Trust, Airbnb, and Himalayan villages

An excellent short essay, with many points of note, here is one:

In Himalayan villages like mine, there is deep social uncertainty because of Airbnb and other online marketplaces. The opportunity cost of doing business with one’s nephews and cousins is now high. There is the real problem of nephews who run away on the flimsiest of pretexts. The stakes are higher, and there is much to gain by trading with outsiders. You can’t even run Airbnbs well without breaking free from closed relationships with your family and tribe, and forming spontaneous relationships with strangers.  It’s hard for me to do justice to my Airbnb listings without being free to run them in a fairly entrepreneurial fashion.

And there is this:

Millions of people stay in Airbnb homes every night. It’s not trust which makes this possible. My pup is fearless when he sleeps with the door wide open, in a cottage in the woods. There are leopards around. Dogs here don’t live very long. He doesn’t trust leopards, but he knows they are afraid of humans. My pup sleeps on my bed, and so is well-protected from the vicissitudes of life. But I’m not the living proof that dogs can trust leopards. Dogs wouldn’t need humans to guard them if they could trust leopards. Similarly, Airbnb puts hosts and guests in a position where behaving badly would ruin their reputation. In one of my bad moods, I held my pup quite firmly. At midnight, he ran out of the cottage and barked for hours. I couldn’t bring him back to my bed. I did something he thought I wouldn’t consider. He felt I betrayed his trust in me. I’m, here, talking about a more meaningful form of trust. Intellectuals miss this obvious distinction, because they’re not the wonderful people they think they are. The distinction between trust and assurance is all too obvious. But if doing wrong doesn’t fill you with moral horror, you won’t get it. You can’t trust anybody who doesn’t feel that way, and there are not many such people. Unconditional trustworthiness is one of the rarest things in the world. Institutions can’t produce this kind of trust, because people aren’t conditionable beyond a point. In any case, how do you produce something you don’t even understand?

By Veridici, and I believe Shanu Athiparambath.


Yes. It's Shanu Athiparambath. :) Thank You.

Trust is surely important. Among those who wrote about it we can mention intellectuals such as Mr. Fukuyama and Monsieur Peyrefitte.

That is why Representative Gabbard wants to rekindle the trust Americans once had in their government. She understands that a trustworthy government must spend wisely and keep Americans safe. She wants to put an end to America's foreign entanglements and protect American jobs. You know, I will sleep better in the knowledge that she understands what America is really about and what makes common people, like you and I, really tick. A vote for Representative Gabbard is a vote for the American Dream. For my children, for your children, for all our children, let's support Representative Gabbard's presidential run.

Gabbard is a Russo-phile, dictator loving shill.

No, you.

this is one of the most righteous posts on this site...once trust is gone it's gone first marriage taught me that truth...

shame some are trying to politicise this post already...politics is about money and power not trust...politicians betray each other every day...there are not friends in politics only interests..anyone who believes otherwise is living in a dreamworld

Not true at all. Goverments have an important role in fostering trust among the citizens. It is important that citizens know that their interests are being looked for. That they won't be thrown under the proberbial bus so that special interests can profit.

Right, and so you think we can trust Tulsi Gabbard after she cozied up with and shilled for Assad the Butcher. Lol.

Surfie, You're right that once trust is lost, it's lost forever. People don't get this, because they miss out on a rare experience which some go through. See this:

"Intellectuals gloss over an obvious truth. Without a black-and-white view of morality, true love and genuine trust aren’t possible. But you’ll never understand black-and-white morality if you haven’t walked a moral tightrope without even being aware. Sooner or later, you’ll learn that the assumptions so firmly etched in your mind aren’t shared by others. But if you aren’t consciously walking a moral tightrope, it is hard to know others aren’t. The possibility is not even on your radar. Then reality sets in, turning your theory of human nature upside down. Ayn Rand’s moral outlook is more honorable than her more informed critics and admirers, because she had this rare human experience others miss out on. "

It sounds from the article like AirBnB has improved trust and penalized the less trustworthy hosts with bad reviews. This may be conceptually different from truly unconditional trust but functionally it’s similar.

I think most people are not trusting enough and miss far more opportunities from not trusting than I have been taken advantage of by trusting. Our brains are wired for an ancestral environment where people were less trustworthy than today because they lacked fair verification measures like online reviews.

In short-term interactions, such trust seems functionally similar. But the difference is huge.

majority of online reviews aren't trustworthy..they reflect bias and agenda

"They can’t help overcharging their guests. And they cut corners on the free breakfast they offer."
Overcharging? Pray show me the gilded book which records the 'right' charge for a cabin in the woods. And also talks about the minimum number of corners for a breakfast considered free.

It's not in a gilded book, it's the opinion of the person who stayed at the property and wrote the review. Once you have several such reviews, your market value will start declining.

I'm confused about this essayists' beliefs wrt to prices. He sometimes seems to suggest there are just prices which bad people don't stick to:
"If you’re a bad person, you just can’t help it. I’ve seen this in other domains of life, and I see this in hosts. They can’t help overcharging their guests. "

..but a few paragraphs later he suggests the landlords are being naive in believing there are fixed fair prices for things:
"Airbnb has tools that help you price your home right, allow the price to fluctuate according to supply and demand, and offer last minute discounts. But hosts believe there is a fair, fixed price for everything. "

.. and then he goes back to believing in "just" prices again a few paragraphs later:
"The best Airbnb hosts don’t feel very tempted to overcharge or deceive their guests."

Right, I couldn't even bring myself to click on the link because even the sentences that Tyler quoted didn't make sense.

The second sentence says there's now a high opportunity cost to renting to nephews and cousins. That's an excellent sentence that correctly utilizes an important economic principle.

And then the third sentence says that nephews run away on the flimsiest of pretexts. That's an interesting observation but I can't see how it's supposed to relate to the preceding sentence, the next sentence, or the rest of the essay. What do runaway nephews have to do with Air BnB? There may very well be a connection but the author doesn't show it.

The rest of the quotes weren't quite as incoherent but were still head-scratching. The big points about trust and Air BnB are good ones to raise, but I don't understand the dog story. Was the dog barking because he held it too tight or did he hold the dog tightly because it had been barking too much? Again I can't figure out what the author is trying to say.

It's a really rich and interesting article, and the issue you raised is addressed correctly by the author below in my opinion.
My interpretation is that the dog ran away and barked in protest at being physically held too tight, a violation of true trust. But remember the game between dog gene and human gene is a repeated game, and defection will result in tit-for-tat.

Points to this person, they get it

I know what you mean. These two views seem to contradict each other. But that's not the case. It's one thing to believe that there's no fair, fixed price for everything. It's another to quote a price (Say, for dinner) which guests wouldn't have accepted if they knew beforehand. See this:

Agreed. The author seems to have some interesting ideas, but the presentation and logic is sloppy. I don't understand what genuine trust is supposed to be. Did the village have genuine trust before? If so, it disappeared as soon as the economic incentives changed. So, how is genuine trust different from what AirBNB is?

I thought the presentation was deliberate and for style. He is a writer after all.

It reminds me of 'In praise of shadows' by Junichiro Tanazaki. That book is a mess and even the preface of new versions say that the first thing the new translator wants to do is to edit it heavily. The book reads as a sequence of unconnected thoughts, which in total add to a sense of vagueness in its meaning - but I think that's the point.

What do the neighbors think? And why does nobody ask these questions?

Is this related to the announcement by AirBnB of their intentions to IPO next year?

For me, AirBnB is at peak bubble. A friend from college is tirelessly offering apartments for sale close to an stadium in my home city. The apartments are being built in an area far from attractive, but the hook is "you can offer them through AirBnB and become rich".

A year ago, I had to talk my brother out of a pump & dump scheme live the one described above. He was about to invest in a newly built (and useless) apartment to rent on AirBnB.

AirBnB is good and provides some value. Albeit, it's quite popular and attracts the worst kind of people for the moment.It will get better once the crooks move to something else.

Airbnb (i.e., short-term rentals) has reduced the supply of long-term rentals (and the supply of homes for sale at prices that don't reflect the potential of short-term rentals). One developer has responded by constructing hundreds of poorly built, relatively low-priced houses, which investors from elsewhere buy and list with Airbnb. This has greatly increased traffic (a single Airbnb may have eight, ten, fifteen people staying in the house at a time, with three, five, eight cars). It has also created a big donut hole in the market: mid-level priced houses don't sell, as the new, poorly built, low-priced houses absorb most of the demand while the very expensive luxury homes continue to draw a small but stable demand. This describes what's happened to my low country community since the economic recovery. What drives this behavior? It's not really the potential for short-term rentals via Airbnb (which buyers hope will cover most of the costs - the mortgage, taxes, utilities, maintenance, etc.) but the expectation of rising asset (housing) prices. Rising asset prices (stocks, real estate, etc.) has become the path to prosperity in America. Of course, it's an illusion of prosperity. Trust? No, it's not a matter of trusting those who rent via Airbnb, but trusting a policy that relies on rising asset prices for prosperity. Misplaced trust.

I think it's the illusion of prosperity sold by developers to middle-class professionals (dentists, engineers, teachers) that still work. AirBnB is sold as low effort and nice income when compared to traditional long-term rent. I know people who make really big bucks on AirBnB, but it's their full time job.

My wife and we went the old way: contacted a bored wife that works at Century 21, pay to her the 1 month rent commission for finding a good tenant and 1 month per year to take care of the problem , enjoy the monthly rent truly without work. The house has been occupied for 3 out of 72 months. A bit like a discount air carrier, low prices but near 100% occupancy rate. Over a few years, regular payments beat the higher prices of short-term rentals, and you work a lot less for them. probably mean unoccupied for 3 out of 72 months...

"At midnight, he ran out of the cottage and barked for hours. "

This is just the dog's gene's way of leaving a two-star review.

This post convinces me that the field of anthropology no longer exists.

Can you explain?

We're all Moderns now, including villagers in far north, Himalayan India. You can't objectively study yourself--there are no more exotic Others left in the world to study. We all kind of "get" each other at this point, and it's really all just about IQ.

There are a couple of Neolithic throwbacks left: the Sentinel Islanders and a few remote Amazon tribes which we keep in human zoos. So far we're staying away and so are they, but first contact is inevitable, and that will be that.

Sociology may be a viable field but that's debatable.

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