An application programming interface (API) is a set of subroutine definitions, protocols, and tools that are building blocks for application software...software of the sort that Uber uses to connect taxi drivers to customers without other human intervention. From Anthony Wing Kosner
Customers use an app interface to enter their data into the system. The app sends a request that includes account data, pickup and dropoff locations via API to Uber's servers that poll available drivers nearby and dispatches one to the customer to fulfill the request. The only two humans involved are the customer and the driver. Danny DeVito has been furloughed!
From Peter Reinhardt
Drivers are opting into a dichotomous workforce: the worker bees below the software layer have no opportunity for on-the-job training that advances their career, and compassionate social connections don’t pierce the software layer either. The skills they develop in driving are not an investment in their future. Once you introduce the software layer between ‘management’ (Uber’s full-time employees building the app and computer systems) and the human workers below the software layer (Uber’s drivers, Instacart’s delivery people), there’s no obvious path upwards. In fact, there’s a massive gap and no systems in place to bridge it.
Kosner notes some of the longer term implication of such software:
Uber drivers, Amazon Mechanical Turk workers, 99design contestants, TaskRabbit taskers and HomeJoy cleaners are all targets for further automation...Yes, self-driving cars on the way, and it is likely that automated taxi fleets will be the first commercial application of this technology... Uberization of work may soon be coming to your chosen profession, affecting not just cab drivers and house cleaners, but extending to lawyers, doctors and even (some day) venture capitalists.
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