March 20th, 2017 | Uber
During my trip to California, I also learned about Uber. In the Netherlands, Uber does not stand any chance on the market, as every point in the country is easy to reach by a combination of the train- and bike rides and the cab market is microscopic. In Poland, this is also the case, as Uber lost a trial against the Polish labor association of taxi drivers. This is why I haven’t had any hands-on experiences with Uber up until now.
It seems to me that the whole Uber phenomenon is ephemeral as in a few years, cab drivers – especially here, in Silicon Valley — will most probably be replaced by self-driving cars.
However, it is interesting to observe this phenomenon from a psychological point of view. Over the last two weeks, I made over twenty rides with Uber, and I chatted with most of the drivers on the way. In particular, I was asking the drivers about how they enjoy working for Uber, how much Uber charges them, and what are the pros and cons of this job. Most of the drivers were just making extra money this way as a side job (or even a side-to-side job in some cases), while some other drivers were unemployed and this was their main source of cash. They were all on the same page about the main pro of working for Uber though: the flexible hours, and having no boss.
Some thought reached my mind then: given that Uber gives a relatively moderate (not to say: low) income, is a lack of boss a bite good enough that a worker is willing to give up on a part of the income in the name of freedom? How much is a typical person willing to give away, just to free themselves from this constant, everyday evaluation associated with formal employment? Would this behavior also appear in other contexts? What about other types of jobs? What about research?
When I was studying at the Interfaculty College of Mathematics and Natural Sciences at the University of Warsaw, I had open access to classes in 17 different disciplines, and no one to guide me through. Nevertheless, I managed to successfully complete three Master programs and publish two papers within my study time. My motivation was as good as it is now once I am employed, except there was no collateral stress relating to potential failure, peer evaluation or getting fired. Is that a key to happiness – personal freedom? Is this possible to do science this way – as a one-person institution with no boss? Would that induce chaos to the research community, or rather boost creativity and performance? It is a food for thought, and I make myself a resolution to try to answer these questions within the next few years.