The general tone of writing on the on-demand economy (much better term than the “sharing economy”) is one of regret about the demise of steady work with benefits, exemplified by Robert Reich: “I think it’s nonsense, utter nonsense. This on-demand economy means a work life that is unpredictable, doesn’t pay very well and is terribly insecure.”
But we’re talking about people whose work life is unpredictable, doesn’t pay very well and is terribly insecure to start with. For them, the on-demand economy is step up, especially if they can be connected to export supply chains using the disruptive potential of ICTs.
Just as Uber is doing for taxis, new technologies have the potential to chop up a broad array of traditional jobs into discrete tasks that can be assigned to people just when they’re needed, with wages set by a dynamic measurement of supply and demand, and every worker’s performance constantly tracked, reviewed and subject to the sometimes harsh light of customer satisfaction. Uber and its ride-sharing competitors, including Lyft and Sidecar, are the boldest examples of this breed, which many in the tech industry see as a new kind of start-up — one whose primary mission is to efficiently allocate human beings and their possessions, rather than information.