Futuristic Advice As Good Today As the Day It Was Written
I started the morning by intending to write a follow up to Bruce Burk's article published last Monday discussing changes Uber is making in response to the new AB5 legislation in California. I've extensively discussed the challenges to the gig economy over the last few years, both in this blog and in presentations around the nation. While researching some material for today's post, I came across an article I wrote back in 2015. It covered a presentation made at a workers' compensation conference in Idaho discussing what the world would look like in 2020.
Sadly, it was a bit off the mark; so much so that it could be used now to predict what the world will look like in 2025. Sort of like global warming predictions. The disasters predicted never quite get here; they are just rescheduled for next Tuesday. The plus side was that I did not recall writing this article, and found it pleasantly amusing. Ironically, it references my less than stellar memory quite extensively. It must also be noted that out of more than 35,000 articles in this news area, it was the only one that contained the word “goober.”
And really, who doesn't like the word goober?
So, rather than actually working (which the 2015 article said we would not be doing by now), we have just chosen to republish what was said back in 2015.
I am sure, when it comes to the gig economy and our future in general, it is as accurate today as it was then.
Published 11/2/2015 – A Solution for the Sharing Economy Employment Dilemma - The Goober Car
I spoke at the Idaho Industrial Commission Workers' Compensation Seminar in Boise, ID last Thursday, on the topic of what our industry may look like in the year 2020 and beyond. It was a very future oriented conference, with the morning Keynote Tom Lynch going into extensive detail about Artificial Intelligence and the future of our menial lives.
Turns out our lives are menial and our jobs have no future. But most of us knew that already, if not for reasons other than those related to Artificial Intelligence. In 5 or 10 years, however, that daily irrelevance will be the problem of a very smart computer named Watson, and most of us, according to Lynch, will be freed of the shackles of our meaningless jobs and off pursuing meaningful unemployment. At least we will have Google's self driving cars to safely zip us to the unemployment office. We'll let that smarty pants Watson explain to injured workers what indemnity is, and why we have a waiting period.
I give Watson one month in workers' compensation before he fries his circuit boards and launches a nuclear conflagration ending it all, which is, ironically, already on page 36 of today's workers' comp claims handling manual. It is just that we simple humans have never been able to get past page 34, “Understanding the MSA Process”.
For my part, I impressed the audience with my futuristic visionary skills by accurately predicting that Monday, November 2nd would fall on a Monday. I also reassured the audience that no computer could ever replace them, mostly because the artificial intelligence machines now being created will be too smart to want our jobs.
While I spoke about the coming radical changes afforded by robotics and AI, I also addressed societal and demographic changes that will impact our industry. Those changes include new expectations in the realm of employment and the challenges brought by the “Sharing” or “Gig” economy. I spoke a bit about the ride sharing service Uber, and the legal challenges they currently face. There are several class action suits pending that, if successful, could bring the entire sharing concept to its knees.
I explained to the audience, that while I personally see Uber as a technology platform enabling free commerce between agreeing parties, there is one element in their system that may bring that concept down. Part of Uber's success is the well known rating system it employs, allowing drivers and riders alike to get a feeling for the quality of the other party in the transaction. What is not widely known, however, is that Uber uses that rating system in a somewhat disciplinary manner, reducing a drivers rating whenever they decline a ride request. It is my belief that action could be interpreted by courts as being direction of an employee, and fall outside the well known standards of definition for an independent contractor.
After my session a woman approached me saying she had a solution for the Uber legal dilemma. What she told me was absolute brilliance - a truly inspirational idea. I noted her name from her conference badge, and told her I would like to give her credit for her idea here in my blog.
Unfortunately, I have a terrific memory, but only in short bursts. For several seconds I can retain facts and information like there is no tomorrow (which, thanks to AI there apparently is not). Beyond a few moments, however, everything begins to degrade, becoming a muddled hodgepodge in my head. Therefore, I can tell you the woman's name was Laurie Stimpson. Or Larry Plimpton. Or Bart Simpson. I really can't be certain. I should have written it down. At any rate, she gave me a terrific idea.
She told me that all Uber had to do to resolve their legal concerns is to merge their service with Google's Self Driving Cars. Then they would have “Goober Cars”.
Frickin' brilliant. We know Uber has been working on its own self driving vehicles, but this move makes much more sense. Not only could they leverage the existing technology of a gargantuan corporate oligarchy, they would be completely eliminating the pesky middleman that has been at the source of their every continuing problem; the driver. Also, I would be remiss if I did not point out they would be offering at the same time a simple, folksy and trusted concept that we unemployed simpletons could relate with.
Think about it. Doesn't “I'll call a Goober” sound downright trustworthy? It could employ the digitized voice of beloved Goober actor George Lindsay, and utilize folksy comments like “Shucks Andy” and “Shazam!” during key points of communication with its human cargo. Who wouldn't love that? Even when the autonomous self driving ride sharing vehicle makes a mistake and delivers you 14 blocks from your intended destination, it would be hard to get angry. Let's face it, everybody loves a decent and well intentioned Goober.
Instead of “Uber: You're Ride, On Demand”, the company tagline could be “Goober: We'll Be With Ya'll In A Second”. And the company would finally have a visual logo it could employ to counter that annoying mustache of its ride sharing competition; every car could have a baseball cap worn backwards on its rooftop.
Shazam, these are good ideas!
So there you have it. Another problem easily solved via this blog by Lovie Plimpton. I can't take credit for the idea, I am merely the conduit through which it flows. The true genius behind this concept is Louise Himpton. I appreciate that she would trust me enough and allow me to share her idea.
Thank you, Luella Krimpton, you clearly know a Goober when you see one.
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Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
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Bob is an accomplished speaker for the workers' compensation industry. He is available for conferences, corporate events, children's birthday parties and Bar Mitzvahs. You may access his Speakers Brief here.