Samir Varma points my attention to this WSJ Christopher Mims piece:
Right now a college student in Sweden—let’s call him Sven—has a rather unusual summer job. He’s in sales, but he hasn’t met anyone from the company whose products he pushes.
His boss is an app. It considers Sven’s strengths and weaknesses as a salesman, matches him with goods from any of a dozen brands, and plots a route through Stockholm optimized to include as many potential customers as possible in the time allotted to him.
The app is like Uber, but for a sales force. It has many of the same dynamics: Companies can use it to get salespeople on demand, and those salespeople choose when to work and which assignments to accept.
I am very much an Uber fan, but if you are looking for drawbacks that passage expresses one potential problem. Pre-Uber, acquiring worker talent required lumpier investments on the part of the employer. You would hire a bunch of people, with the expectation of keeping them around for a while, and then train them to do a bunch of things. Some of them would work their way up the proverbial ladder, based on what you had taught them, many would not. But you would train and teach them quite a bit, if only because there was no alternative for getting things done.
In a “sharing economy,” a pre-trained worker is very often on call for a short stint, when needed. The employer thus has less need to invest in option value from the full-time work force and that means less training. The result is that more workers will have to teach and train themselves, whether for their current jobs or for a future job they might have later on.
I submit many people cannot train themselves very well, even when the pecuniary returns from such training are fairly strongly positive. The “at work social infrastructure” for that training is no longer there, and so many sharing economy workers will stay put at their ex ante levels of knowledge.
Uber thus shares the same property which is common to so many other parts of the new knowledge economy, namely that the return to self-training is high, and the return to not-self-training is low. This further helps those with high levels of discipline and conscientiousness.