I was chatting earlier this year with Brian Chesky, the co-founder and chief executive of Airbnb. He told me about trying to raise $150,000 in 2008 for his idea of a peer-to-peer home and room rental company. Everyone called him crazy. They scoffed at the notion that people would trust one another enough to allow strangers into their homes. They derided the idea that those strangers would be nice enough, or honest enough, to respect properties.
“Airbnb, without fundamental human goodness, would not work,” Chesky said. A decade later, Airbnb is in more than 190 countries. It has had more than 300 million guest arrivals. It is valued in the tens of billions of dollars.
From all the data the company has accumulated, no major country anomalies, in terms of patterns of behavior, have emerged. People from Japan, Brazil, Nigeria, Russia, the United States, Mexico and France are equally respectful and honest. There are no national outliers, Chesky said, on the goodness or trustworthiness scale. There are no enemies.
That is interesting. I wonder if we are looking in the wrong places to assess the state of the world. The twilight of an era, as in Vienna a little over a century ago, is always murky.