Is Uber a Threat to Democracy?
Innovative companies like Uber bring huge increases in efficiency, as well as social and regulatory challenges that must be confronted in a way that ensures fairness. The notion that markets alone can manage its transformative impact is pure folly.
AIX-EN-PROVENCE – Every July, economists, business leaders, NGOs, and politicians from around the world gather in Aix-en-Provence, France, for the three-day Rencontres Économiques forum, organized by the Cercle des Économistes. This year’s forum focused on the changing nature of work. The timing of the meeting, which coincided with a heated debate in France about the innovative ride-sharing service Uber, could not have been more apt.
The forum’s theme was undoubtedly selected partly in response to fears that technological advances will lead to widespread unemployment, as machines become advanced enough to replace humans in performing an increasing number of tasks. As MIT’s Andrew McAfee pointed out, historically, technological revolutions have “eventually led to more, if different, jobs”; but, with machines becoming increasingly intelligent, “this time may be different.”
Given this possibility, McAfee suggests, we may need to re-build our societies so that, as intelligent machines increase productivity, the declining demand for human work has welfare-enhancing outcomes like higher (and more equitably distributed) incomes and more leisure time. He is not alone: John Maynard Keynes predicted this possibility 85 years ago.