“The Person Who Drives Your Uber Will Die”

A thoughtful, if breathless, meditation on mortality, morality, and our new 1099 workforce, from Buzzfeed:

as soon as our first child was born, you’d better believe I went out and got a motherfucking 9-to-5. One that would make sure I had a safety net if I were suddenly unable to work. One that came with a modicum of security in case of unforeseen unemployment, and health benefits, and even life insurance — because we are all going to die. You are going to die.

And the person who drives your Uber will die. And the person who brings your groceries from Instacart will die. And the person from Homejoy who cleans your home is going to die. And the person who shows up in a TaskRabbit T-shirt and hangs your TV and assembles the Ikea bed that’s been sitting in a box in your garage for the past three months is going to die. Or maybe get hurt and leave the workforce. Or maybe the startup they work for will fail, as startups often do.

How are we, as a society, going to deal with that? Going to deal with them? What will it mean if we completely remake our workforce of laborers into contractors without the myriad benefits we associate with full-time employment? Who ultimately benefits when they don’t?

Brother, I’m with you. I keep opening up my mailbox hoping to get checks and instead I get pelted by 1099s, which are as persistent as Hogwarts owls. More, even, since they don’t give me a break when I feed them.

It’s a 1099 world and we’re only living in it. But still, I’m not entirely sure I’m following the argument here. Even if Individual #1 who drives my Uber dies, Individual #2 is in another car directly behind and already honking his horn to get my attention. There’s no shortage of individuals competing to participate in this on-demand economy, and humans are excellent at procreating.

Yes, you could feel guilty if you use Uber or, ugh, Handy. Guilt is kind of counterproductive, though. Better to either do something and enjoy it, or try to structure your life so that you don’t need to rely on those kinds of companies at all. There are good reasons not to support that business model, if you don’t want to, and there are ways around it.

The IRL, non-start-up companies of the world work the same way, after all: dismayed by how Wal*mart mistreats its workers? Shop at Costco. Think that Amazon’s a behemoth monstrosity whose power should probably be checked before it’s too late? Buy diapers at Target.

And also maybe agitate for your values on a larger scale, too. Companies will treat their employees as badly as we allow them to. We just need to take a deep breath, remind ourselves that immediate gratification comes with a price, and be the change we want to see in the world. Like, if you want bosses to value people as well as — not as MUCH as, let’s not go crazy, just “as well as” — profit, we have to act like we value other people too; and we have to remind bosses, ours and other people’s, that we are willing to pay attention to something other than the most immediately gratifying, convenient, exciting new thing.

Our slightly hysterical Buzzfeed writer, fwiw, comes to a similar conclusion:

Here in San Francisco, where a corrupt and broken taxi system has long failed us, it’s hard not to love Lyft and Uber’s amazing degree of efficiency, both in how well they work and how little they cost, comparatively.

Yet the most ruthlessly efficient (and pleasurable!) delivery mechanisms are not always the ones that are best for us over time. Heroin, injected intravenously, is amazing. But it’s probably better for most of us to take a Tylenol 3 for our pain.

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