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The Demons of On-Demand (techcrunch.com)
13 points by e15ctr0n on Sept 21, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 6 comments



The most interesting part of this article, to me, was to see the author struggling with their own ideological commitment to tech utopianism (or technological solutionism or whatever you want to call it) in such an open way. An article full of examples and discussion of why her beliefs were misguided, but then doubling down on them at the end.

It's a very human thing to do but it's still a bit shocking to see someone lay it out so plainly: "We are constantly promised X and every time we get Y instead. In fact, our society basically guarantees Y will happen. Please promise me X again without changing anything and maybe this time Y won't happen because ... wanting it?"

We tech people will really build up some twisted logic and ignore a lot of evidence to avoid acknowledging social problems and avoid any suggestion of hard work needed in that arena won't we?


One of the points that stood out to me was this: "Technology, I still want to believe, hasn’t completely sold out the middle class just yet. Maybe it has been overpaid for a minute. Maybe it forgot to have a higher purpose. Or maybe it will always be built for the fortunate first, then find its way into the hands of everyone else eventually."

I think most businesses realize that the path to take to generate hype for their product is to essentially follow the model of building their product for the wealthy, then middle class, then widespread adoption by everyone. By following this model, your brand reputation will be seen by the middle and lower class as "high quality". When it becomes accessible to them, the adoption rate will be much more rapid.

It is basically the method being adopted by Elon Musk for Tesla.


Supporting suburbia is never going to happen. It's not just wealth but economies of scale that make these services viable. Cities that built themselves around delivery trucks instead of humans are going to suffer from delivery-truck-scaled services like Costco instead of human-scaled services.

You can blame the real-estate industry and their regulatory capture of municipal governments for this outcome - as oxymoronic as it sounds, they've managed to make the most efficient lifestyle the most expensive thanks to overbuilding sprawl, leaving our most vulnerable citizens suffering 2-hour commutes with overworked cars instead of a more affordable lifestyle in a city where services and transport are closer at hand.


I have doubts that the real estate industry is to blame for urban and suburban sprawl. As someone who works in real estate tech, I'd appreciate if you could unpack that.

However, I do think you're hitting on a real constraint. As far as I know, work brokering service models like Uber have only been successful when there's a large and dependable workforce in close proximity to the consumer base it serves. In order for Uber to scale to suburbs, they don't necessarily have to get suburbanites driving for them--a Lyft driver last week told me that he commutes an hour to SF from Walnut Creek to drive. However, that guy is going to have to see more money coming in than someone who lives in Oakland because his margins will always be much thinner.

There are certain apps with P2P models that escape this supply problem by eliminating the server-served dynamic. They require each user to put in a little bit of work to get value out. Yerdle is one example of this type of model. The hard part there seems to be convincing rich people to spend time participating because they see their time as being more valuable. At the same time, the rich have the most to contribute.

As Jeff Bezos optimistically puts it, today is still day 1 of the internet. Here's to hoping for our future tech utopia!


There aren't any pet sitters in suburbia? Or baby sitters? Do we really need apps for those things? You can usually find them on Yelp, after all.


Do we need apps? No.

Is pressing a button more convenient than searching through reviews, getting on the phone, and haggling over the price? Always.

You could have said something similar about Taxis 5 years ago and we all know how that's going.




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