The Web has caused one vast existential happening: the death of the stranger.
Everyone knows everyone, or at least they do with just one tweet, poke or snappy chat. This has allowed services such as Airbnb to flourish. Mi casa es su casa, as long as you give me cash-a.
It was inevitable, therefore, that someone would come along to do to FedEx and UPS what they did to the noble postal service.
Please meet Carry. It launches today and it purports to offer the perfect melding of kinship and profit. For its idea is to connect those who want to send a package to those who are in a position to deliver it for them.
Should you be about to travel, all you have to do is register your itinerary on Carry and declare how much you'd like to earn. Should you wish to spend less on sending a package to some far-off land than you would with, say, FedEx, you inscribe your intent. Kismet.
Deliverers will, the company says, be paid sometimes $500 or even more for their services. Senders will spend less, allegedly, than they would with a conventional courier service. Indeed, in beta-testing, Carry claims that carriers earned an average of $500 and shippers saved 60 percent over more familiar shipping options.
Your faith in humanity is likely greater than mine, so you will immediately leap to take advantage of this new enterprise. Carry says that it will offer an especially frisky service in countries such as India, Greece and Russia. These, it says, can baffle the likes of FedEx.
You'll imagine that an idea like Carry must have been the brainchild of a Google engineer, an investment banker and a consultant. And you'd be right.
I decided to express my nagging misgivings to the consultant of the three, Ilya Rekhter. Doesn't he worry, I wondered, that these legal mules will be asked to carry things that might be illegal, dangerously perishable or unsafe for any number of reasons? ("Why has my right hand turned blue and is covered in sores? It can't have been the airport burger.")
He told me: "The traveler has the ability to inspect everything they're carrying before accepting the deal. They can turn away items or people they're not comfortable with. Carry will be implementing support measures -- incorporating background checks, 1099 subcontractor status, etc -- and will list regulations specific to each state or country."
In other words, caveat carrier. In Rekhter's words: "Similar to Airbnb and Uber, Carry is a marketplace that connects people for a service. As with those companies, 'Carrying' a package for someone is legal as long as users follow the regulations specific to that state and country."
Some countries, though, have astoundingly variable regulations. In Russia, for example, regulations can sometimes feel more like translucent feathers that float in the ether and wave goodbye in the blink of an eye.
And what if you're asked to deliver a package to a Mr. I. Sis or a Mrs. A. Qaeda at their places of residence?
Rekhter told me: "Shippers and travelers can negotiate the details to pickup or dropoff at an airport or a specific address. We're also working to integrate services like Uber and local couriers to help with pickups and dropoffs."
You know that it makes the sort of theoretical, Silicon Valley sense in which we're all supposed to (and often do) glory. And you know that the majority of Airbnb transactions, for example, seem to be successful.
But can any industry be overturned this way? Is there a limit to what stranger-to-stranger transactions can achieve?
Some potential customers will worry they'll be the rogue case. How can you ever feel totally safe? It may be that you can't. However, it may well be that taking a little more of a risk will earn you more money.
The core service is airport delivery. But as Rekhter put it: "Travelers opt in to either picking up or dropping off the package, so a home visit is not required. Pickups and dropoffs offer convenience, so travelers who opt in earn more."
Now that the Web connects us all, can ordinary people do a better, more efficient, more collaborative job of yet another service we take for granted? Will FedEx, UPS and DHL employees hold protests against ordinary citizens who are Carry carriers?
When it absolutely, positively has to be there faster and cheaper and when we absolutely, positively like the idea of making money, how much risk are we willing to take?