I came across an article called The Rapid Rise of Robots Replacing Workers, written by Edwin Smith in Raconteur. Smith reports that in England a recent court decision has declared that Uber drivers are employees and not independent contractors. This is similar to many court decisions here in the United States. How does this play into the rise of robots replacing workers?
Contract drivers are not the trend
According to Amy Webb, Futurist and author of The Signals are Talking, many of us misread the trend when Uber came into existence. We all saw it as a way of doing business, thus many companies were formed using the “Uber of X” model. Rather, the trend that Uber has been responsible for, in conjunction with Google, is autonomous vehicles. That is where Uber is headed. Your future Uber ride will not be driven by an employee or even a contractor, it will be driven by the car itself. These court decisions are doing nothing but hastening the development of the autonomous cars.
Workers are easy to replace
Workers doing work that can be done by a robot are easy to replace, especially if companies are given a viable economic reason to do so. Why pay a fast food worker $15 per hour to take orders and deliver food that can be done more effectively and efficiently by automation. None of us go to a McDonald’s for the human interaction. In the same vein why pay a driver as an employee if we can replace that driver with an autonomous system that is safer, more efficient and more effective. By becoming employees the drivers for Uber have made the economic argument for their replacement even stronger than it already was.
In Blogging4Jobs I wrote Will Poor Soft Skills Accelerate the Use of Robots? where I make the same type of argument. Newly minted workers are coming to the workplace unprepared to work. They are lacking the soft skills it takes to be an effective employee. That lack of abilities is making a compelling argument for developing automation to do the work instead of expending the money to train these workers. We must remember that most companies are in business to make money and not for the social good that they can do by training workers.
Look around your company and look at the jobs that are replaceable, they will likely be on the chopping block in the future, particularly if the demands of the workers provide that economic incentive to replace them with automation. Jobs that require human decision making will be more likely to survive, but not always. Most people thought that driving was an activity that required human skills. Turns out not as much as we thought. So your Uber driver may be like the Johnny Cab in the movie Total Recall.