Blog Ipsa Loquitur

Clive Thompson, writing for Wired magazine on what happens when When Workers Control the Code:

You know what I hate? Rating drivers on Lyft. Three stars? Five stars? I know Lyft wants to feed the ravenous maw of its machine intelligence, but I worry that drivers will get punished for low ratings. In the app-dominated gig economy, platforms already hoover up as much as 30 percent of the fees, and workers barely eke out a living. So when Lyft asks me to rank drivers, I lie—I give everyone five stars. It makes me think: Why doesn’t someone try to run an on-demand labor app that doesn’t seem to exploit its workers?

Well, that world is inching into reality with the emergence of worker-owned apps, where they own and run the market­place themselves. It’s a trend that could save the gig economy from itself.

One of these apps is Up & Go, which lets you order house-cleaning services in New York City. The cleaners are trained professionals—many of them Latin American immigrants, who formed worker-run cooperatives long before they ever started thinking about an app. That was a crucial part of what made Up & Go possible: The workers were already organized.

Look, the sharing economy and apps like Uber or Lyft aren’t going to fix late-stage capitalism for a whole bunch of reasons. Things like this probably won’t fix late-stage capitalism either, but it might make things a little less lousy.