Leaving Facebook

I’ve decided to deactivate my Facebook account. The straw that broke the camel’s back was this article in the New York Times which suggested Facebook isn’t taking its privacy problems seriously, and is in fact actively working to dig dirt on its opponents instead of changing its business model.

I want to see how difficult life is without it.

I’ve been feeling uncomfortable keeping my account for a while now, but whenever I thought about the stuff I use Facebook for it keep me there. For example, my book club is a Facebook group so I’ve had to ask them to text me whenever they organise a new meeting.

Even though I’ve deactivated my account I’m still deeply enmeshed in their ecosystem. I’m still on Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp, and I’m sure Facebook’s ad system is still following me around the web (despite my best efforts).

I’m glad I’ve done this and I hope I won’t be back.

Uber becomes (more) legal in NZ

The Land Transport Amendment Bill (No 2) passed its third and final reading in Parliament on 4 August. One of the changes it makes are to ‘small passenger’ service regulations (i.e. taxis). The new rules are expected to come into force on 1 October 2017.

Here are some different perspectives on the change. Continue reading “Uber becomes (more) legal in NZ”

Uber and the future of work

The New York Times has an interesting piece exploring the impact of Uber’s business model on work and employment in the future:

The larger worry about on-demand jobs is not about benefits, but about a lack of agency — a future in which computers, rather than humans, determine what you do, when and for how much. The rise of Uber-like jobs is the logical culmination of an economic and tech system that holds efficiency as its paramount virtue.

“I’m glad if people like working for Uber, but those subjective feelings have got to be understood in the context of there being very few alternatives,” Dr. Reich said. “Can you imagine if this turns into a Mechanical Turk economy, where everyone is doing piecework at all odd hours, and no one knows when the next job will come, and how much it will pay? What kind of private lives can we possibly have, what kind of relationships, what kind of families?”

The on-demand economy may be better than the alternative of software automating all our work. But that isn’t necessarily much of a cause for celebration.

The on-demand economy Manjoo outlines sounds hellish.

This quote in particular resonated with me:

“After interviewing many workers in the on-demand world, Dr. Reich said he has concluded that “most would much rather have good, well-paying, regular jobs.”

Rather than allowing jobs in the twenty first century to become casualised and atomised, I think we would do well to aim for decent, well paying jobs.

One road block to this atomization of labour is labour-protection laws in the United States. The Verge is reporting that there are a couple of class-action law suits in the United States at the moment against Uber and Lyft. The class-action suits are trying to argue that the people who drive around for these companies are actually employees, which matters because employees get access to a range of benefits (such as petrol expenses) which Uber and Lyft drivers don’t currently have. It will be interesting to see what happens with these cases!

Uber arrives in Wellington

Uber recently launched in Wellington. It’s a service where you use an app on your phone to arrange a location for a pickup, and a driver comes and takes you to your destination. Uber intially started as a luxury car service, but eventually ended up launching UberX, which is essentially a normal taxi service except provided through their app. It’s a big and fast growing service: it’s available in 130 cities, and the company is worth around $18 billion USD.

I had my first ride (for free!) from the airport into town the other day, and apart from the driver taking a while to set off to pick us up, it was a great experience. Judging by the car and the ID pass on the dashboard, it looked like our driver used to be a taxi driver, which seems to be the case for most of the Uber drivers in Welly. I think they have about four drivers in Wellington at the moment.  Continue reading “Uber arrives in Wellington”

The Circle

the_circle_dave_eggers_novel_-_cover_art

I read Dave Eggers’ somewhat new book, The Circle recently. It’s a sort of technological-dystopia set in the near future, where a Google-like company is essentially taking over the world. While I found the book interesting and quite good, although somewhat absurd, what I found remarkable is how often the themes are coming up in news articles. Continue reading “The Circle”

Technology

When television became accessible to normal families my grandparents would have been in middle age, and my parents would have been about ten. I’ve never know anything else. In the space of just a few years technology has rapidly saturated our lives, but the ability of different age groups to use it is markedly different.

One thing I have been thinking about recently is whether I will become like my parents when using new technology in the future.  My parents (in their late 50s) use computers and cell phones etc pretty well, but they don’t have the same instinctive knowledge of how to do things. They often need to consult manuals to operate things whereas I don’t, and when they get stuck I often know what to do. I’m sure I’m not alone in this – it’s probably this same situation in families across the developed world, which isn’t to say there aren’t any exceptions. I guess it’s the difference between growing up with television, computers, and cell phones and having to adopt them later in life. For the young people of today the operation of anything electronic comes naturally because it’s all we’ve ever known.

But what I’ve been thinking about is – will I be the same? Or will the skills that I have aquired in my early years help me to grapple with the new things that the future has to offer? I’m just hoping that I can remain tech-savie for the rest of my life. What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know.