The gig workers fighting back against the algorithms
This story is part three of MIT Technology Review’s series on AI colonialism, the idea that artificial intelligence is creating a new colonial world order.
Base camps grew out of a tradition that existed before algorithmic ride-hailing services came to Indonesia. Motorcycle drivers used to offer rides to people informally, and they would gather at street corners and food stalls to trade news and gossip or share tips for staying safe on the road. Once Gojek and other apps arrived, the habit carried over, says Rida Qadri, an MIT computational social scientist who studies Jakarta’s ride-hailing driver communities. Base camps became the network through which drivers around the city stayed in tight communication.
This effect can be seen in the US especially, where Uber drivers haven’t been able to gain an audience with company leadership, let alone generate the momentum to fight against the company’s sophisticated anti-regulation strategies, says Veena Dubal, a law professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, who studies and advocates on behalf of US gig workers. “The digital formation of community just isn’t the same,” she says.
But in Jakarta, things have played out differently. Through base camps, drivers don’t just keep each other informed; they support one another and band together to bend Gojek’s system a little more toward their will. It’s opened up new channels of communication with the company and laid the groundwork for lasting policy change.
We really need to figure out the integration of technology with our social structure and well being. It is important to keep the conversation going because technology will continue to impact the live of billions on this planet earth, for good and bad.
- Software Engineering