Making the gig economy work for everyone


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/12/16/making-the-gig-economy-work-fo.html


#2

People could and should create their own platforms and collaborate directly, cutting out the platform owners such as Uber, AirBnB, etc.

I’m participating in one attempt to put this into practise, Baobáxia as a platform between Afro-Brazilian communities.


#3

“…workers in the gig economy are isolated from one another, making it extremely difficult for them to develop a collective voice to negotiate with platform owners and designers about issues that affect their livelihood.”

I thought this was a feature, not a bug. If there’s anything platform owners don’t want, it’s to be negotiated with by anyone other than a hedge fund manager.


#4

Surely the whole point of the ‘Gig Economy’ is to deliberately and openly implement the most effective ways of exploiting an underclass of workers?

  • by depriving them of holiday and sick pay
  • by depriving them of health insurance
  • by tricking them into subsidising the company through investing their own resources such as their car or their bike into the business without compensation for the depreciation of those assets.

The only reason the ‘Gig Economy’ exists is as a stop-gap measure whilst technology catches up … it’s marking time until they (the other … the underclass… … the low skill workers … ) can finally be replaced by the robots as God and Nature intended?

The appeal of using the ‘Gig Economy’ is precisely that it offers convenient app-based reinforcement of class hierarchy. “Thank God I don’t have to demean myself like this” you can think as you order from Deliveroo


#5

You forgot shifting regulatory risks on to them (and of course economic risks, but franchises have been doing that for so long that it feels almost quaint.)

If you had pitched a global chain of corporate hostels with the twist that you don’t give a fuck about the law to investors, then you would have been laughed out of most meetings. But leave it to countless relatively non-threatening poor fuckers to sort that out and make commercials about young people prancing around the world and immersing themselves in exotic stereotypes and suddenly you have a business.


#6

You’re assuming something hierarchical, but there isn’t anything baked into a gig economy requiring this. Is that how you implement it? Of course there are exploiters out there, but the tech seems like a fine way for people to organize and work without outside “owners”. Why hope for the legendary “benevolent pimp” to take care of you?


#7

So an entire nation’s economy can consist solely of 350 million people working gigs off each other indefinitely?

Something about a snake eating itself seems appropriate here…


#8

I think the phrase you’re looking for is, “We can’t get rich by doing each other’s laundry,” which has roots in the late 1860s/1880s.


#9

Aerial bakery


#10

What happens when you need say emergency plumbing done, but none of the plumbers need your basket weaving services? Trade them gift cards so they can use them for something else they want?

Yeah… this is why we have money.


#11

Might present problems for pharmaceuticals, computing, chemical engineering, mineral extraction, steelmaking, roads, railways and aircraft - you know, all the facilities these “platform owners” leech off of. Good luck with a gig economy approach to creating the next Boeing.
The ultimate end of these ideas is a Third World subsistence economy where a profit is extracted from transactions by entrepreneurs. Which is (a) kind of how parts of the Third World works and (b) why they are stuck in the Third World.


#12

That’s where the hierarchy comes in. If you can get the entire population to climb onto each other’s backs to form a pyramid, then the few at the top can reach that imaginary pie. Or - at least they fooled you into doing something stupid for them. Again.


#13

I’m not that big a fan of the gig economy, but I’m not sure “leeching off” is accurate. The gig economy is a response to situations where there’s a demand for one-of services and the transaction cost of obtaining those services was high. The industries you mention are definitely not “one-of” services and thus not appropriate for a gig economy. There’s no competition between them.

Unfortunately for gig economy workers, it turns out that convenience of obtaining the service trumps the actual service itself, meaning that people value the interface over the service provider. This means the provider of the interface can take a huge cut.

Honestly, I don’t see much of a way around that in the present culture. We are just not a culture that likes to be told that we have to pay more for a service when there’s someone willing and able to do the service conveniently for less.

(Perhaps a significant increase in minimum wage/rental prices? That could drive down demand for the services and increase the minimum level of acceptable service eliminating many of the low price service providers. It would suck for those eliminated, but mean that more of the smaller pie would go to the workers.)


#14

So, why shouldn’t the workers organize to provide their own interfaces instead?


#15

On the other hand - you can order a piecemeal designed and constructed air conditioner.

Piecework is piecework- regardless of how the master hires the help.


#16

That is certainly one option and I think there are great opportunities for cooperatives in the modern economy in general.

However there is always a risk that they won’t be able to overcome the competitive advantage created by exploitation.


#17

Companies that avoid taxes and that try to reduce or offshore employees so the tax on employment is also reduced? They want to profit without paying for the infrastructure of society, and I call that leeching.


#18

That depends upon how your economy is designed, how it measures wealth and what values it rewards. Choose carefully!

Arguably, it is more obvious now than ever that exploiting people and resources for short-term gain has literally no future in it.


#19

Artisanal steampunk air conditioner!

EDIT ah fuck


#20

I agree with the first half of your comment, but as for ‘not liking’ to pay more for services, I believe people pay what they can afford for the quality of life they want to attain.

The standard for the quality of life rises at different rates in different places, but trade is global and that means it spans many different places which have different standards. This reduces the cost of many standards to a level that makes them affordable while wages don’t rise regularly enough to match what they would be if we all had the same standards. Those low wages at the same time make other standards affordable, and profitable for those at the top, while being the same thing that locks people into not supporting their local economy.

Investors expect continually increasing amounts of return on their investment which is impossible with finite resources. The only way this has been sustained is because money is not finite, it is an incrementally increasing resource propped up by an artificial value, but it does and always has run short of the amount necessary for everyone to win big. That incremental increase happens along side the discovery of new pools of resources, but from what I have seen, it far outpaces those discoveries and there are finite limits on how much of certain resources we can extract, whether that be because of the effects of extraction, or because the resource is limited in and of itself.

In short: Our society and economy depends on there being winners and losers to stave off the limitations of our world. There is the possibility for us all to have a (relatively) high quality of life, but we can’t all be billionaires, and for there to be billionaires, there must be poor. The snake is eating itself, and the people at the front of the train know it, but are content as long as their lives are filled with happiness, even at the expense of everyone’ future. We have short term brains, and overcoming that is our challenge to achieve greatness.