In the gig economy, where’s synergy?
We’re constantly told that today’s world is at a boundary. We’ve reached a no-return point, and life will be very different in the future. We heard this first via predictions about the changes digitization would be bringing us, and indeed that seems to fit – in our homes, work, in businesses, the arts, sports, travel, etc.
Now we see another level built upon those digital capacities, the so-called “sharing economy”, the Uberization of our lives. The Uber economy will turn our societies upside down – with our smart phones and the incredible storage, calculating and organizing power of digital media.
This includes electric, self-driving cars; few of us will even own a car – we’ll reserve our rides, and a car shows up (driverless). Gone will be private ownership, fuel costs, insurance, accidents and repairs, even our driveways. Expand this model into everything we do in a day – sounds a bit like a George Orwell dystopia to some, but to others relief from expenses and responsibilities.
Futurists have predicted all these things, even flying cars in this revolution in our daily lives and jobs. Future-analysts predict we will all be working from home, which civil servants may welcome. Same with our shopping – online, with fewer physical stores, fewer sales clerks.
But is this hyper-individualism all it’s promoted to be?
Haven’t we always believed that working together is a benefit? The saying that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts means there’s a synergy and dynamism lost by having all members of a team dispersed, working in isolation from each other. Don’t we value the spontaneous generation of new ideas, new procedures, new products and services which do come from unstructured conversations and meetings – none of which will occur in a workplace of absent individual workers? How do we learn to improve our performance?
Are we accepting an individual isolationism, under the guise of “personal freedom”? Corporations profit by freeing themselves from buildings, offices, and dispatchers, because each individual takes over these expenses. Who’s benefiting?
One positive is avoiding workplace harassment, so much in today’s news, but won’t we also miss the mutual support from our co-workers – support, even friendship? Don’t great ideas come from several minds working together, stimulating each other? Can new ideas arise in memos, or directives appearing on our screens? Have they ever? Aylmer has plenty of civil servants – what do they say?
But, viewed in the big picture and not person-by-person, the negatives we see in bureaucratic systems and gigantic civil services, won’t these increase with Uberization? A civil service locks its workers into their own cubicles, not literally, but via job classifications and the rigid flow of authority -- as well as the physical separations of big-office cubicles. Is gig creating extreme cubicles?
Could we say that a gig workplace, by isolating everyone in their home offices, will actually recreate a society indistinguishable from a big bureaucracy?
Or merely one with little synergy?