On Christmas Eve, 16-year-old David Michael Lee (a/k/a Dave the White Asian) bought his “dream vehicle”—a midnight-blue 2002 Subaru WRX. Over the following three days, Lee bounced the Subaru off a parked car, got three traffic tickets, and racked up over $3,000 in related fines and expenses. Had he grown up in earlier times, Lee might have taken these events as a sign of his unreadiness for the rigors of automobile ownership and sold the car to cut his losses. But being a 21st-century boy, Lee knew of a magical place called the Internet, where no folly goes uncelebrated and the most improbable of causes find champions. More precisely, he knew of a site called Fundable, where friends, fellow travelers, and/or perfect strangers can sign up to pool their money toward a common goal. Which is why it’s now possible for you—yes, you—to “Save Dave the White Asian From Certain Financial Doom!!!!” by contributing a minimum of $30 to his Fundable account, disbursable only if contributions total at least $1,000 by February 12—and returned to you untouched if they don’t.
Of course, you might prefer to contribute to almost any of the other causes that tend to turn up on Fundable: plainly worthy goals like schoolhouses for Kenyan villages, computer upgrades for artist collectives, ambitious improvements to open-source software applications. But Dave the White Asian’s campaign speaks more eloquently, in the end, to what makes Fundable part of a watershed in contemporary economic history. Like eBay, craigslist.org, and other open online exchanges, Fundable chips away at the role of corporate-size intermediaries, nudging commerce—the exchange not only of money and goods but of ideas and sentiments—back toward its highly personal roots. And as a frank plea to be let off the hook for his own dumbass behavior, well, Lee’s version of fundraising is about as personal as it gets.