Algorithmic Economy

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= "a future which uses machines to determine how effective you can be and how little they can pay you in the process".

Discussion

Thaddeus Howze:

"There are no unions in this economy. There are no bosses to complain to. There are no people you can ask for redress. Because in this economy, the people doing the labor are considered the least important part of the machine and it’s best if they never communicate with someone living if it can be helped.

This is just like something out of a dark and dystopian science fiction novel, except its likely happening to you, right now. If it isn’t, unless you are very fortunate, it will be, soon.


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I have ... written about the nature of technology in a non-fiction format discussing the future of employment, opportunities for work and the eventual need for some kind of subsidy to offset the lack of employment opportunities in the future in an essay called: “Humans Need Not Apply.”

In this essay, I posit something I call the “Algorithmic Economy” though it is often called the “Sharing Economy” or the “On-Demand Economy” by economists and other writers on this subject.

I prefer the “Algorithmic Economy” because it speaks to the creeping effects on decisions being made by companies and organizations, which not only include automation used in factories, but the development of apps and programs which use algorithms to direct, control and manage Human behavior.

As programmers using design-thinking engage computers to map, monitor and control Human endeavors, it is becoming more prevalent that computers are effectively in charge of Human behaviors utilizing a number of algorithms (programmed behaviors and decisions made by programmers to elicit a desired response from Humans or there programs) to enrich corporations using such technology such as Lyft, Uber, TaskRabbit and many other such “on-demand” driven businesses.

The continued existence and economic support of such companies has created companies whose values seem far greater than the benefits such corporations provide to their workers. The company is perceived to have a fantastic value which benefits investors, disrupts previous businesses or services, often unfavorably, and enriches only those at the very top of the workforce in those companies, usually executives and senior developers.

At Uber, for example, depending on the city, drivers who are, in essence the bulk of the workforce for the company can make as little as $9-$11 an hour as their only compensation for working with the company. While they are promised upwards of $30 per hour in advertising, such rates vary widely depending on the number of drivers, the time of day, the density of calls and the optimization of algorithms designed to reduce wait time for customers and to provide customers with reductions in costs per mile. None of these reductions, however improve the amount of money made by drivers and passengers weren’t until recently even able to use the Uber app to leave tips for employees through the service because Uber decided they paid well enough that tipping wasn’t a requirement.

In fact, one of Uber’s more successful passenger programs, Uber-Pool, reduces the earning capacity of drivers by at least one third since, it cuts the cost of long trips to a third of their value under the expectation the driver will be able to make up those costs by moving multiple passengers, simultaneously.

A driver is expected to upon receipt of an Uber-Pool passenger expect at any time, their trip may be interrupted by a call to another passenger. They are expected to navigate to this new location, find the next passenger, assure the current passenger of no serious delay and get back on the road depositing the two (or three) of them in order to nearby destinations. Unfortunately, this multi-passenger event rarely happens, in essence, reducing the cost of long trips to one third of their value since pooling occurs far less often than Uber is willing to admit. A $20 trip becomes a $7 trip of which become $5.25 after Uber gets its cut.

Adding insult to injury, Uber does not treat its drivers as employees, thus they are not compensated for the use of their vehicles, their repairs, wear and tear, their gasoline, their healthcare, or any other such requirements of normal companies for their employees.

Instead, the drivers must bear the entirety of the expense of their “economic opportunity” while turning over one-quarter of what they earn in every transaction.

If Uber were honest, they would reveal to most drivers, that under the majority of circumstances, drivers lose more money than they earn (due to the costs of incurred during their driving and vehicle operation), depending on how the algorithms are structured where someone is working. I suspect more than Uber is at fault here. I would suspect the entire workforce development of the future is heading toward this path.

More workers are doing part-time work, on-call work, unscheduled work, without significant healthcare, sick leave, or vacation pay than ever before. Corporations have grown to the point they are unable to cut any more costs during their operations and continue to pay out to investors and executives their incredible levels of profitability without cutting corners on the only remaining element of running a business: their workforce.

Rather than restructuring pay or expectations for investors, these business engines will continue to impoverish their workers, using gamification to extend their hours, while reducing their pay and opportunities for healthy lifestyles.

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The Algorithmic Economy isn’t only going to stay in disruptive companies like the On-Demand workforce, it will make its way into other workforces, slowly, insidiously removing time, opportunities for growth, limiting costs by reducing perks except for the elite, in order to create the second age of feudal endeavor.

Their goal is to create a workforce bound by their economic debt to the system, forced to take whatever work they can find, while being paid as little for that work as possible, understanding ultimately, the creation of an indentured workforce is not only the result but an expected one, keeping society enfeebled and unable to create opportunities for further development.

Since all new creativity is held hostage in the hands of insensitive investors who promote the development of White business leaders to the exclusion of any other forms of creativity. Seventy five percent of all investment dollars are placed into the hands of White men. In the tech industry, most companies are run by, lead by, and pay the bulk of their company’s value to White men, the primary beneficiaries of such investment effort.

The Algorithmic Economy resembles feudalism complete with peasants who lack choices, and lords who decide who can become a lord, who remains a peasant, and defining the value of a peasant’s worth based on what the lord is willing to pay the peasant. Like the feudal lords of old, neo-feudalism says they are willing to pay indebted students, just enough to not have any opportunity next year, either." (https:[email protected]/feudalism-and-the-algorithmic-economy-62d6c5d90646)