Although understanding and utilizing technology is vital to my craft and profession, it’s also a point of fragmentation. In my personal life, I don’t really care too much for the digitalization mania’s encroachment. Just look at how many distracted drivers there are, and you’ll quickly appreciate my perspective Yet when it comes to transformative apps like Uber, I’m admittedly torn.
First, some background information: when I say I don’t care for technology, I mean it. For instance, everybody I know loves watching shows and movies through streaming platforms like Netflix. On the other hand, I still have a traditional satellite-TV subscription. It’s an antiquated business model, but I prefer the “old school” ways.
The same sentiment applies to my cars. I haven’t driven an automatic-transmission vehicle for more than a decade. Thanks to changing automotive-market trends, I’ll soon make the transition to a slush box. But if this environment hadn’t changed, I’d still be tooling around town, shifting my gears.
Uber, though, is different. It took me a while to jump onboard. As a rather independent person, I prefer to do my own driving. However, one day, I needed a lift. I gave ride-sharing a try, and I’ve never looked back since.
Interestingly, the platform hasn’t made the biggest difference for me here stateside. Instead, Uber completely transformed the way I travel abroad. Thanks to the “centralization” element of the app, I don’t have to worry about getting ripped off from my driver. I may not know the land or the country, but my driver understands money.
Screw with the customer, and they kiss their job goodbye.
The Gray Area of Uber and the Ride-Sharing Revolution
That for me has changed the way I look at business, and specifically, international business. For others, ride-sharing has brought freedom and convenience to a situation where none previously existed. And to the drivers that actively participate in this new sharing economy, they have jobs previously inaccessible.
But what cost does this brave new world lever? According to The New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo, quite a lot. He wrote a scathing article entitled, “The Uber I.P.O. Is a Moral Stain on Silicon Valley.” Certainly, I can appreciate the other side of this ride-sharing story. For every fresh, twinkle-in-their-eye Uber driver, there’s another person who has practically lost their only source of income.
In New York City, the displacement is far, far worse. Traditional taxi drivers must pay for a medallion license to legally operate a taxi. Due to the fixed amount of medallion licenses issued, the right to participate in this industry grew costlier. At one point, these licenses reached well into six digits.
Tragically, the rise of ride-sharing – as convenient as it may be – essentially destroyed a once-viable industry. This is the ugly side of disruption, and you can’t ignore it.
At the same time, you can’t avoid it. If we don’t innovate, someone else will. Thus, to remain competitive in the 21st century, Americans must aggressively invest into pioneering technologies. The consequences of not doing so will result in broader disruptions from a foreign source.