How does it do that?
It uses a smart phone app to turn independent contractors into driving bots (drones). Drones are people who do the simple tasks the Uber app tells them to do.
Breaking down tasks this way makes it easier for turking companies like Uber to get big quickly and go global early. It will also (incidently) make it easier for the company to replace these contractor partners with bots when the bots becomes sophisticated enough to replace them in the next decade.
So far, the formula has worked well. Uber now sports a $40 billion valuation and climbing. This suggests that if Uber continues on its path to success, we're going to see app-driven turking companies turning contractors into subsistence income bots in nearly every industry, from medicine to education.
Early on, the only opposition to Uber was from taxi companies and local city councils (largely corrupt). More recently, opposition to Uber has formed over several high profile sexual assaults in India and Boston. These assaults have created a small open source insurgency that is fighting an open source media war against Uber from Taiwan to India to Paris to Seattle.
What's interesting to me is how the insurgency has stumbled upon a systempunkt -- the point of greatest weakness to attack -- that is valid for nearly all of the early turking companies:
Uber's drivers aren't the faceless, nameless bots customers expect them to be. They are real people with equally real flaws.
Turking companies expect to be able to hire people that act like nameless, faceless bots -- quickly, easily and at low cost. That is proving impossible in the near term, and these assaults are the result.
This flaw makes Uber very vulnerable to disruption from an open source insurgency. How so? It makes it possible for independent groups to attack the company's brand whenever the following occurs:
- Sexual assault (many instances).
- Road rage.
- Sexual harrassment or verbal abuse.
- Theft (Customer: driver demands $500 for phone left in car --> Uber: we deactivated "the driver's account" until he returns your phone).
To defend itself from these attacks, Uber is spending tens of millions on PR firms, phalanxes of lobbyists in Washington and capitals around the world. However, this defense won't work if the brand is damaged and its funding is sidetracked.
Will this systempunkt be sufficient to bring down the brand of the world's first turking company (and thereby slowing down the rise of turking)?
I'm not sure. It would require:
- Moral warfare waged against the brand that pits customers against the company and the drivers against he company.
- Attrition warfare waged against Uber's income with the goal of causing the company to miss a quarter (grow less than expected). The company is particularly vulnerable during its ramp.
- Maneuver warfare that creates fear, uncertainty, and doubt through attacks from unusual quaters. Law suits and legal action that put hair on the offering. Physical attacks/disruption by outside groups that puts drivers and customers at risk.