Feudalism and Tech

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In the information age, you do not teach philosophy as they did after feudalism. You perform it. If Aristotle were alive today he'd have a talk show.

Timothy Leary

Talk about feudalism, and the first thing that crosses one's mind is a village, rural setting and most probably agriculture. By and large that was the original form but as cities and ports emerged- the form transpired towards oligarchy and kleptocracy. Today feudalism has carved its niche even in technological paradigm. AirBnB adsocking the regular hotel industry, showing the comparisons of billions of dollars of profitability without actually owning an inch of property is an open variation of feudal doctrine. You might think- where is the land and labor? Well that's the best part- virtual domain and unlimited access to the labor for free. The regular hotel industry may have been demonized for long for splurge and lavish – suggestively due to the extravagant façade it projects. But the new wave can be more coercive- if not obvious.

Take a look around at the millennial ventures. The app economy precisely. What are they fueling to, coupled parallel economy? The regular hotel employs staff but it should not be at the cost of technology. If tomorrow every company develops a $ 1 Billion automated system- where will everyone go? Venture Capitalists thrive and survive on profits on their investments. How long will they remain bystanders, spectators and honestly "goo-goo dolls". The Housekeeping, the Room Service, the Food & Beverage department. If everyone has automatic billing that will be charged to their cards, and the key cards will be delivered to them, while robots will serve them in restaurants; will not these hotels become ghost-towns? It is easy to imagine. No check-in or checkout, luggage transferred through a conveyor belt. Where is hospitality in all of this? The logic remains the same.

Make no mistake, I am a bigger fan of AirBnB than anyone else I know- but not for the wrong reasons. AirBnB is basically Couch-Surfing concept only that the former is paid and latter is free or for fun. I am a world traveler and I know how beneficial is AirBnB, especially to explore and cherish many remote parts of the world. But that does not give them a license to mock those who are actually involved in the regular economy. Who are actually transferring their profits (in whatever proportion) to people who earn their lives through them and people who have families to support. There should be a line drawn. Just like hostels are for backpackers, there should be some distinction or balance to let the hotel industry thrive, including these hospitality apps.

Somewhere in the Spring of 2017 another lead app giant Fiverr ran an ad campaign in America and Europe talking about the performance based lifestyle as to how providers have to depend on caffeine to keep them up and running. The ad faced a certain back lash- because Fiverr pays $ 4 for a gig to a provider. Many services which were incredibly hard to avail and were costly, are now available for cheese and crackers in this gig economy. By all means Fiverr is a good option, but we should not glorify the undercuts of BMR (Below market rates) of others? Should we? This is what technological feudalism looks like. It is becoming way deeper than that and we need to draw parallels to find solution. Otherwise, it will self cripple itself. Like AirbBnb is facing severe criticism even in its home region of San Francisco. These apps can become a major contributor in the economic cycle- but should never underline the sovereignty of regulated business practices. As automation can not monitor and regulate on its own. It is not about the business model but the very nature of demand and supply with multiple providers that forbids a corrupt business practice to go for long. Such fire-fighting even away the good that technology brought to break the autocratic clutter.



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