• Maria Fustic

Where are we 'Ubering' to Next?

The riddle of the sphinx: "What is the creature that walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three in the evening?" When contemplating this question one can interpret it in a variety of ways, most commonly either on a micro or macro scale, but either way the answer is “man”. If you answered the riddle correctly, you have killed the sphinx. The most common interpretation is on a micro scale- it is man because man is first on all fours as an infant, then on two legs as a youth/adult, and then on three legs as an elder with a cane. Through the eyes of international development however the interpretation is on a macro scale. Synchronically, this riddle represents the evolution of man as a whole. The four legs are humans as natural beings (apes), the two legs as cultural beings (people beginning to create social groups), and then the three legs are humans as technological beings. This third step has evolved overtime itself, our third leg went from a horse to a carriage to a car (and many steps in between and variance between culture and place) and now, well, now our third leg is Uber.

They proudly admit this themselves; the first sentence on the Ubers “about” page is “Uber is evolving the way the world moves.” Uber is an American international transportation network company. Using their mobile app, consumers can see on a virtual map where Uber drivers are nearest to them, see what they look like, see what ratings they have from other customers, submit a request for which car is most suitable (nearest, best ratings, etc) and then watch the car on the map as it makes its way to them. Once it has arrived, there is no cash exchange, the customer has already entered their credit card information into the app and an Uber automatically charges them through their smart phone. [1] What’s more is that if there is more than one customer you can split the fare. Lastly, one cannot forget to mention that for national ice-cream month you can summon an ice cream truck to come straight to your location, or, how for National Cat day Uber drivers will deliver kittens straight to your front door, or, how while Santa is preparing to deliver gifts, Uber is delivering your Christmas tree straight to your door step. [2] Wow, that is freaking magnificent.

Uber is a global force. It’s innovative. It’s revolutionary. It’s evolutionary. But is evolution moving in the right direction? On Ubers website it states that as a company it is “rapidly expanding global presence continues to bring people and their cities closer.” At first thought we think the same for the Internet, smartphones and social media, but most people would now agree that at least in some ways these are in fact spreading people apart, not bringing us together. There are many problems with Uber. Company opposition includes but is not limited to concerns of safety, user privacy, sabotage against competitors, surge pricing, threatening the livelihoods of cab drivers, bad treatment of disabled customers, and many more that unfortunately cannot be expanded on in such a short article.[3] However, Uber has the benefits of easiness, accessibility, comfort, attractiveness-especially for younger users, and even regarding the environment they are automatically summoned to different places so they know exactly where to go, thus they spend less time driving around, clogging traffic, and creating unnecessary pollution. It seems great doesn’t it?

This is a very complicated yet fascinating topic, and this article is meant to be taken with a grain of salt as it is only giving a brief overview that is meant to spark some thought. In regards to development it surely makes things easier, it is undoubtedly an incredible technological advancement. However, next time, before entering an Uber, or “ubering”, I would like you to consider the fact that this is a multibillion-dollar corporation owned by an American that is number 80 on the Forbes list of 400 richest Americans because of his success with the launch of this company. [4] They claim that their drivers can make $90,000 a year, yet, real drivers admit that they are making less than minimum wage. [5] Most critically, for the well-being of your home, consider that it is a tax evading company that siphons profit into foreign bank accounts with corporate interests in mind and no thought for the damage this does to local economies and communities. [6] Is this really bringing us closer together?

The next step in their plan is to use self-driving cars, what will happen to all of those jobs? [7] This is evolution. The sphinx has another riddle for you. Is evolution moving in the right direction? How can man make this concept better? How can man use this technology to benefit more people instead of a small group benefiting from large profit? How can man make this an even more remarkable developmental advancement? Think of an answer, kill the sphinx, evolve.

[1] Uber, “The Company,” Uber, 2015. Accessed October 30, 2015. https://www.uber.com/about

[2] Eliana Dockterman, “Ice cream, Kittens, and Now Christmas Trees: Uber Aims to Be More Than a Car Service”, Time, December 5, 2013. Accessed October 30, 2015. http://time.com/52473/ice-cream-kittens-and-now-christmas-trees-uber-aims-to-be-more-than-a-c

[3] Martine Powers, “Taxi drivers say Uber threatens their livelihoods,” Boston Globe, May 22, 2014. Accessed October 30, 2015. https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/05/22/taxi-drivers-protest-uber-boston-offices/0YlRN0hHAHVhcxFIQ2X5aI/story.html

[4]Kerry A. Dolan and Luisa Kroll, “#80 Travis Kalanick,” Forbes, September, 29, 2015. Accessed October 30, 2015. http://www.forbes.com/forbes-400/gallery/travis-kalanick

[5] Maya Kosoff, “Uber drivers speak out,” Business Insider, October 29, 2014. Accessed October 30, 2015. http://www.businessinsider.com/uber-drivers-say-theyre-making-less-than-minimum-wage-2014-10

[6] Oscar Williams-Grut, “Uber's rival says it uses 'tax avoidance on an industrial scale,' and wants Europe to investigate,” Business Insider UK, July 31, 2015. Accessed October 30, 2015.


[7] Justine Coyne, “Exclusive: Here's your first look at Uber's test car (and why you'll see it around Pittsburgh),” Pittsburgh Business Times, May 22, 2015. Accessed October 30, 2015.


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