The Uberification of Society: Empowerment or Race to the Bottom?
There was a great program on ON POINT RADIO recently (6/1/2015) on the topic
First, my overall take on this topic in Summer 2015: the uberification overall will be an equalizer or “race to the bottom” depending on who you are and industry you work in, and your place in it. Yes, it will mean some interesting choices for consumers, and some workers will feel free/empowered, but this will be outweighed by the overwhelming effect that quality of life, standard of living will drop.
Why? The big ticket items in life are:
All of these are getting more expensive. So having a new gadget (in the form of a smartphone or GPS or an Uber-like-service) is not going to come close to outweighing the negative impacts on a huge reduction in stable long-term and full-time employment with benefits coming from your company. In countries where there are already strong gov’t programs in place for health care. And strong laws in place giving people time-off, they might be better positioned. But even time-off seems very employee-centric and won’t apply when you are self-employed. So we’ll see what develops.
This topic is also connected to other current memes that weren’t mentioned during the show:
– work being tied to getting the work done as specified, not hours worked
– telecommuting and software that allows people to work from N different offices (or their homes)
– flextime / flexitime https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flextime
– Virgin calls it “flexible working”. In the news is how they offer “unlimited time off” http://www.virgin.com/entrepreneur/in-focus-the-rise-of-flexible-working
– employee-owned companies (coops got a quick mention but a company is a little different) e.g. http://www.southmountain.com/
– working smarter not longer
– 4-day work week – “Slim is the owner of Telmex, an American phone company, and has actively and enthusiastically embraced flexibility in his organisation. He has instituted programs for workers eligible for retirement to opt to work four day weeks on full pay. He has also controversially suggested we should all be working a three day work week”
– forced-retirement — some organizations (like the UN) force people to retire pretty early, like age-60, before many are ready/willing/interested to retire
– job sharing. 2 people splitting one job
OK, some tidbits from the radio show:
HUGE list of “uber-like” apps beginning at 6:40. Crazy!
point repeated being made that we need safety nets to not be attached to specific jobs.
– time off (vacations, sickness, maternity and paternity leave)
– what else?
Example: google empowering website owners to make money via advertising.
Already 20% and 10-15% moonlighting. In a decade: more than 50% freelancing.
(At roughly 36 minutes in… talking to Arun Sundararajan)
“The basic building blocks of capitalism are being revolutionized…” (26:00)
No employees and no assets. Owns as little as it possibly can. (26:30)
Why now? Kozmo (1998) failed, but technology and economy are different now. Ready for it.
– coincided with technology (everyone has smartphones/GPS. not special equipment)
– people are desperate for work
– good for students
– good for consumers options in certain segments. “Live like kings and queens?”
– If you’re a middle-aged man or woman with bills to pay, you’re in trouble
What needs to change? (39:00)
– many european countries are much more ready for this new economy because of luck. bad luck for US (39:40)
– STATE needs to be responsible OR – obamacare is a step
– (40:30) OR platforms (uber/lyft/etc) will step up to give benefits to prevent employees from switching to a different one (or be required to)
– OR drivers will form coops — collective “uber” (41:40)
– peers.org — platform for safety net (41:10) — health insurance/workers comp — REF: http://www.mercurynews.com/business/ci_27062833/peers-unveils-products-workers-sharing-economy)
– quoting Tom Goodwin in Techcrunch
“Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate.”
– “Companies want to get down to 0 if possible. It’s the capitalism of nothing… zero commitments to people longterm.” – Adrian Wooldridge (at 42:50)
– marketmakers. Only an algorithm. Employ spare “capacity” (unemployed people, free homes, cars, etc.)
– “Sounds like a present, and certainly future in which we’re all going to have to be very Zen to flow thru all this marvelous fluidity… if indeed it’s marvelous.” — Tom Ashbrook
A commenter: “A floating slave workforce in the land of the greedy just waiting around to fan the pharoahs.” (37:00)
“A hard time for workers in general. A lot less income stability over time.”
“If you are a middle-aged man or woman with a family and bills to pay, mortgage to pay, you’re suddenly projected into a much more uncertain world” (38:30)