Likewise, when we talk about today’s economy, we focus on smartphones, artificial intelligence, apps. Here, too, the inexorable march of technology is thought to be responsible for disrupting traditional work, phasing out the employee with a regular wage or salary and phasing in independent contractors, consultants, temps and freelancers — the so-called gig economy.
But this narrative is wrong. The history of labor shows that technology does not usually drive social change. On the contrary, social change is typically driven by decisions we make about how to organize our world. Only later does technology swoop in, accelerating and consolidating those changes.
It's a compelling argument. Uber and the like haven't transformed our world because of the technology beneath them -- this was necessary, of course, but you could argue timing was at least as vital of a factor (and yes, part of the timing argument is about technology -- none of this happens without the iPhone, etc). But generally, as we're seeing now, change happens at a shockingly fast pace when the right technology is slotted into the right situation. Without that right situation, the right technology wouldn't matter. And would in fact be considered the wrong technology!Read more...