An international team of scientists, in which the University of Granada (UGR), has applied artificial intelligence techniques to collaborative economy platforms, such as Airbnb or Blablacar, to model and explain the mechanisms that govern them.

Specifically, scientists have studied the importance of trust in these types of platforms in which users must trust other users they do not know, and explored whether the protection mechanisms used by some of these platforms, such as the use of A bond by users before making the transaction or fines for irresponsible users, whether or not they help people to use this ‘consumer to consumer’ (C2C, or ‘customer to customer’) business model.

In this work, published by the prestigious magazine ‘Nature Scientific Reports’Researchers from the University of Newcastle (Australia) and the Technischen Universität Berlin (Germany).

In recent years, the number of collaborative economy platforms such as Airbnb or BlaBlacar, changing the way we travel, go on vacation or stay. So much so that the collaborative economy (‘sharing economy’ in English) has shaped our current society and influenced government and business decisions. The Internet and the use of mobile apps have facilitated the development of the collaborative economy, increasing the number of users and the existing applications and platforms.

“The collaborative economy is carried out between users and needs to have a higher mutual trust beforehand than in transactions with businesses and companies (that is, in the traditional economy)”, indicates the researcher from the Department of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence of the UGR Manuel Chica, one of the authors of this work.

Therefore, a key element is to trust the user who offers us the service / product and the one who will use it (two-way trust relationship). However, malicious users can get more profit in the short term from their transaction, not being trustworthy and taking advantage of other users who will have a loss in their service / product (for example, if someone takes something from a property or does not carry out the promised trip or journey). In the long run, a large number of unreliable users will cause the platform to cease to be used due to a lack of user trust, leading to the decline of the collaborative economy.

A social dilemma

“We are facing a social dilemma where the selfish and short-term decisions of the users who take advantage of the platform can ruin the business model and the philosophy of the collaborative economy,” he says. Manuel Chica.

The authors of this study have modeled this social phenomenon using evolutionary game theory and complex agent-based simulations and artificial intelligence. They define a population of provider users and users in collaborative economy platforms with two possible options: to be reliable or not to be (taking advantage of other users and having more benefit in the short term). In addition, they have used models based on artificial social networks to model word of mouth between users and be able to represent how positive and negative experiences are spread on the platform.

After carrying out various simulations with the proposed models, the authors of the University of Granada, University of Newcastle in Australia and TU Berlin They have seen how the natural dynamics of the system is for trusted consumers and providers to cooperate with each other, eliminating the possibility of unreliable participants thriving and managing to dominate the entire user population.

In addition, scientists have verified different business scenarios that lead to more confidence in platforms. “For example, we introduce fines or penalties for those unreliable users and insurance to protect users. Although some policies are positive to increase confidence (for example, protect trustworthy consumers through insurance, as traditional platforms already do BlaBlaCar), we have observed that imposing very high penalties or insurance and in general (both for trusted and unreliable users) is counterproductive, since it reduces confidence in the collaborative economy platform in the long run as well as the global benefit that all users obtain within this economic model ”, he points out Manuel Chica.

Bibliographic reference:

Chica, M., Chiong, R., Adam, M.T.P. et al. An Evolutionary Game Model with Punishment and Protection to Promote Trust in the Sharing Economy. SciRep 9, 19789 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-55384-4

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