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"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.




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