a restaurant to buy into this logic: "I'm only renting your curry!" j/k
    On a serious note though, I'm not sure people will so readily want to give up the concept of keepsakes, memorabilia and family heirlooms. To make this work would require a retooling of society, not just advances in tech imo.

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  55. i disagree with this one. in this proposed future world where someone only subscribes for stuff and doesnt own things, what happens if (when?) our government becones more authoritarian? we would then be completely helpless. i mean, u say u don't have movies u just have Netflix. well the rollback of net neutrality is gonna cost u a lot more. all it takes is a few bad laws being passed and ur under compete control. ownership is more work yes, but more safe.

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  56. A library where all the books are available to everybody has its advantages … However, there was a book at my local library that I kept referring to, so I had to keep making special trips to the library to refer to it . I finally checked it out, and took it to a copy service where I'd photocopy a section every day . Finally, I had the entire book photocopied and bound in a thick loose — leaf folder . I don't refer to it every day, but now I can refer to it at night, when the library's closed, or when there's four feet of snow on the ground . What I did has its advantages, but doesn't it defeat the entire point of an "own nothing" world ?

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  57. My two cents: find a market that could adopt a subscription model and make it happen. Two leading questions 1) would the product or service appreciate with time? And, why would people subscribe?

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  58. He doesn't get psychology, ownership equals security and power. Most people hate when others own the thing they want. Microsoft windows is a great example. We no longer own our own operating system. That gives microsoft all the power and leaves the user powerless. Which is why I have Linux now, I want to own my own operating system.

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  59. What'll happen is people will constantly have something leeching from them through their subscriptions, having to pay attention to everything that is draining their income.

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