This post was first published on minutehack.com
The on-demand economy we have today is but a glimpse into the paradigm-changing future. It is slowly but surely encroaching on conventional businesses, and roping in more consumers to participate in its lucrative mechanisms.
To understand the future of this ‘on-demand’, or gig economy, we need to go through a few other concepts and deal with what it means to be a part of this economy in the first place. The name itself speaks volumes. Consumers today exhibit an interest in a different type of service provision – they do not want to own, as much as they want the service in itself.
What this means is pretty simple – ownership of a car, for example, as compared to a transportation service that moves you from one place to another without the hassles of owning a car – that is what the ondemand economy is all about.
Gone are the days where ownership of such assets are thought to be invaluable and elevators of personal status – the new generation seems to want the service and not the hassles that come with the service itself, all at the touch of a smartphone button.
That’s the second characteristic – a huge, specialized labour force that is now acquainted with the smartphone platform where the on-demand economy has made its home in the form of app-based services and marketplaces.
The digital platform has been developing since the mid-2000s – right after the widespread application of the internet – and has grown exponentially since. It is but obvious to suggest that the sharing economy could only come about because of the rapid technological growth accompanying it, enabling platforms of this sort.
However, this is not all – the apps themselves, along with the optimization of many of these platforms is enabled because of the process of Automation.
Automation, from the Greek word ‘Automos’ is the process of introducing something that acts according to set protocols – and hence, does not require external interference for its operation.
Automation exists in all aspects of the industrial process, from manufacturing to selling, from maintenance to repair and from design to optimization. The cell phone and assisted, computerized tech platforms are perhaps the greatest examples of automation as we know them today.
Most applications only require consumer or worker-based, one-sided input and the application does the rest, without interference of human agency. Take Uber – all the consumer needs to do is hail a cab with a few touch-based preferences and location entries – and the app itself brings the driver in contact with the consumer.
The driver has similar inputs on this automated platform, while technology does the rest. The app also enables the required transparency without revealing the bare bones of the programming, which is unnecessary for the parties interacting – automation, on a paradigmatic level.
Many apps also work on personalizing the services they provide, by interpreting consumer data – and online marketplaces are also almost fully automated with the sheer amount of digital interactions they have to handle every day.
Chatbots are the latest infusion to the tech platform, wherein apps contain low level artificial intelligence that can answer basic questions, and handle customers of their own accord. However, this is not all. Automation also works on other levels, where human agency may soon be deemed redundant.
The most glaring example is that of Amazon Prime Air. Many beneficiaries of the sharing economy deal with platforms that connect buyers and sellers, with logistics being the greatest concern for any of them.
More often than not, the human factor and its mobilisation is blamed, as it is crutched on the tech platform for things such as GPSbased navigation and changing conditions – traffic, environmental factors and so on.
Amazon Prime Air seeks to do away with these hindrances entirely, by having a fleet of automated drones that deliver commodities.
Since they are entirely automated, they can be deployed in almost any conditions and can guarantee speedy delivery since they are airborne. Simply programming the destination in the drone, remotely or otherwise is required for operationalizing this – and can also render the human factor redundant in terms of delivery and logistics.
A quick look at their FAQ page also states that they have sophisticated ‘sense-and-avoid’ technology, multiple fail-safe mechanisms and over a dozen types of drones, adapted for different situations – a remarkable step in commercial science fiction, no doubt!
Another concern is the self-driving car model Tesla Motors founder Elon Musk has already created this pioneering technology, with Google also having developed a functional model while both of them possess certain risks, optimization is happening at an alarmingly fast rate.
Uber, with its fleet for several thousand drivers worldwide can be hit drastically if they choose to automate all their cars and link the app and bot interfaces, then we essentially have a fleet of self-driving cars that operate with greater efficiency, have inbuilt safety protocols (eliminates dangers of drinking and driving, with a host of other ownership concerns) and will render drivers redundant.
HUMAN REDUNDANCY – WORDS OF CAUTION
Last year, BBC released a comprehensive site that determines whether a robot will take your jobin the near future. While this is a stimulating exercise, it also provides scary insights.
Jobs that do not require you to creatively think on your feet, negotiate with people in a decisive manner, or do not delve into matters of the human psyche – healthcare, psychiatry, and social skill oriented jobs, have less of a risk in terms of getting replaced by automation.
The sharing economy is not entirely made of these kinds of jobs currently – Taxi Drivers can be replaced by robots, and so can a vast swath of other jobs.
Accountants, telephone salespeople, secretaries of all sorts and any job that has to do with archival management (bookkeeping etc.) already face this risk, entailing higher amounts of unemployment.
Essentially, personnel who facilitate mid-to-low level interactions in businesses can all find themselves without a job in the foreseeable future. Smartphones themselves act as middlemen in the sharing economy – if you think about it.
So, here is a peek at the future of the on-demand economy as it organically and wildly grows next to technology – and should provide some insights as to its future course. It is here to stay, and must definitely be studied and understood in detail if we are to make sense of the changing economic landscape around us.