The Many Hidden Dangers Of The “Gig” Economy
Fancy enjoying the freedom of being your own boss and banging your own drum? Then “partnering” with companies the likes of DoorDash and Uber probably isn’t for you, even though at first glance, they may appear to be perfect alternatives to a typical nine-to-five at the office. Because whilst working for a company like Uber may not involve reporting to a human boss, it does entail something that is in many ways, a great deal more unsettling: working for an algorithm.
The problem it seems; and this is according to the results of an extensive study and survey performed by author Alex Rosenblat; is that when the proverbial wheels of the wagon do happen to come off, there’s no one to turn to.
And, it seems, it’s not that Uber just hasn’t “thought of that” yet, the car-ride service structured the system to be “self-managing” on purpose, because referring to its drivers as “partners” instead of “employees” means that the company is free from having to deal with issues like minimum wage structures, pay-bargaining and employment law in general.
Uber then, in effect, at the end of the day enjoys more “freedom” than what its “partners” do. Moreover, working for an algorithm may present itself as the perfect situation, but that doesn’t mean that companies like Uber and Lyft, players in the “gig economy” at any point relinquished all control. In fact, the reality is quite the opposite. Uber drivers realise full well that their livelihood depends very much on technology; technology, says Karina Vold, Digital Charter at the Alan Turing Institute, that is perfectly capable of “nudging” workers to behave in a particular way. And this “way” will almost always benefit the company, and not the “worker”.
Tipping The System
The thing to remember is that even though there is no direct contact with a human boss, the algorithms managing the entire thing were designed by human company executives and human engineers.
A text-book example of the levels that companies like Uber and DoorDash are willing to stoop to in order to gain maximum benefits from any given partnership is the recent DoorDash tip-controversy. DoorDash is a food delivery app that functions very similar to Uber Eats in that customers are able to not only rate the delivery, but also include a tip via the app.
The “tip controversy” recently reached a heated climax when a customer somehow discovered that the tip that had been added to the total of the bill didn’t top the fee, but was instead utilised by DoorDash as a handy means of paying the person in charge of the delivery less from its own corporate pocket.
And so working for an algorithm may not be the bubble of freedom and gig economy bliss that it appears to be.