Otto, a Bay Area startup that was recently acquired by Uber, wants to automate trucking—and recently wrapped up a hundred-and-twenty-mile driverless delivery of fifty thousand cans of beer between Fort Collins and Colorado Springs. From a technological standpoint it was a jaw-dropping achievement, accompanied by predictions of improved highway safety. From the point of view of a truck driver with a mortgage and a kid in college, it was a devastating “oh, shit” moment. That one technical breakthrough puts nearly two million long-haul trucking jobs at risk. Truck driving is one of the few decent-paying jobs that doesn’t require a college diploma. Eliminating the need for truck drivers doesn’t just affect those millions of drivers; it has a ripple effect on ancillary services like gas stations, motels, and retail outlets; an entire economic ecosystem could break down.
As Erik Brynjolfsson, a professor at the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management told MIT Technology Review, “Productivity is at record levels, innovation has never been faster, and yet at the same time, we have a falling median income and we have fewer jobs. People are falling behind because technology is advancing so fast and our skills and organizations aren’t keeping up.” It is, he said, “the great paradox of our era.”
The most significant shift we’ve made is requiring every final candidate to work with us for three to eight weeks on a contract basis. ... They can work at night or on weekends, so they don’t have to leave their current jobs; most spend 10 to 20 hours a week working with Automattic, although that’s flexible.
To keep it simple, we decided to pay a standard $25 an hour, whether the candidate was hoping to be an engineer or the chief financial officer.
The argument is absolutely not that $25/hour is a pittance, but that it is significantly under the market rate for a software engineer contract position in Silicon Valley. Labor being underpaid is a bad thing, regardless of whether it's a software engineer, artist, or fast food worker.
Sympathy encourages a close affinity with other people: You feel their pain. Empathy suggests something more technical — a dispassionate approach to understanding the emotions of others. And these days, it often seems to mean understanding their pain just enough to get something out of it — to manipulate political, technological and consumerist outcomes in our own favor.... Buzz Andersen — a tech veteran who has worked for Apple, Tumblr and Square — told me that in Silicon Valley, “empathy is basically a more altruistic-sounding way of saying ‘market research.’ ”
And in a marketplace, you’re not trying to understand other people out of altruism or moral responsibility; you’re doing it out of self-interest. In the days after the election, many commenters chafed at the idea that they ought to perform the work of empathizing with Trump’s supporters. Shouldn’t they — the people who elected him — try a little empathy for the lives that stand to be crushed by his policies? The market’s answer to this question is “no.” There is no movement for right-wing Americans to be more empathetic because they won. The nation has already bought what they were selling. The call for blue-staters to cultivate empathy isn’t about finding instructive truths in others’ worldviews; it’s about understanding their motivations well enough to persuade them to vote differently.
« Older Some of our typical options are baseball bats... | Strangers Newer »
This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments