Reading about the so-called ‘4th Industrial Revolution’, I was feeling how I always do when I think about the future; scared to my core. I’m not sure if I honestly believe that humanity is doomed. Sometimes I feel like Russia and the US are going to nuke us all to death during some sort of cyber war in which Mark Zuckerberg is held captive and made to livestream it on Facebook. Other times I like to think that we’ll all start meditating more and looking after the environment and the world will go on as it always has. But then that gets me thinking about the notion of infinity and I’m terrified again. Either way I don’t plan on living forever (even if that technology does become available) so I go back to watching Gossip Girl and focus on how I can make life bearable for the people around me.
In this reading, what really stuck out to me was the notion of the sharing economy. I use services that are considered to be the forerunners of this type of industry all the time, and I love them. I get Ubers weekly and I can’t remember the last time I treated myself while travelling to a hotel rather than an AirBnB. I like the idea of the move away from a single owner of the means of production – Uber drivers own their cars, AirBnB leasers own their houses and apartments. While the platform may be owned by a single entity, they are nothing without those using the platform, and if they were to shut down, their uses would just find a new platform to sell their services.
One aspect of the sharing economy that I do believe to be problematic is that these industries are based on trust. Uber drivers have a 5 star review rating system, AirBnB owners rely on the words of their guests. While I think this leads to better service, and is better for consumers, these systems are delicate and one bad review can destroy a person’s livelihood. In the age of the Internet, nothing is ever forgotten. Sent out a tweet in 2007 that was considered fine then but can be taken to be incredibly offensive in 2016? Good luck ever having a political career. When these sharing economies rely so heavily on character reviews, the idea of doxxing and the longevity of things said online is terrifying.
While I was interested in the sharing economy aspect of this article, one other line stood out for me as well. When talking about tracking sensors for packages, Schwag states that ‘in the near future, similar monitoring systems will also be applied to the movement and tracking of people’. Yeah, no thank you. Got an abusive ex who’s already a pretty adept stalker? Well he can now follow you everywhere because you had a chip inserted into you at birth. Maybe that’s an extreme example, but it’s probably nor far fetched.
While technology is vitally important to all our lives, it’s also bloody scary and I don’t want to think about it anymore.
Klaus Schwab, 2016, The Fourth Industrial Revolution (World Economic Forum), pp.14-26, 47-50, 67-73, 91-104.