Opinion (Robert B. Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies): “How would you like to live in an economy where robots do everything that can be predictably programmed in advance, and almost all profits go to the robots’ owners?
“Meanwhile, human beings do the work that’s unpredictable – odd jobs, on-call projects, fetching and fixing, driving and delivering, tiny tasks needed at any and all hours – and patch together barely enough to live on.
“Brace yourself. This is the economy we’re now barreling toward. …
“New software technologies are allowing almost any job to be divided up into discrete tasks that can be parceled out to workers when they’re needed, with pay determined by demand for that particular job at that particular moment.
“Customers and workers are matched online. Workers are rated on quality and reliability. The big money goes to the corporations that own the software. The scraps go to the on-demand workers.
“Consider Amazon’s ‘Mechanical Turk.’ Amazon calls it ‘a marketplace for work that requires human intelligence.’
“In reality, it’s an Internet job board offering minimal pay for mindlessly-boring bite-sized chores. Computers can’t do them because they require some minimal judgment, so human beings do them for peanuts — say, writing a product description, for $3; or choosing the best of several photographs, for 30 cents; or deciphering handwriting, for 50 cents. Amazon takes a healthy cut of every transaction.
“This is the logical culmination of a process that began thirty years ago when corporations began turning over full-time jobs to temporary workers, independent contractors, free-lancers, and consultants.
“It was a way to shift risks and uncertainties onto the workers – work that might entail more hours than planned for, or was more stressful than expected.
“And a way to circumvent labor laws that set minimal standards for wages, hours, and working conditions. And that enabled employees to join together to bargain for better pay and benefits.
“The new on-demand work shifts risks entirely onto workers, and eliminates minimal standards completely.
“In effect, on-demand work is a reversion to the piece work of the nineteenth century – when workers had no power and no legal rights, took all the risks, and worked all hours for almost nothing.
“Amazon’s Mechanical Turks work for pennies, literally. Minimum wage? Time-and-a half for overtime? Amazon says it just connects buyers and sellers so it’s not responsible.
“Defenders of on-demand work emphasize its flexibility. Workers can put in whatever time they want, work around their schedules, fill in the downtime in their calendars. …
“An opportunity to make some extra bucks can seem mighty attractive in an economy whose median wage has been stagnant for thirty years and almost all of whose economic gains have been going to the top. …
“On this measure, the share-the-scraps economy is hurtling us backwards.”
My Comment: I have to repeat again that without connecting people through integral education, they will pointlessly and endlessly exploit each other until they return to the Stone Age. In store for us are sufferings that will show us a way out of this dead end where egoism drives us. But this is the path of suffering.
The path of Light is also possible—drawing the force of correction by our unity in integral education. As soon as we begin to implement it, we will immediately discover its remarkable properties in all aspects of our lives.