• jon

    Posted 1306 days ago

  • Heller's article is a blend of skepticism, cyniscism, and humor. I believe that he views the emerging market of virtual assitants as questional at best and detrimental to society at worst. Maybe he was more neutral that I think and I'm only expressing my own cynicism for things like this. Regardless, this article helps us realize that what is being outsourced by captalists isn't only factories, manufacturing, call centers, etc., but now assistants.

    The problem of efficiency, productivity, and how to make a market out of some but not really enough disposable income is an obvious target for startup tech, and the brigades have already come through.

    Similar to how manufacturing moved to countries with lower wages and costs because people were willing to forgo quality and community for cost-effectiveness, the same is now leaking into industries that can be performed over the internet. Virtual assitants can login to your email, calendar, etc. to perform actions that we "don't have the time for." And all of this for a "wage that's illegal in the United States" but that "will keep you well fed in Keyna." Not only is it morally dubious for income inequality, it's directly harmful to the American economy.

    Offshore outsourcing, which included more than fourteen million workers in 2018, has been linked to unemployment and wage stagnation in the American workforce: it's harder to get a raise if your competition abroad works for much less.

    The problem here is that wages stay stagnant as the cost of living increases and inflation keeps dropping the real value of your salary. All the while, captalists accumulate more profits at the expense of working people, often going into the hands of venture capitalists and lenders that gain the most out of the business that cuts costs by paying Americans less and taking advantage of lower wages elsewhere.

    I am deeply opposed to all of this, and think that any American company should have to pay workers the American minimum wage, regardless of where those workers reside. If workers outside the US are more productive than the ones inside, then this will foster good competition and allow developing countries to gain more wealth. If it turns out that the workforce aborad is actually not more productive, it was just in fact cheaper, than jobs will come back to the US. Frankly, I don't care at all what economists might say about this: they might say well oh this is better for Americans that we can outsource jobs because it grows our economy more. That might be true for the weathly and rich to take advantage of developing countries and earn more for themselves and potentially "investing more in America." But politics is also about morals and this is morally wrong and should not be allowed.

    Heller finishes by looking at a specific "agent" that works in the company:

    In 2017, he became the second agent hired at Invisible. He has since been promoted to middle management, at ten dollars an hour, and he oversees a team of fifteen. His income is a healthy one in Keyna; he bought a plot of land in Malindi and had a house built for his wife and son. But the grind is real. Ooko begins his workday at 4 P.M. and contues through to morning, logging in sixty or seventy hours a week. The nonstop nocturnal schedule, plus the business of raising a family, is less than totally conducive to flights of entrepreneurial imagination; when I asked Ooko about his long-term ambitions, he referred me to Invisible's corporate goals.

    This sounds completely reasonable to me; Ooko makes $10 an hour, currently a legal wage in the United States. Though he is "middle management," meaning that there are those under him who make far less. I think that the government should regulate the outsourcing industry and insure all of these workers make the American, federal minimum wage, and have working conditions that abide by American law. Anything less than this is ludicrous, harmful, and morally wrong.