Last week at the annual TEDGlobal conference in the Edinburgh, Scotland, social innovator and technology consultant Rachel Botsman posed this question: “If someone asked you for the three words that would sum up your reputation, what would you say?”
Botsman imagines a time where you won’t need to answer with a traditional “elevator pitch,” or even a list of references or credentials. Instead, she sees “a future in which resumes and even credit scores are irrelevant, replaced by an aggregated digital reputation based on our interactions in the collaborative economy,” according to Mashable.
“I believe we are at the start of a collaborative revolution that will be as significant as the industrial revolution,” Botsman told the TEDGlobal audience in Edinburgh, and she has further explored such ideas as the co-author of What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption. Pointing to services such as the vacation rental hub AirBnB, errand outsourcer Taskrabbit and community-based learning marketplace Skillshare as examples of how “the old market principles of sharing, swapping and bartering” have been “reinvented for the Facebook age,” Botsman notes that “we have moved from sharing information and music online to transferring trust about how we get things done.”
Ultimately, she foresees an “age where reputation will become your most important asset” and “reputation dashboards” will provide “a real-time stream of who has trusted you when, where and why.” Botsman acknowledges that privacy would be a major concern and a simple algorithm or score wouldn’t suffice, but she still believes the outcome would be worth it: “When we get it right, reputation capital creates a massive positive disruption in who has power, influence and trust. Reputation data will make the resume seem like an archaic relic of the past.”
The future that Botsman predicts is still on the horizon, but she’s not the only one anticipating its impact. Last year TIME included collaborative consumption in its list of “10 Ideas That Will Change The World.” And while talk of “dashboards” and “algorithms” might seem foreign and impersonal, the concepts at the heart of her vision are familiar and natural. “When people are asked why they use farmers’ markets rather than supermarkets they say it is because the first is more social,” she says. “And it is the same reason why people choose AirBnB, there is an authenticity and social element to it that they like.” TIME even traces it down to the chemical level: “We yearn to trust and be trusted — one researcher has found that people get a spike of the pleasant neurotransmitter oxytocin when they’re entrusted with another’s goods.”