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Futurist Rifkin skeptical of Uber but rosy on Airbnb

Renowned U.S. futurist Jeremy Rifkin said Monday he is negative about the future of car-sharing service Uber but remains optimistic about the home-sharing website Airbnb, citing their different approaches to the sharing economy.

Rifkin's remarks are in line with his vision on the sharing economy, which calls for the importance of sharing possessions among members of communities rather than struggling to claim ownership.

"I think Uber is not going to make it," Rifkin told Yonhap News Agency on the sidelines of a global science gathering underway in this central South Korean city.

"Of course, Uber has been very successful on the Internet of Things platform, designed to be distributed, collaborative, open and transparent. But then, huge amounts of money are from Goldman Sachs and Google."

"The finance is from giant, global and vertically integrated capitalist companies that will try to control every owner of a car in the world," Rifkin said. "The reason it won't work, I am beginning to see drivers are saying, 'What do we need Uber for?'"

According to Rifkin, Uber's system can be worked into the market without the interference of global capital.

"Anyone can set up a GPS website. Now drivers are saying, why don't we just set up a cooperative," Rifkin said, adding the cooperative system can suggest a new guideline to the global capitalism. "A cooperative can do it cheaper."

"Regional cooperatives are getting together, and the profit does not have to go to a third party," he said, adding that Uber's system is not a unique one developed by a specific firm, but an idea that has existed for a long time.

"I think cooperatives are not a part of the global capitalists' market. There are billions in cooperatives in banking, agriculture and so on. It is a huge part of every life in society.

"I don't think there is an only way for the advancement in creativity," he added.

Rifkin, meanwhile, said Airbnb can also become one example of the sharing economy but claimed its sustainability lies on how the younger generation copes with the government and the existing system.

On Aug. 26, South Korea's Busan District Court fined a 55-year-old housewife, whose identity was withheld, 700,000 won ($590) for seeking to profit by renting out her house to people who booked through Airbnb without reporting to the local authorities.

The South Korean public health control act requires anyone who runs an accommodation business to report it to the district office.

For Rifkin, the issue is a symbolic one.

"I think we are going to see a lot of regulation. Look at Airbnb. For sure, you don't want someone next door, if you are living in an apartment, (to use their rooms for Airbnb all day long)," Rifkin said.

Rifkin said it is inevitable to face discord with political authorities when it comes to the sharing economy, as other new systems and phenomenon in the market.

"I have no doubt that there will be regulations in all of the sharing economy to make sure it is not abusive of the public good.

There will be a lot of discussion," he said.

"The political struggle around the sharing economy will affect you, your children and your grandchildren. It is going to be shared commons, but these commons will need regulations." (Yonhap)