Saturday, September 23, 2017

Freddie and Fiona and Uber

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Last summer Lord Bonkers ran into his old friends Freddie and Fiona at the offices of the Remain campaign:
I ask how their economic liberal think tank is getting on. “It’s going really well.” “Did you go to our fringe meeting at the Lib Dem spring conference?” “It was all about Uber.” “Do you know it? It’s this wonderful app on your phone.” “You can call at taxi any time.” “And if you don’t like the driver you can give him a low score and he loses his livelihood.” “We call it ‘the sharing economy’.”
My take on this week's affair is that Uber is a mini-cab firm, albeit one with a clever app attached to it.

I assume the affair will end with Uber making an effort to placate the licensing authority and getting its licence extended after all.

But if that doesn't happen then new firms, armed with the same technology and a little less greed, will soon move in.

I could understand the previous generation being starry-eyed about anything based on the net, because it was all so new.

As John Harris once pointed out:
The computer industry came of age in the 1990s, that giddy phase of American and European history when authoritarianism was assumed to be on the wane.
But for the likes of Freddie and Fiona, digital natives as they are, the internet should be old hat.

The fact that something is online should not stop us worrying about licensing conditions being kept to or treating quasi-monopolies with suspicion.

1 comment:

Phil Beesley said...

Wikipedia has a long list of cognitive biases, and perhaps I missed the one that describes some Uber defenders. I'll describe the bias instead.

TfL identified problems with the licence for Uber to act as a private hire car agency, provided four months for the company to address the problems, and announced that the licence would end after the problems weren't fixed.

That is how contracts and licences operate. If you don't deliver, you don't get the deal.

"It works for me!" is an expression shouted by IT people when someone reports a problem. Smart IT people use it as an expletive when somebody else has identified a problem that testing failed to uncover. It is a way of letting off steam before going off to fix the problem.

Less intelligent IT people interpret it as a solution. "It works for me!" doesn't mean that it always works for everyone.