Stephen Normandin spent nearly four years working up and down Phoenix USA, delivering packages as a contract driver for Amazon. Then one day he received an automated message: the algorithms that “followed it” decided he was not doing his job well. The 63-year-old veteran was stunned: he fired from a car.
Normandin, as he says BloombergHe lost his job due to measures beyond his control. Traffic and weather as well as the recipients of shipments outside the home, with the impossibility of leaving goods near homes in safe places. But when numbers make decisions, some variables cannot be taken into account. Are we approaching a dystopian world in which machines are taking more and more control of people’s professional lives?
In fact, it is a process we are going through slowly. The proliferation of production, the pace of which was accelerated by the epidemic, highlighted the quantitative aspect of labor compared to the qualitative aspect. Selling more, producing more, is an imperative to which nothing can be subordinated. As in the past, after all.
Amazon, a money machine
In the scenario that appears before us, Amazon is a teacher. The company has already machined its HR activities, using software not only to manage workers in warehouses, but also to oversee contract drivers, independent delivery companies, and even the performance of their employees. Jeff Bezos believes that machines make decisions faster and more accurately than people, which lowers costs and gives Amazon a competitive advantage.
Stephen Normandin has an Amazon Flex contract. Flex is the service, launched in 2015, that allows Amazon to deliver packages within a day, in the United States. It works like this: Truck drivers load bulky cargo while smaller cargo, or those that stay outside, are handled by “independent” folds, which cover certain areas of the city.
At the mercy of algorithms
From the first day of work, each courier is monitored by algorithms. Did they arrive at the delivery station on time? Did they complete their studies in the specified window? Did they leave a package in plain sight or hide behind a bespoke planter? Amazon’s algorithms scan the incoming data stream for performance patterns and decide which drivers work best and which ones to leave at home.
Human reactions are rare. Drivers sometimes receive automated emails, but they are often stressed at every moment by ratings that come at the end of the day, from great to great and fair or unsafe. Bloomberg He interviewed 15 Flex drivers, including four who claimed they were wrongfully fired, as well as former Amazon managers who say the largely automated system isn’t adequately aligned with the real-world challenges Flexs face every day. According to former managers, Amazon knew that delegating work to machines would lead to errors, but decided it was cheaper to trust the algorithms than to pay people to investigate incorrect deliveries. After all, drivers can be easily replaced.
Couriers, undisclosed value
Is there a solution to all of this? It’s not that easy. The realm of knights and the like is always poorly defended and legislated, despite attempts to equate it with more traditional forms of action. Furthermore, the pandemic has made the importance of Amazon and the work of independent carriers or contractors more visible. Without them, many people would have been left without essential goods, perhaps because they were far from supermarkets, or without the tools to not go crazy in the months of lockdown. Does Amazon realize this value to these collaborators? to Bloomberg, in general, no.
“When drivers dispute negative reviews, they can’t tell if they’re communicating with real people. The answers often include only a noun and usually apply to a variety of situations rather than a specific problem. When human managers are called upon, they conduct a hasty review, if any, because they must meet their own performance standards. A former employee of a driver support call center said that dozens of part-time seasonal workers with little training have been tasked with overseeing the problems of millions of drivers..
Law against misuse of artificial intelligence الذكاء
In December, Senator Chris Koons, a Democrat from Delaware, suggested a so-called “Arithmetic Equity Law‘, a rule that requires the Federal Trade Commission to create rules that ensure algorithms are used fairly and that those affected by their decisions are informed and have the opportunity to correct mistakes. The proposal is firm in the Senate.
In the meantime Jeff BezosHe, as expected, took a step back (so to speak) from the Amazon CEO, and replaced him. Andy Gacy. Bezos will continue to handle business impacting the e-commerce giant, which has now launched into several other sectors. For example, television broadcast rights for unique events, such as the next release of Champions League, but also parallel projects, including one that will take him into the space and editorial growth of The Washington Post, which was bought exactly eight years ago.