A recent article highlights the fear and doubt surrounding the emergence of technology facilitated market place services that directly connect working agents with worker seekers. Companies like Uber, Taskrabbit, Elance and for tasks..services like Amazon's mechanical Turk. It got me to finally sit down and explain why this fear is normal but also to describe why it doesn't mean that the "gig economy" as some have called it is not the end of fair compensation for human forms of labor.
So now in stark light the ideas of direct exchange market places facilitated with a thin layer of technology is being examined in the public eye...but this is not new to any of you if you've been reading my writings on the subject going back to my white paper on the action oriented workflow paradigm that generalizes a solution for routing work between direct agents authoring and executing it.
The gig economy, falls into a tiny sliver of the jobs that such systems can be used in to make more efficient and because they involve the utilization of physical labor they stand out as particularly potentially exploitative of their workers ...but the reality is this so called exploitation comes at the gain of many freedoms.
The only reason that jobs that involve (currently) human physical labor that are shifted to these types of systems are seen as exploitative is because you are not a photon.
What do I mean by that?
Well in modern physics the statistical behavior of particles based on their fundamental attributes was explored by Einstein, Fermi, Dirac, Bose, Planck and others. As the field of particle physics emerged from the elaboration of quantum theory in the 20's these attributes came to class particles into two types, those that had mass (fermions) and those that didn't (baryons). An electron has mass and thus obeys a type of statistics called Fermi-Dirac statistics....collections of them under standard temperature and pressure regimes obey what is called Pauli exclusion.
The idea that two different particles (with different defined by the fact that they do not have the same fundamental attributes) can not inhabit the same place at the same time...however, particles exist that do NOT obey Pauli exclusion....you're using them right now to read this article. Photons are under no restriction when it comes to how many you can pack in a space...in fact, in fiber technology we rely on this trait to allow multiple signals to be packed down a single fiber line using a technology called DWDM...but I digress...what does this have to do with human labor forces and the gig economy?
Well humans can only give their physical labor to one employer at a time, humans can only be in one place at a time...just like electrons (well pedantically this isn't exactly the case at the quantum level but bare with me here physicist friends) and so when tasked two different jobs they must prioritize or select between them.
Even within the gig economy there is variance in this, consider that the maid service mentioned in this article can only have a maid in one place or another, making it difficult for the maid as she needs to bare various transportation costs for her physical person to be present in the place of work.
Yet another gig economy company also being given lots of press , Uber has a different efficiency profile for the workers....an Uber driver simply drives for Uber on their own time and because they are already in their own car it becomes efficient for them to move from place to place completing pickups addressed to them via the services technology but there is nothing stopping them from doing the exact same thing at the same time for Lyft or any other ride service that promises to bring them a market of people looking to get a pick up.
So Uber for drivers provides a greater level of efficiency for the worker than the maid service does for maids. However it is only in comparison to the old paradigm (where these choices did not at all exist for taxi drivers or maids) that we see that the expansion of the choice of options for workers is a very good thing.
Those maids who find they can deal with the transportation costs of getting to and from work locations dispatched to them by the service will opt into it....others will continue to work for private services. Ditto with Uber and cabs....some people will continue to work for municipal limosine commissions, others will find great freedom in being able to work on their own time and for as many dispatchers as they wish.
How action routing or work routing technologies benefit the transaction will vary depending on how physical the type of labor being transacted happens to be.
I described this years ago in my AOW related articles but repeat what I realized then here, as technology in the form of machine learning and robotics continues to eat away all remaining physical labor jobs....humans MUST become knowledge workers and in the knowledge work economy to come the efficiency of the gig economy goes through the roof for two reasons.
1) The costs of transporting self to work ...disappear, companies can then cut the fat of infrastructure they formerly had to maintain people as temporary cows in terms of buildings, offices, light bills, taxes...etc.
2) The ability to meter and measure who is providing optimal work for given needs will lead to learning systems that build up a knowledge of preferred workers and route that work to them directly. This is precisely what the ADA (action delta assessment) algorithm does in AOW.
So in the current paradigm of temporal hegemony over pools of physical laborers I felt most important, people need to retool themselves for knowledge work. I wrote about this privately in an email to friends in 2006 (after I'd already built the solution that would be used by a world of emancipated knowledge workers) and transcribed that letter in an introductory post to my blog in 2008.
The next step for existing businesses though is to leverage AOW systems to emancipate their EXISTING work force by illuminating their action flows and using ADA to efficiently route through increasingly knowledge based workers no longer needing an office to work.
This allows those employers to dramatically cut infrastructure costs while still paying salaries to existing workers, while also finding the optimal workers. For those who are laid off (and that is inevitable) the ability to redeploy oneself virtually to new employees is trivial...and so the appearance of exploitation here is far diminished relative to physical labor markets made more efficient using similar technologies.
This is why in my current efforts to build a startup on the framework that implements AOW I am focusing on knowledge work verticals first over physical labor verticals and existing companies with their existing employee pools rather than contractor heavy industries.
I remain convinced that the vision of a globally emancipated workforce that I had in 2003 and built into existence in the form of the AgilEntity framework that implements the AOW paradigm will be the dominant means of human system interaction within the next 25 years. Yes, the first efforts ...deployed to physical labor verticals are not as efficient as they rely on human physical labor but the robots are coming and those will go...and hopping to knowledge work, though terrifying for many actually harbors the greater chance of freedom from the hegemony of time that physical labor and routing has over most of our lives.
I prepared a 30 slide deck for easy digesting of all of these concepts and how the AOW/ADA paradigm leads to an emancipated future, given the density of the concepts and the misunderstandings expressed in articles like this one on the types of efficiency that are possible when marketplaces are made more efficient it is an eye opener for those who are curious about the larger picture.
I've also compiled for those with a weekend to read them all, a list of the AOW and workforce emancipation related posts at my blog. This gives the 10,000 foot to 2 inch view of my inspiration to discover the action landscape and my desire to ensure all human beings navigate it in the future.