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Glad they're down, and hope the whole "gig economy" burns down too.

Where gig economy = padding the loss of decent jobs by replacing the bottom end with desperate deals where "non employed" employees, without regular salary, benefits, company provided work tools, etc., make a pittance, while the organizing company gets a cut from millions of transactions.

In some cases, no jobs is better than subsistence/dead-end/exploitative jobs. At least the former makes the problem evident, and ups the pressure to do something about it on a society/policy/economy level -- as opposed to helping perpetuate it.




I think this is what worries me about the "mainstream" debate that might be incorrectly framing the whole problem altogether.

Here, the rise of the gig economy came from automation. Not in the caricature sense that there are robot automatons that serve your plates in a restaurant, but in a sense that scalable automated processes replaced human dispatchers that answers your phone calls at the taxi companies and radios drivers to pick you up, and automated processes that replaced taxi drivers wandering around aimlessly on the street trying to pick people up.

Here we get higher productivity but it's also a powerful hegemonizing, monopolizing, wealth concentrating force where the controllers of these automated processes, which scales globally at low cost, can skim value-add (that used to be done by more people with jobs) from the transportation and other needs everywhere.

But the solution isn't to break them up and for society to become unproductive and un-automated again by forcing minimum wage, health insurance, guaranteed menial jobs etc. Whether we like it or not, taxi radio dispatchers is never coming back as a mainstream job that can be the bedrock of local communities again.

Instead, we need to start having discussions now about the fundamental way how we structure human society in a world where more and more of this planet's 'productivity' is concentrating more and more in the hands of those who produce the AI automations. This is nothing short of answering the question of why we're alive. Right now, our sense of purpose comes from trading our muscular and mental power during life on this planet for GDP. If that's the metric, our muscular and mental powers' productivity vs AI will lose (maybe in 5 years, maybe in 10 years), and by implication, we lose our purpose for living. We need to stop pretending there is an artificial scarcity of productivity and change the purpose of life.

This is a Sanders vs Yang timeline of solving the problems we need to solve in the next 5 years vs solving the problems we need to solve in the next 20 years.


Wealth is accruing to people with power and capital. The people who produce automations are laborers like the rest of society, just with a temporarily elevated standard of living. As writing software is deskilled and supplanted, it'll be increasingly apparent that we were just a midterm necessary evil to the people signing our paychecks.

To me, the central problem is wealth disparity as a proxy for power disparity: our democratic government is more than capable of addressing our ongoing needs and desires if not for the overwhelming, unjust, and unearned influence of the wealthy.

This is why I think Sanders has the correct prescription and Yang is naive: the solution isn't a policy or set of policies to fix specific problems, no matter how farsighted, it's restructuring our political system to be solely answerable to people who it feigns to represent.


> The people who produce automations are laborers like the rest of society, just with a temporarily elevated standard of living.

And the illusion that tech workers are not laborers is giving out under the weight of the high cost (hence lowered standard) of living in tech centers, and the growing realization that we're not temporarily embarrassed billionaires.


Right (and slightly orthogonal, back to the mode of production topic), I think we can treat it in 2 ways:

1- We recognize this Bonds villain plan, we stop it and go back to our happy pastural life and everyone lives happily ever after; or

2- We grant ourselves this new productivity as a reward that frees us from labor (but in the process have to answer the hard question of how to deal with going from solving the conflict between the 1% and the 99% to solving the conflict between the 0.0001% and the 99.9999%)


The thing is this beautiful new freedom from labour is also freeing us from subsistence. I see it all over London where I am - there’s now a permanent underclass with no chance of getting up in the social ladder because they are doing jobs such as cleaning, maintenance, baristas... stuff that requires no specialised skills but most importantly will never allow you to pay for your children’s way into higher education. Thus I fear we are permanently removing 30-40% and increasing numbers from the social ladder.

If we keep automating everything and capital gets to own the cloud processing power that allows for it, and we “rent everything” as some people are predicting, what the hell earning power will anyone have unless they work in AI or programming new things to automate?


First, I don't think the rich are cartoonishly evil, Machiavellian, or even particularly interesting. It doesn't take superhuman skill or sociopathy to live off other people's labor. They're just trapped in a game they can't help but win and are by definition incapable of walking away from.

Second, the idea that there is a 'we' encompassing the 1% and 99% or some future and even more fractional segmentation is unrealistic. There's already been millennia of slavery and serfdom: let's not repeat them by trusting that our seat at the table is somehow ordained and not the result of centuries of people fighting from chattel to power on our behalf.

If we can't achieve even the most basic, obvious reforms (a universal healthcare system, a livable wage, an end to global warming in our lifetimes) given the current power structure, then contributing to the further entrenchment of the wealthy isn't just counterproductive, it's suicidal.


How is Sander's solution different from Yang's? Asking, since I don't know?


Sanders is more focused on New-Deal style policies: expand Medicare to cover everyone, make public colleges tuition-free, and that sort of thing. His approach is more-or-less to shore up or expand the institutions we have and make sure everyone can get the education they need to compete.

Yang's approach is UBI: basically, give everyone monthly income with no strings attached and no means testing.

In both cases, the cost of the policies is offset by various forms of taxes.

Bernie's approach rests on the assumption that there are and will be enough jobs for everyone (if they have adequate access to the education, health care, and child care services they need), whereas Yang's is based on the assumption that there won't be.

In the long run, I figure that Yang is right (though we could also deal with the problem by transitioning to 30 or 20 hour work weeks), though Sanders' policy proposals better address the major problems we're dealing with right now.


Fundamentally, Yang suggests a technocratic approach: pass a certain policy (UBI) that would likely fix lots of things if passed, and then observe it work and adjust as necessary.

Sanders doesn't AFAIK support a UBI, but on top of a slew of left-wing policies, his perspective is that you need a mass movement of people to build institutions that can challenge corporate power.


I'm not saying he's right, but I think Yang's policy towards that is to give everyone $100 for them to donate to the politician/party they wish to "drown out corporate lobbying".

I'm not saying that'll work (or that it won't) but for the sake of it, that's his policy.

He also wishes to implement preferential voting.


I wonder if you could set it up such that all donations go into a pot/fund, and then have each person vote for the party they wish to receive the funds proportional to that vote.


Right. Using perhaps right-wing friendly terminologies, Yang is closer to the equality of opportunity end of the spectrum and Sanders is closer to the equality of outcome end.


Probably not a popular opinion on a board for entrepreneurially-inclined programmers, but this is the truth.


Adam Smith addressed this in "The Wealth of Nations." The coal furnace door opening children all got fired when one of them discovered they could tie the door handle to the piston and open the door automatically for the coal shovelers.

This isn't an AI problem. This is an owner vs. employee problem. Advances in technology accrue to the owners at the expense of the employee. This always happens because employees sign over rights to their innovations to the employer in exchange for a short term need for money.

Most people never take the time or spend the money to invest in themselves.


Whatever your opinion of college is, last I checked people are still treating it as an investment in themselves.


Yep, this is a fascinating (and scary) thing to think about.

What will happen to a society where every single person has their basic needs met by some form of automation, and nobody needs to work?

I would say most first world countries are already in this scenario if so much money wasn't spent on non essentials. Industrial scale farming, mass produced pharmaceuticals, rapid house construction etc. mean that if a society wanted, you could have 10% of the population providing for the 90% (an inversion of what was the case for most of human history).

There is no precedent or example from history to show us what this will do to society. How will humans cope with not actually needing to do anything? I personally envisage a Matrix like scenario where this societal change will also usher in advances in VR and related tech. People may spend most of their time engrossed in entertainment, until eventually, they see no need to participate in the real world at all.


>What will happen to a society where every single person has their basic needs met by some form of automation, and nobody needs to work?

Those who control the "means of automation" (robot factories, power stations, etc) --let's say 0.01%--, will rule over the rest, in gated communities and closed enclaves.

A small percentage of the population will live alongside them, in B-rated residences, to provide them services that, either still need humans or are better done by humans (e.g. sex), or its considered "classier" to have humans do for you (e.g. cooking). Let's say that's a 10%.

The rest 90% will be left to rot in urban and suburban slums, develop their own black economy, and shot on sight when they dare enter the rich areas.

https://www.amazon.com/Planet-Slums-Mike-Davis/dp/1784786616

https://www.amazon.com/City-Quartz-Excavating-Future-Angeles...


The irony of your amazon links at the bottom of the rant is delicious. Given the pessimism of your comment (not saying its wrong), Im surprised you didn't factor in how much the rich will invest in sex robots. Imagine if Bezos invested the same amount he's going to lose in the divorce settlement into human-like robotics. Brothels are illegal in much of the western world, but the first person to put $1bn into the sexbot industry will clean up, no laws against fucking a toaster!


The other bleaker outcome is that anybody who doesn't support the needs of the 0.01% will just be wiped out since they no longer serve a purpose. Think about it: sweatshops will be replaced by robots, menial healthcare tasks performed by robots, garbage collectors, janitors etc. None of them needed. So why give them food provided by the robotic farms? The only thing stopping a mass population wipe out by the technocracy is altruism.


Will be left? Come on down to New Orleans and take a tour of Peter Thiel’s cameras!


Right, and the next logical follow-up question is did we just define 'providing' wrong.

Right now, that definition is commercial GDP value, but even that metric's inventor warned us that it's a bullshit metric [1].

Old people living by themselves sometimes spam call doctors, not for their heart bypass commercial value, but to feel materially better after talking to another human, which has no commercial value.

When I was trying to figure out what to do after high school, I was full of energy and curiosity for this world and wanted to do everything from being a historian, to a musician, to astrophysics, which, let's face it, has no commercial value. Now I'm coding. Luckily I like coding, but not everyone's lucky to have their interests align with commercial value.

Maybe it's not so bad for humans to be humans again.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gross_domestic_product#History


seems like a false proposition, considering today a smartphone is a basic human need if you want to be able to apply to jobs. even the homeless need to have one. have-not is relative to the haves that you compete with in various markets.


the last man


> But the solution isn't to break them up and for society to become unproductive and un-automated again by forcing minimum wage, health insurance, guaranteed menial jobs etc.

I don't know if you know anything about 1990s-early 2000s artificial intelligence research, but the vision of the future back then was artificial agents communicating through standardized protocols to negotiate for goods and services.[1] So, a decentralized dispatching system. What you are saying is false dichotomy monopolist propaganda. There is no technical reason why the only choice is between Uber and manual dispatching.

[1] I spent a few summers as a research assistant working on multi-agent systems. Feel free to object with "but, it's not technically feasible because X, Y, Z." I can probably refute most technical reasons and provide a good explanation.


> more and more of this planet's 'productivity' is concentrating more and more in the hands of those who produce the AI automations.

Sometimes I think folks who think like this really need to get outside more. Yes, a lot of things are being automated, but (a) consider the janky quality of automation, because it's really not mature yet even in purely-software environments where everything can be controlled, and (b) consider the raw cost of doing it vs. the productivity savings and side effects. It's just not worth it for a lot of things and won't be until we have general-purpose AI and general-purpose robotic workers that can take on human-scale jobs. Even then, it might still be cheaper to get actual people in a lot of cases.

But even if so: as someone who implements something you might call automation, like most here, I have to ask: why is it exactly that I should owe a massive amount of my economic output to those who aren't outputting anything? At what point do I simply say "fuck it" and stop working too, because some ridiculous percentage of my income has to be applied towards feeding those who won't/can't/don't do anything productive?


> Sometimes I think folks who think like this really need to get outside more. Yes, a lot of things are being automated, but (a) consider the janky quality of automation, because it's really not mature yet even in purely-software environments where everything can be controlled, and (b) consider the raw cost of doing it vs. the productivity savings and side effects. It's just not worth it for a lot of things and won't be until we have general-purpose AI and general-purpose robotic workers that can take on human-scale jobs. Even then, it might still be cheaper to get actual people in a lot of cases.

I think that's the general mental mismatch that people have when thinking there's a 1:1 match between the present human job and the future 'robot job'.

Cashiers is the most common job in America and the biggest job loss to automation in the coming years. But it's not some Boston Dynamics humanoid fumbling your quarters around. Nor does it have anything to do with general-intelligence AI. It's simply the task specific orange forklift bots in Amazon warehouses that's wiping out American retail because with that bot, stuff on Amazon is a bit cheaper than in malls.

> But even if so: as someone who implements something you might call automation, like most here, I have to ask: why is it exactly that I should owe a massive amount of my economic output to those who aren't outputting anything? At what point do I simply say "fuck it" and stop working too, because some ridiculous percentage of my income has to be applied towards feeding those who won't/can't/don't do anything productive?

I think that's the core question. Why are you giving away your hard earned money to feeding your child? There is no GDP output from the child.


> Why are you giving away your hard earned money to feeding your child? There is no GDP output from the child.

There will be, eventually; and I get to glorify my selfish genes.


>Sometimes I think folks who think like this really need to get outside more. Yes, a lot of things are being automated, but (a) consider the janky quality of automation, because it's really not mature yet even in purely-software environments where everything can be controlled, and (b) consider the raw cost of doing it vs. the productivity savings and side effects.

That just pushes the problem some decades into the future.

Besides, it doesn't have to be perfect. It's enough that it renders a good chunk (say 20-60%) of the population useless job wise to have adverse effects.

In fact, if it wasn't for tons of paper-pushing and busywork serving as a sort of job program and UBI scheme, we'd be in deep shit already, just from the job migration to China and co, never mind AI.

>But even if so: as someone who implements something you might call automation, like most here, I have to ask: why is it exactly that I should owe a massive amount of my economic output to those who aren't outputting anything? At what point do I simply say "fuck it" and stop working too, because some ridiculous percentage of my income has to be applied towards feeding those who won't/can't/don't do anything productive?

For one, because they can get guns and come and blow your brains out and steal your food. So now you need to pay for cops, and government, or your private militia and so on.

Second, because your quality of life, even if ultra rich will drop quickly in a failed country, when people are unemployed and not "outputting anything". In fact the whole country might go down the drain...


This comment is excellent and needs to be emphasized more.

> Besides, it doesn't have to be perfect. It's enough that it renders a good chunk (say 20-60%) of the population useless job wise to have adverse effects.

Ya - within the US at least (current unemployment around 3%?), it does not even have to be at 20 - 60%. My feeling is that even 10 - 15% unemployment or below living wages would lead to revolts, especially if the unemployment is somewhat geographically concentrated.


Okay, Mr. Galt.

You owe a massive amount of your economic output to others because you stand on the shoulders of people who are standing on the shoulders of people who are standing on the shoulders of people... and it's not a simple pyramid, but one giant ball of interdependence that will be thrown into chaos if a critical mass of people try to buck off their riders.

You can't pay the guy specifically holding you up, and not anyone else, because no one can truly identify their keystone supporters. So you pay a bunch of free riders, too, because that's the only way to ensure your supporters stay happy enough to carry you. And they may think that you aren't outputting anything of value to them, and they only carry you because they can't tell who's throwing all the bread down from above.

I pay freeloaders, because I don't want to fall off the ball, onto my fat ass, and fend for myself, using only what I had on hand when I dropped.

If someone engineered a more efficient society, where everyone has a useful and necessary role, for which they each have an individual advantage, and waste is unsupportable--such as for bootstrapping an off-Earth colony--I might join that, but then still accept that I will implicitly be supporting future generations of freeloaders by accumulating capital that will outlast me.

You don't want an accounting on what you are truly worth to society at large. Trust me.


> I pay freeloaders, because I don't want to fall off the ball, onto my fat ass, and fend for myself, using only what I had on hand when I dropped.

Ok, fine, but if taxes get high enough, along with the benefits, you can expect some people to stop caring and start becoming freeloaders themselves.

Don't be surprised when people just say "screw it, this isn't worth it anymore, I am going to become a freeloader myself".


In my experience there are a lot of people working who would make industry more efficient if they could just freeload instead of faking it.


>Ok, fine, but if taxes get high enough, along with the benefits, you can expect some people to stop caring and start becoming freeloaders themselves.

Some people yes. Good riddance from productivity to them.

The people with actual internal motivation would do inventions, great work, art, programming, etc, even if they're not getting mega-rich from it.

It might slow the speed of mega-corps and new gadgets every month, but perhaps that's just what the doctor ordered. More quality, less greedy obsolescence, longer term products, more personal vision (as opposed quick-buck-schemes).


People are already starting to do this, in a time of immense economic prosperity. Look around at the "able-homeless" in the SF bay area.


That's self-limiting, because if that happens, it drives inflation, which drives the real benefit levels down at the same nominal benefit level, which makes fewer people feel like they can afford to opt out. As long as benefits are tied to revenues rather than inflation-indexed, negative feedback market forces limit opt-outs.


> At what point do I simply say "fuck it" and stop working too, because some ridiculous percentage of my income has to be applied towards feeding those who won't/can't/don't do anything productive?

Econ 101 opinion here, so I'm ignoring totally reasonable things like "people work for reasons other than monetary compensation" and assuming you're a rational participant in the economy, but I'd say there is no percentage at which you'd do that.

No matter how high a percentage is taken, you can always increase the topline number to make the bottom line number come out ahead of not working. I'd take a 99% tax on $1 billion/year over $14k/year in social insurance taxed at 0% if it were offered.

Anyway, isn't this similar to what the comp of people implementing something you might call automation is already doing in US tech hubs? We've had relatively low inflation in the US over the past decade (by CPI, anyway) but I can find you an article by Joel Spolsky from the aughts lamenting the fact that some tech companies were paying top new grads nearly $100k a year.


This is incorrect as the time-value of money is different for different people. If the choice is between a high pressure job with ~$100k after tax earnings or a mid pressure job with ~$70k after tax earnings, where the high pressure one is at a 90% bracket vs. the 50% bracket of the lower one, rational people may decide on the lower impact job.


> but I'd say there is no percentage at which you'd do that.

Huh? If I were getting, I don't know, 200k a year, for free, I'd probably quit.

Of course there is a level where that vast majority of people would simply not work anymore.

Rich people do this literally all the time. It's called "retirement".


There is a big factor that you are missing when it come to huge taxes. And that is the fact that people, especially the wealthy, are mobile.

Tax the wealthiest 0.01% at 99% and watch how fast they leave the country for low tax regions.

It already happens with people like the Facebook cofounder that renounced US citizenship.


I hear this a lot. I will believe it when I see it. Silicon Valley is crazy expensive. Why do people go there? Why don't the wealthy of Silicon Valley live someplace cheaper?

Because that is where the action and the talent is. It's not just about money and cost of living.

Also the 0.01 are so absurdly wealthy many are pledging to give away their money. They are not going to move away from their homeland because they are taxed more.



> why is it exactly that I should owe a massive amount of my economic output to those who aren't outputting anything? At what point do I simply say "fuck it" and stop working too, because some ridiculous percentage of my income has to be applied towards feeding those who won't/can't/don't do anything productive?

There's no easy way of attributing value to invention. Does the inventor / automator really deserve all of the profit that would come from such automation for all of eternity?

What if another person was only 2 months behind in making the same invention? And 2 months after that, a 3rd person was destined to, and within 2 years, the idea would be so obvious that the top 5 percentile of that profession would have been able to come up with the same thing? Why should the first person / company to automate something deserve an eternal monopoly on the output of said automation?


And exactly how is the output of an automated system "your output"? The output of setting up an automated system is, the automated system. The output of that system is, surely an interesting question at least.


this kind of thinking so vastly underestimates the creative capacity of humans and the amazing nimbleness of the invisible hand, not to mention the sheer vastness of existence itself. humans will work on other, bigger, more varied, and more complex problems. we have not solved the universe yet, let alone understand even the basic workings of biochemical machinery. there is a crap ton of things we can apply our mental capacity to. we've had this kind of worry since at least the industrial revolution, and somehow we're all still working, despite unprecedented productivity and an order of magnitude more people.

UBI is a patronizing and elitist social welfare pipe dream to address a problem that doesn't exist. as silly as 'social media influencers' may be, they're an apt example of how the world changes in unexpected ways to accomodate the ambitions of some of the billions of people on this earth with active brains and pumping hearts.


Ya, rereading what I wrote, I might have missed a part of what I was trying to address.

I don't think anyone is proposing that humans then do nothing and watch VR porn while being tube fed for the rest of their lives. There is indeed an infinite amount of things left to do.

The question is given this 'initial condition' where everyone is where they are currently in 2019, who does that work.

Is it the 56 year old truck driver who's now 100k in the hole for the truck he bought that's now useless with automated trucks and who's using his disability benefits to feed his opiate problems from the painkillers he needed for his back from all the hours in the truck? If he's not the guy we're putting in CERN trying to demonstrate the next Higgs field interaction, what do we do with him?


first, while long-haul interstate driving is probably the easiest type of driving to automate, it's pretty audacious to assume that automated trucks will take over the industry any time soon. there are still many social, political and legal issues to wade through, never mind the economic and technical.

but to follow your line of reasoning, what you do is walk up to him and say, "hey, in the next 10 years, your job is going to be automated. every year, your chances of losing your job goes up. what do you want to do? [...listens...] ok, let's set up a transition plan and make sure you're ready when the time comes." and who knows, maybe he's a hobby machinist, and can work for CERN custom-building the crazy one-off contraptions they need.

it's paternalistic and patronizing to make assumptions about the abilities and motivations of millions of people and 'solve' their problem for them. it's how we get misguided social programs that waste billions of dollars (i'm not against social programs, just misguided ones, and they're really, really tricky to structure properly).


Ah, I see where you're coming from. I mean retraining just seems to make sense and we all want it to work, but pragmatically, they just don't https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2018/01/the-fa....

Our mental plasticity just has age related limits.

I'd also debate the conclusion you're making on which approach is more patronizing. I'd assume giving you (and everyone) the means to make your own choices with money is less patronizing than appointing your specific job as a lost cause and appointing new jobs for you to go train yourself for.


the point wasn't that retraining is "the answer" (or appointing of jobs) but that owners/managers/leaders should talk to the people involved to find solutions. it's otherwise patronizing and arrogant to bestow solutions from on high.

also, on people's intrinsic motivations: people don't want money in and of itself. people want esteem (e.g., status) and influence (e.g., power). jobs and careers provide those things; handouts do not.


i agree with you in spirit. but as it stands, whether due to genetics, upbringing, education, social class and/or opportunity, the vast majority of humans are not capable of creatively working on those complex problems and never will be no matter how much retraining they are provided. UBI is a solution for this increasing large proportion of humanity. (which i, as a developer, will join soon enough.)


> change the purpose of life

We are not sophisticated enough to get roads fixed and keep the water supply clean. Long way to go. Don't fall for people who tell you it can happen faster, until they have fixed the roads and cleaned the water in one town.


If the economic incentive was there, we would have fixed roads and clean water supply, it's a solved problem, it's just not scaled across all of society because it costs $$$.

The argument being made is that the drivers of loss of jobs are progress, and the jobs being created as a result of this are not going equitably towards the people displaced.

The purpose of life argument isn't saying that you will have clean water and fixed roads when AI automates you out of the job, it's the opposite - you won't have a fixed road or clean water because you don't matter. The money ain't near you or your run-down, economically irrelevant, town.


If it's a solved problem show me the fixed roads and clean water and I will buy what you are selling. Do it in one town.

There is no need to debate and discuss anything more if you have proof for the simplest case.


You want me to show you a road that has been fixed and a water supply that is clean? I mean, look at any major city with significant wealth?

I don't understand your argument at all. It's unrelated to people being automated out of a job and the structure of our society changing. We aren't going towards a utopia where everything is perfect, we are talking about a stumbling forward into the unknown, all our crummy parts bolted onto us.


I was responding to your framing things as a choice between a 5 year time frame Vs a 20 time frame. How can anyone asses without proof a 5 year time frame is possible? So I said don't fall for people who claim they can do things fast without asking for proof. Otherwise anyone can claim anything is possible by tomorrow.


I’m not convinced this is even on the list of things that need to considered in the next 5 years. If we triage “the problems” this is take 2 aspirin and call me in the morning.

Climate, healthcare, immigration, requires focus to fix correctly


The solution is to replace the monopoly companies with public decentralized protocols that will enable a large shared network of customers to be serviced by a competing field of companies that plug into it.


That's still a classic Sanders vs Yang mentality to the problem. I'm not saying that the public forcing more competition isn't good, but it's orthogonal.

If we broke Uber into 1000 Uberlets, it still doesn't change that their only path out is still to be first in replacing all drivers with AI. As pro union, pro minimum wage, pro health benefit, pro 3 day weekend as I am, taxi driver jobs are still not coming back. There just aren't going to be sustainable mining towns or fishing towns or trucker stop towns.

This doesn't answer the humanity in 2050 question. And we need to start answering that question now.


There are a few decades between then and now. In 2050 your job will be automated also.


This is the longest-winded name for a "free market" that I've ever heard


"In some cases, no jobs is better than subsistence/dead-end/exploitative jobs"

Sure, but neither you or I get to decide that qualification. Only the person doing the job does. We don't really know what fits their lives or what options they have.

I don't like gig stuff/sharing economy (or the big 'unicorns' associated with it) either...but it is "another option" for many people that wouldn't have one, esp. lower skilled immigrants, minorities, retired and young people.


I feel like this misses something crucial to how most of these arrangements work: the worker is unable to put value on the gig. That is the real asymmetry. The gig worker's car wears down, requires gas, oil changes, and gets beat up by the road, but from his perspective he sees $25. Do you think Uber would even try to estimate that number?! (which they almost certainly could). Its essentially capitalization on a huge information asymmetry.


What happened to personal responsibility? Is that out the window as well? Or do we need intervention, similar to how parents point their kids in the proper direction to go?


The point in having a society at all is the recognition that by agreeing on a set of rules, organizing ourselves to cooperate, people are better off.

The "what about personal responsibility" can be applied to most things society offers you. Law enforcement? Buy your own gun and defend yourself. Firefighters? Buy your own water hose. Exploitive employers? Grow your own backbone.


>Law enforcement? Buy your own gun and defend yourself. Firefighters? Buy your own water hose. Exploitive employers? Grow your own backbone.

Those first two aren't similar because I don't volunteer to have crime committed against me or for my house to burn down. People voluntarily drive for Uber.


People drive for Uber because Uber forces traditional taxi companies out of business by (a) breaking the law and (b) losing 5.2B.


What laws is Uber breaking, or has it broke? Can you provide a citation? As far as I've been able to determine through research, the claim that Uber was breaking the law is largely a myth.

Most cities have historically not regulated transportation providers where the customer contracts with the provider ahead of time, or they are regulated in a different class and much more leniently than taxis. "Black car" aka livery and limousine services have existed long before Uber, and were not breaking the law in cities where they operated.

Most cities consider taxis to be vehicles that can be hailed by riders at the curb, where the trip is not pre-arranged and the customer has no prior business relationship with the transportation provider. Although Uber now has the ability to book actual taxis in some cities, this is not the category in which Uber historically operated.

Uber was able to grow quickly in part because it tapped into the large established base of private car services. These services existed in cities all over the world, but there was no unified interface to book cars with them. That's the niche that Uber filled. If you talk to many drivers today, they work for these companies (or own their own small company) and use Uber to fill their downtime.

For more information on this, see: "How does Uber overcome taxi medallion regulations?" on Quora: https://www.quora.com/How-does-Uber-overcome-taxi-medallion-...

> Before Uber and ride sharing, not all cars with personal driver for hires were taxis. You also had livery cars (such as limousine or black cabs) and various other systems. In cities that enforce a medallion system, taxis have more rights than livery cars; specifically, they are authorized to respond to street hails, ie to pick a passenger that waves at them from the street. Livery cars only can take a pre-arranged trip. As the number of medallions is limited, the right to take street hails is exclusive to taxis.

> Uber can be used to book taxis in certain markets but the vast majority of Uber trips are not taxi rides. Originally, the Uber service was what is Uber Black today, bringing business to livery cars. The cars were already licensed, insured and authorized to operate. They weren’t allowed to pick up a person on the street (still aren’t) but if a trip was booked to the app, it’s considered pre-arranged. So this didn’t change much from a legal perspective.


Automation? Make your own AI, aka "learn to code". At least in this one case, there's strong cultural pushback


Personal responsibility works both ways. Just because Uber is an organization doesn't mean they shouldn't be beholden to an ethical, and equal, working arrangement that is fair to both parties. The difference here is, as others have noted, Uber has entire departments devoted to maximizing their profits with little to no care for the driver. It's clear Uber always only wanted human drivers as a way to bootstrap development into a completely driverless service. What Uber is failing on is spreading themselves too thin. They're focused on both global expansion to compete with rivals AND sinking exorbitant capital into R&D for things that don't seem to be playing out as fast as they'd like. I said it in a thread before Uber went IPO but nobody should have expected the street to be good to Uber. I realize this was as a way for them to get to the next level, but I believe history will reflect poorly on Uber as lesson learned in what was a great idea that turned into a greedy model that eventually backfired. I only hope ride-sharing lives on in a way that is better positioned to fund the driver. I think it's clear there's a model that supports the back end services with the bulk of the revenue going to the driver that is sustainable.


The reality is that the passengers don’t care about the driver, and the drivers are businesses looking for the highest paying passengers there are, with a choice of Lyft or Uber or any other matching service. This is like how northern America was back when it was full of farmers. People were self-employed, their own masters, and nobody buying their crops owed them charity.


I'm a big personal responsibility advocate myself, but I'm also someone who was stumped today trying to pick the best deal on kitchen paper in the supermarket.

A market only works efficient when there is information parity, but a small-time Uber driver can't put a data science team on the job to make sure Uber isn't abusing their information advantage, so in this case i'd only find it fair to require them to do those calculations in a transparent manner.


Haven't other people already done the analysis as to why driving for Uber is a bad financial decision? The average driver isn't equipped to do the financial analysis, but surely he could do a bit of reading online about a future career.


Honest question: Have you done the numbers on your career? Researched it to some degree that gives you serenity?

Like really doing it in Excel, instead of just looking at ballpark estimates and thinking "yeah that's gonna be enough"?

Many people don't think of themselves and their position in life in this fashion and rather have a moralistic view of the world: "If I work a lot, I'll feed my family!" and just assume that is what is going to happen, based on the values they were taught growing up / in school / on tv.


Not the person you replied to, but I have. And given the venue, I'm guessing many others here have too. Also, Excel is unnecessary and perhaps even harmful; all you're doing is providing false precision because the uncertainty is too big unless you're a public servant or something. Ballpark estimates are all you're going to get for any multi-decade forecast involving literally anything. But none of this is too relevant to your actual point, so I'll move on.

> Many people don't think of themselves and their position in life in this fashion and rather have a moralistic view of the world: "If I work a lot, I'll feed my family!" and just assume that is what is going to happen, based on the values they were taught growing up / in school / on tv.

This is true and unfortunate, but the solution isn't to subsidize this mindset, the solution is to change the values people are taught growing up / in school / on tv. Not because I think it's necessarily bad to hold a moralistic view of the world, but because economics doesn't give a shit and will steamroll any clumsy attempt to provide shelter for the naive.


I'm not expecting people to do their own data analysis. That's my whole point. I do expect that an adult would do something like Google their new prospective career, talk to people about it, or read about it.

That Uber is a bad company to drive for isn't exactly a state secret. A bit of research (e.g. a Google search) will point out some problems.

https://www.google.com/search?q=how+much+money+will+i+make+d...


Great question. I mean that. But maybe put differently:

> What is happening to personal responsibility?

It sure as heck is changing a lot when powerful players derive algorithmic insight that allows them to know/predict us better than we can ourselves and our communities, plus three things:

1. we can't keep up as individuals, 2. our governments (the last invention that helped us keep up,) can't keep up, and 3. we haven't evolved current institutions (including companies) to keep up on our behalf.

My money is on co-operatives -- democratic companies: [tech] worker co-ops and #platformcoop

We need things to push back, this time not on authority/power/money (old labour organizing days) so much as push back on capacity to know us and render us easily legible and influenced

Here's a place if you care to explore how tech folks are starting to play with this old-as-the-hills stuff that maybe hasn't been urgent enough up until now: https://community.coops.tech


Interesting, I feel it's actually getting even easier to make responsible decisions, without the advice I got from the internet I'd probably be picking individual stocks and my mortgage structure would look a lot worse.

Carrying a calculator in your pocket even helps make those little decisions at the store easier.


Ah I can see that. But it feels like a red herring to me...?

As in, those gains aren't accruing equally. Even among people, tech savvy monetizable upper-middle class people get tech sic'd on their dilemmas first. But between orgs and people, I worry it's an even bigger chasm. It's Piketty's "Capital in the 21st Century" in recursion, where accrual of knowledge capital (specifically about individuals, and their probability space of actions accessible through newfound data streams), not financial capital.

Anyhow, thanks for engaging :)


I think the challenge is that the tech is moving so fast that there is no line where the judicial system has said: "Hey Uber, that's over the line."

Credit Card and loan rates are two examples where some people would be so desperate that they would sign _anything_ to get an advance of cash or credit. But we have protection for them and rates cannot exceed a certain amount, depending on the type of loan.


The judicial system in many places has said that Uber have crossed the line. It's been a big part of their business model.


A giant corporation with entire departments dedicated to calculating pay, customer demand, fuel costs, maintenance, and depreciation, and figuring out the optimal way to screw people out of as much as possible, versus desperate people who happen to own a car: who wins?

I’m sure that a lot of people make good money driving for these companies, but I’d bet there are a lot of people who don’t understand what it really costs to drive a car and end up essentially acting as a conduit for money from their car’s value to Uber’s bank account. Uber knows this and does nothing. In any other context, we’d call it a scam. When a scammer is operating, do we have any obligation to stop them, or is “personal responsibility” it?


Personal responsibility is still a thing in our society. And the fact that it's a society means we need to look out and care for each other.

It would be nice if we could cultivate a similar expectation of corporate responsibility towards workers and customers.

Uber's tactic of attracting drivers with decent pay rates that they knew were unsustainable then slowly chipping away at that over time is sleazy.


Next time you get screwed, in any capacity, you should live by your words and just assume your "personal responsibility".

You bought a car that was missing a very obscure but very critical peace in its brake assembly, and now it's embedded in another car in the middle of the intersection: Whatever happened to your personal responsibility in making sure that the car was complete?


Material wealth is not enough in itself - capital must have gained it through just means and emerge the victor of a fair competition. That’s the liberal conservative’s personal responsibility. I’m not sure about the Uber case, but try applying your argument to the case of tabacco - it still works.


YES! Uber should be personally responsible for reimbursing all costs. I'm glad you get it.


OP doesn’t mean

“For some people it’s better to have no job than a bad job”

(Maybe that’s true but as you say it’s their choice to make)

He is saying:

“For society, it’s actually harmful that we paper over the cracks of giving people on the margins of society confidence in how they can economically contribute and get meaning with unsustainable “jobs” rather than society actually being forced to confront this problem”.


I disagree. You assume that all actors have everything that is required for them to make an assessment on their own, which mostly boils down to information and data, but also includes skill, available time, and even to a certain degree little things like the energy they have available to them to make such life decisions (which the poster you replied to included, I think).

That is what we have regulations for.

Do you know and understand what is in your shampoo bottle? What a car needs to come equipped with, not just in obvious safety features but also in its deeper and detailed implementation, to be safe for normal use ("normal use" itself being something you get taught in driving school)? How to build your own house, or even just how to recognize that a building you enter will not fall down onto your head?

I, for myself, am very glad that regulations allow me to just assume certain ground truths in avoiding negative impact, without having to be an expert in every little thing that touches my life.


A large number of Uber drivers in many countries including the US are not particularly young or old and are white and have skills or professional careers.

The reason they drive for Uber is not a lack of skill. It's because they ran out of money and needed a job. Often having skills doesn't translate into having a good job. Good jobs are a limited resource per area and field.


I'm sorry but I disagree. Alluding to "maybe not knowing" whether someone wants to do something which has, plenty of times been demonstrated in economical and psychological terms to be detrimental is not a strong argument. It's just tossing a very sheer cover of "we don't know that" and ending there.


It's time to stop assuming startups are the solution to poor public policy. This is a thread topic in itself, but I cannot let the assertion stand ("any job is better than no job, what are you going to do about it?").


You're on a site where a large number of people are either running their own startups, employed by other startups or thinking about building their own startup. Shouldn't be surprised that many people here believe that startups are a panacea


One mustn't be from the village to state the emperor has no clothes. Lots of smart people here, people who could be putting their effort into something with more leverage and impact.

In the words of Toni Morrison (who recently left us): “When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.”


On the contrary, it's better to do something as in a startup, than to complain about public policy. When your system is broken, try to fix it, when that fails, workaround it.


But... it's an extremely specific viewpoint that Startup / Technology solution is the way to fix broken system.

For vast majority of people, the viewpoint would be that elected leaders making the "correct" decisions/rules (whatever we decide those are) is the actual long-term, proper fix. Technology is technology, it's a tool; and societal norms, rules, and regulations guide or decide how we use those tools.


In a perfect world sure. But doing nothing while waiting for a perfect world is far worse than fixing the problem at the wrong level.


Startups, and specifically VC culture, do not have aligned incentives with fixing society; in the end, their aim is to make money, not improve society.


Yes. But most every company makes the world a better place in a way. People pay less for products and services than they get in value - otherwise they wouldn't pay. So everyone ends up better off. There are things like negative externalities that complicate the picture.

In the specific case of uber, people benefit hugely from the service over the old way of how taxis worked (I know, I live in a place where ride sharing is illegal.) Uber's drivers can be thought of as exploited, but they're all there willingly, so I don't buy that for the most part. I've met so many drivers doing it parttime, entrepreneurs, students, retirees. They're better off for having options in general. Nobody is putting a gun to their heads.


Of course we get to decide. As citizens we get to vote and have our say in what we think is right.


> In some cases, no jobs is better than subsistence/dead- end/exploitative jobs. At least the former makes the problem evident, and ups the pressure to do something about it on a society/policy/economy level -- as opposed to helping perpetuate it.

I strongly disagree with this position. Yeah, sure, supporting people at the brink of poverty is one of the government's responsibilities, but taking away one of the few options they have goes in the opposite direction. Most of these gig-economy jobs differ from a regular job in that they're much easier to get, at least in most parts of Europe. If you meet a few basic requirements you're in. For people at risk, mentally ill people, and plenty of other segments of the population this is a real lifeline that they're not getting from anywhere else. This is keeping a roof over they head and food on the table.

Obviously, they're doing it because they can't get a better situation. Taking this option away is making them a lot more vulnerable, and doing them a lot of harm. It's not like they don't realise they're being exploited.

Sure, they should be supported etc. But that's just "shoulds", policy is difficult. For many, this gig-economy is an actual lifeline, that exists right now.


We have seen what happens when someone who should receive Government protection is able to get by without them; those protections are removed.

See the hospitality industry for an example. They have tips, so they don't get minimum wage.

The US government is famously bad at protecting people who need it. Anything which disguised that fact, even a little, should be removed.


We have seen what happens when someone who should receive Government protection is able to get by without them; those protections are removed.

If somebody is capable of providing for themselves, why "should" they be dependent on government services?

They have tips, so they don't get minimum wage.

Employers are required to make up the difference if tips don't reach minimum wage.

Anything which disguised that fact, even a little, should be removed.

Should be ban inexpensive food because it's just disguising how bad the government is at taking care of hungry people?


To remove the gig economy, you need legislative power. But if you have legislative power, you can create those protections.


I know of no one who drives for Uber/Lyft who doesn't think they are doing well. Seriously, where did this meme come about where they are all slaves to Uber? Between what two bring in each week and their mileage deductions they are tempting me at times.

the real tripe in the gig economy is all the pontificating coming down from top how they all care about rights of people, except it only is Western people they care about while those in China and other countries get run over by their governments.

The simple fact is, no employer has to make the job solve all your financial needs. It is up to you to find the job that fulfills your requirements and you can perform safely and well. if that takes more than one job then so be it, many of us have been there before and did it. you don't get anywhere waiting for someone else to fix your life


> I know of no one who drives for Uber/Lyft who doesn't think they are doing well.

Maybe because they didn't do the math on the depreciation of the vehicle + maintenance + car insurance with ride-sharing waivers vs. the income they receive from ride sharing. Then maybe we'd see a different opinion from drivers.


> if that takes more than one job then so be it, many of us have been there before and did it

No amount of hard work buys you the right to hire around wage and employment laws.


What does this even have to do with China?


Not all gig companies are the same.

Uber is not a real business. Nothing about hiring a driver or maintaining or running a car is cheaper now than before Uber. Uber will never be profitable unless people are willing to pay the same amount as for regular taxis or for a private driver (i.e. expensive).

Airbnb on the other hand is a real and vastly profitable business. Yes there need to be tighter regulations because we don’t want Airbnb everywhere. That will have a non-trivial effect on its business. But even after regulation it remains a very profitable and highly appealing consumer and business product.

The other difference is that Uber just gets you from A to B. I will never remember the car nor the driver. Even if the driving experience is great, I won’t be telling my friends about it.

Airbnb on the other hand provides memorable lifetime experiences.

No comparison.


> I will never remember the car nor the driver.

I will never forget the truck, driven by a young man from Haiti whose temporary protective status was days from expiring, that had a hole rusted through the floor pan. It was a scary ass ride, but I genuinely felt he was getting as much as he could before having to go home.

I'll never forget the asshole from NJ who decided that, because we were both white, he cold go on a crazed anti-semitic rant about his home owner's association.

I'll never forget the driver who pulled his SUV over, went around the back, and took a leak--on a busy street in Philly--into a plastic bottle he had back there.

I'll never forget the young woman who couldn't hear me yelling at her to turn her music down, only to find out she was whacked out of her mind.

I'll never forget the interesting ride my wife and I had with a guy who paints commercial aircraft for a living. My wife works in aerospace, and previously in general aviation. Hearing about his contract work was pretty neat.

I'll never forget the older woman who only drives on Fridays to make enough money to go to the movies with her friends and buy popcorn. I was back-and-forth between home and away at the time, and she actually offered to let me join her and her friends at the movies that night because my wife was away and I had nothing better to do.

There are definitely forgettable rides. But I've had a good share of memorable ones myself.

It pays to be human.


Spot on. I've had some crazy rides, and some terrific rides, but I always treat the car and the people with respect, which hasn't lead me astray yet. If you treat your uber/lyft driver like they're glorified taxi drivers, don't be surprised when all you get out of it is a mediocre ride from point A to point B at best.


I mean, they are taxi drivers, I wouldn't even consider them glorified. I'd treat my taxi drivers with respect too. "Glorified automaton" might be a better description for how you shouldn't treat them if you want something other than a mediocre ride.


Come on... that seems a bit dramatic. It just gets you from point A to B? It literally unlocks a ton of new point Bs that you could potentially never access or reasonable visit often.

Let's jump to Washington D.C. If you live in Northern Virginia or Maryland, you could take the Metro into town for a night out, but would almost certainly have a huge issue getting a cab driver to take you home.

Let's jump back to SF. North Beach to the Mission district. Separate sides of the town but without a cab, thats 2-3 bus transfers and forget even getting home late at night when it all stops running.

The accessibility aspect of Uber is massive. I don't think it's fair to discount that simply because the ride itself wasn't memorable...by that aspect, are airplane companies fake businesses? Does anyone really brag about the wonderful economy experience they have on Delta vs. United vs. American Airlines? Not really, but they certainly talk about the accessibility those services offer.


> Nothing about hiring a driver or maintaining or running a car is cheaper now than before Uber.

Uber can use better scheduling algorithms to ensure higher utilization factor of their fleet. If a taxi driver is driving 50% of the time and waiting for a fare other 50%, while Uber driver is driving 90% of the time and waiting 10%, the price for Uber ride could be lower while ensuring the same income level for the driver.


And yet, in practice, the idle and unpaid transit time for rideshare drivers is still quite high.


And yet... higher than taxis?


The only reason that taxis have been able to achieve any decent utilization at all is the medallion system which greatly restricts supply. Without artificially constraining supply at the expense of consumer demand, taxi utilization would be abysmal.


It doesn't really make sense to assume that utilization would be abysmal without constraining supply. The people who operate taxis are rational actors. People who operate taxis will simply exit (or not enter) the business if they're sitting around idle and not making money.


The problem is that vehicles in general cause negative externalities that the people driving them don't pay for, namely: Traffic congestion, localized pollution, and global pollution (CO2). FHVs are definitely susceptible to this phenomenon. Here in NYC we're having to implement a congestion tax in Manhattan to reduce the number of vehicles on the roads.

Admittedly, it is probably better to charge all vehicles for entering the most congested areas by their size (i.e. trucks pay more) than it is to pick and choose by artificially limiting just some types of vehicles while allowing unlimited numbers of others.


What does this have to do with taxis vs Uber? Did you mean to post this comment in some other thread?


The point is that you can't just let the market sort it out because the market doesn't care about negative externalities. There are legitimate reasons to artificially constrain the supply, i.e. implement a medallion system. This comment thread which you've wandered into is about the taxi medallion system.


>Uber is not a real business. Nothing about hiring a driver or maintaining or running a car is cheaper now than before Uber.

It's even worse, outsourcing maintenance, insurance, upkeep and whatnot to individuals is on the aggregate more expensive and time consuming than having a division of labour and a company who can manage these costs in bulk.


Yup. Uber is essentially in the business of selling $10 bills for $5. Certainly there is growth, but...


Not defending uber here -- they're shitty, and need to be replaced by #platformcoop's imho -- but you're perhaps underselling as "just A to B" because uber isn't openning any new "B"s from your "A"s, compared to taxi's.

If you were disabled, or in an urban transit desert or underserved community, then ridesharing is the direct bringer of new B's. That's the reality for a ton of people. This is not fringe. Many people were underserved by taxi's before, and this is huge for them.

https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2018/06/lyft-is-reach...


Uber provides the network of drivers and customers. With less friction anybody can order a taxi for a fixed price that is known upfront in their app. In the old world the price of a ride was mostly determined at the end of the trip and you would be lucky if you paid a lower price than an uber.

Im not a fan of uber nor lyft, although I have to say I like the competition they offer. I hope Tesla delivers their Robotaxi and slashes the whole taxi pricing game.


Yes there need to be tighter regulations because we don’t want Airbnb everywhere.

How come? It seems like a great company to me.


It's not the company they don't like, it's having an AirBNB as your neighbor. Many people don't like to live next to hotel rooms.


> How come?

Oh, I don't know, maybe because every host on the planet will "share" their room/apartment/house at exhoribtant nightly rates in lieu of renting by the month, which leads to housing shortages for people who need a place to live vs. those who are going to visit X part of the world for a few days.

The Airbnb-ification of the world is decidedly interesting for owners, while for everyone else an added hardship whether or not you use the service.


Uber and Lyft did the hard work of making ride-sharing mainstream, but there's really very little they have to offer other than name recognition) over any other player that tries to enter this play. I still strongly believe that some aggregating service like Expedia, Travelocity or Kayak for ride sharing the treats Uber, Lyft or any other player in the market as the equivalent of an airline would work fine in the vast majority of cases.

That, and I firmly believe Uber still deserves to be punished for its past bad behavior on so many fronts. I used to feel for the people working there that didn't contribute to the problem, and worry that any punishment too draconian would hurt them, but Uber got away with stuff so bad for so long, that I think anyone that didn't vote with their conscience and try to find somewhere else to work was taking a calculated risk, and it's not a risk if there's no chance of a negative outcome, so they reap what they sow. Anyone that didn't make the choice to leave ended up contributing to the problem by allowing Uber to ignore the consequences.


In Austin we have smaller ride share services that were able to thrive when Uber and Lyft got kicked out temporarily. They only charged the drivers $1.00 per ride instead of 25%. Such a deal can only be dreamed of since Uber and Lyft came back and crushed all the small players like flies. In my opinion this is not a service that requires billion dollar companies to exist. I would love to see an open source suite of software that allows local companies and municipalities to easily start a ride share service. At least then all of that economic activity would stay in the region instead of getting hoovered up into the pockets of millionaires in San Francisco (nothing against San Francisco or millionaires, I would just rather the local economy benefit).


You know, I also often think about (and have mentioned here) how it seems like an open stack or API of some sort could handle this, and I also used the Austin services back in 2013 when I visited for YAPC. I think it was the first time I ever installed an app to call a ride. I wonder how much that also shaped how I see the industry as it developed.


Uber and the gig economy are just a small part of a much larger trend. American labor has been increasingly devalued since the late 70s. The only difference is, opposed to say offshoring manufacturing jobs, that it's very visible to yuppies in SF and NYC rather than being isolated to rust belt towns and the midwest.


Most taxi drivers were already contractors before smartphones and they won't stop being independent even if Uber dies.

The solution is improving contractor employment laws and services to reflect new reality of the economy (technology lowering the barrier to join a contractor or temp jobs increasing their quantity). Not trying to end something that's not going away and many people find useful but making being a contractor not being treat as the bastard child of employment but a standard means of work.

In Canada you can't get proper unemployment benefits if you're a contractor (and you don't have an option to volunteer into one, you'd have to do it yourself), so if you get seriously sick, as what happened to me, you're S.O.L. for even basic money and have to depend on family. Between that, universal healthcare coverage, and stricter rules on what's defined as a 'full-time job' and you'd eliminate most problems.


The gig economy isn’t going anywhere, so eliminating an option isn’t helpful. Much rather see legislation that gives these workers more protections than a 1099 worker gets today.


>Where gig economy = padding the loss of decent jobs by replacing the bottom end with desperate deals where "non employed" employees, without regular salary, benefits, company provided work tools, etc., make a pittance, while the organizing company gets a cut from millions of transactions.

If you think that's bad, wait until you find out about the small business economy. Millions and millions of people run small businesses that end up losing money over the whole year and they have to pay for their own healthcare.

I can't wait until we legislate away these stupid people who currently have the autonomy to act as independent businesses.


> replacing the bottom end with desperate deals where "non employed" employees ... make a pittance, while the organizing company gets a cut from millions of transactions

The funny thing here is that, apparently, the "non employed employees" were still getting more than what they actually earned the company- which therefore isn't getting a nice cut, but rather a debt, from millions of transactions. So this looks like VC-founded low end jobs.


In a weird way, if you don’t work for those companies it’s basically that billionaires are subsidizing you. I wish they’d just build some parks, cathedrals, affordable housing and directly spend their ungodly amounts of money directly to benefit society though. We should be living in a gilded society for how much we make.


As a consumer, I love that a company more reliable than taxis exists. My mom has mobility because of Uber and Lyft. If they exploit folks, the drivers should get other jobs. (When it’s automated, there won’t be jobs in which people would be exploited)

For me the issue is unreliability of Services like UberEats.


“Uber, which aspires to become an Amazon-like store for all forms of transportation, is also investing in the development of autonomous cars, public transit deals, the expansion of its bicycle and scooter business, and in its freight delivery platform.”

Remember how amazon was never profitable for years and everyone missed the boat on crazy upside. Remember Tesla ? Remember facebook and twitter before they started making money on ads ? Just because of 2 quarter loss you can’t expect uber to shut down. Not even close, their product teams are already figuring out where to get more money from.

Its a different deal If you hate uber and want it to shut down but otherwise this is business as usual. I can’t imagine my life without uber.


Except Uber is not just 'not profitable' they are upside down after having been floated on nothing but VC money. Paying someone $2 for every $1 they give you is never going to be a sustainable business model.


They will raise prices in that case. Or we have yet to see some kind of advertising model from them.


> I can’t imagine my life without uber.

You literally can't imagine your life, if say, you lived in Vancouver?


I have never been there so really I cannot imagine :)...joking aside, I meant it in my current context. This can change in 10 years but honestly I do not enjoy driving in traffic so I am thankful for uber.


That's actually a pretty good point. I vehemently dislike commuting in traffic, so I organize my home and work locations/flexibility to avoid it. Adding Uber as an option would potentially give me additional flexibility on the home/work front.


“without regular salary, benefits, company provided work tools, etc.,” so you’re against contractors in general? honestly your whole post reads like a naive rant against something you don’t really understand.


I think its important to point out that at least some of the value realized from cheap labor in the form of gig contractors is transferred to consumers. We get goods and services for cheaper than would otherwise be possible.

Uber et al make convenient villains (and for I don't by any means think they are innocent), but we should also recognize the consequences of our collective choices.


Not sure why I bother anymore because people don't appreciate these types of comments, but I am convinced the solution is to replace the monopoly companies with public decentralized protocols that will enable a large shared network of customers to be serviced by a competing field of service companies that plug into it.


Without a plan on how to accomplish that replacement, that's more a wish than a solution.


I think the only way to make it viable is paired with Universal Basic Income, so the gig worker has a floor for their income.

Maybe UBI won't provide a livable income, but might enable "gig workers" to survive with a dignified standard of living.


To me your two sentiments seem opposed to each other. If Uber is struggling financially, they will be forced to squeeze their drivers harder, and the drivers will end up with an even worse deal than they have now. So rooting for Uber to lose money is kind of like rooting for a bunch of close-to-minimum-wage workers to make less money.

I guess it’s possible that Uber does so badly financially, they cease to exist. I just find it really hard to imagine that they would be forced to raise prices enough to make the old days of taxis you hailed by waving your hands on the street come back. So to me, Uber doing badly is just bad news for their drivers.


How is Lyft doing compared to Uber? To me, Lyft always had a more sane approach to growth while everything about Uber's corporate just gave me the willies. If Uber went away, I think the world would be a better place. I would feel bad about the drivers, but most of them are driving for multiple people anyways already.


There's another side to the equation of course. Drivers have a choice.

If Uber were to "squeeze drivers", drivers would stop driving for them. They'd drive for Lyft. They'd drive for some other company. They'd stay home.

The supply would crash.

They have no choice but to raise prices.


Salary and benefits? Seems like you are not concerned about people who benefit from driving for Uber as a part time job.


The stocks going up for some reason.




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