We DO need a worldwide Amazon service. We just need somebody else to run it
The only problem with Amazon is that it is a company. One, too fast company.
Have you already heard about the new Amazon Counter service? I just learned from Corriere della Sera (italian) and Blomberg that this is a new delivery option from Amazon that will let customers retrieve parcels from staffed counters at U.K. and Italian small retailers.
“Small” is the key here. Independent, often family-run brick and mortar shops were already struggling to survive when their only enemies were supermarkets and shopping centers.
Now, in Milan, says the Corriere article, Amazon Counter is raising great interest both among small retailers and the City Administration. Neighborhood farmers market, family-run stationery stores and everybody in between all hope that being an Amazon Counter delivery point will bring in some little extra revenues, but above all customers who may also buy something else.
It would be hard to overestimate the convenience of such a service. One extremely optimized interface to order everything from appliances to zucchini, from any point of the planet, all delivered just around the corner, no matter where you live in the city, possibly all in one and the same box? This really sounds like a consumer’s dream, and a green one too.
If Amazon Counter became the worldwide unified way to deliver both local and remotely sourced goods, it may keep both remote villages and historic city centers alive. It would allow more seniors or disabled citizens to remain independent, and even more people to have a great life without being forced to own a car.
The only problem with Amazon service…
is Amazon the company, of course. As convenient as it appears, as long as it is owned and locked by one for-profit company that also does too many other things, that service costs everybody:
- LOTS of pollution that can only be reduced by reducing its speed, that is its profitability
- privacy risks literally out of 1984
- potentially continuous control, by one single, hardly accountable entity, of every aspect of daily life and chores
- serious impacts on culture
- destruction of many local service jobs, and tax revenues
As I already argued:
- centralized, worldwide planning of slow shipping would remain absolutely necessary, to minimize both pollution and costs
- but much of that “planning” should be infrastructural, that is only in the form of fiscal and other regulations, together with open source protocols and algorithms to calculate shipping schedules…
In other words: the challenge is to build something that continues to look exactly like Amazon, that is one interface to buy, and have shipped at home or around the corner, everything you may need. But under the hood is a federation of independent organizations of all kinds (cooperatives, corporations, public companies, whatever) that cooperate to give the same result.
It is, of course, a huge problem because it is political, managerial, fiscal… everything but technical.
Images source: “Before you click on Amazon” infographic
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