Every year, Kleiner Perkins partner Mary Meeker gives us her look at the trends in technology. This year in 294 slides. Here are some of the points, along with follow on points that she might have conveniently neglected to mention. She is a Silicon Valley tech investor, after all:
The Gig Economy
The gig economy is growing fast, with nearly seven million people projected to be working in it in the US by the end of this year, up 26% from 2017, said Meeker. Seventy-one percent of US gig workers say they “always wanted to be their own boss,” according to a survey Intuit conducted in November 2017. As Quartz points out (People are joining the gig economy because of a powerful myth), it’s the algorithm that’s in charge, determining “where the driver will head next, who she’ll pick up, and how much she’ll be paid for that trip. In other words, many important features of the job are outside the driver’s control.”
As for Meeker referring to Uber drivers as “driver partners,” as Adam Townsend reported, “By the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2017, Uber unilaterally imposed driver compensation cuts that reduced (gross passenger revenue to “Driver earnings and bonuses” from 78%) to 72%.”
Did their “partners” at corporate, who made the decision to literally shortchange drivers, take pay cuts as well?
Less job security, as in freelancing, does not means higher pay in the gig/on demand economy. In fact, most workers earn below minimum wage. We don’t recall Meeker mentioning that point, either.
Data Gathering – and AI
Data gathering is happening at a “torrid pace,” said Meeker. Of course, it’s so that you can receive better-targeted ads, of course. Other side of the coin: How the Tech Giants Created What Darpa Couldn’t. It’s all about surveillance. On a massive level. In private hands. Or so we’re led to believe, in case you’re wondering why no one in government seems to want to rein them in.
“Although the EU/Asia/Americas have deep concerns about data collection. China is encouraging it,” said Meeker. Did we miss something? And note to self: Most of your phones are coming from China – fewer are being built in the US, according to Meeker.
China is also very focused on AI. It does all make sense now, what, eh?
56% of the most highly valued tech companies were founded by 1st and 2nd generation Americans, said Meeker. Uber, Tesla, WeWork and Wish all have first-generation founders. True, but again, note to self: none of those founders came in on H1B visas.
We realize that this is an Internet Trends Report – and that Mary Meeker is a Silicon Valley-based VC. Who does assuage fears about certain aspects of the industry, when it’s convenient. AI happens to be a hot button, so she quoted Google CEO Sundar Pinchai in a slide, who said:
“AI is one of the most important things that humanity is working on. It is more profound than electricity or fire. We have learned to harness fire for the benefit of humanity but we had to overcome its downside, too. AI is really important but we have to be concerned about it.”
Google and Facebook are making privacy tools much more accessible, said Meeker. Given all of the revelations about Facebook’s data breaches – most lately that Facebook Gave Device Makers Deep Access to Data on Users and Friends, which was this year, true, so it was not in the report, but how many apologies had Facebook issued over the years, including some related to sharing user information? Really want to go there, Mary, considering that Facebook has been selling our data – and our friends’ data – for years? We know: sorry, or to quote Mark Zuckerberg, “we can do better.”
Many points were covered, and many were not. 294 slides is a lot, but sometimes less is more. Our suggestion: a little more balance and a little less lockstep with the Silicon Valley talking points would be appreciated.
Or to put it more succinctly: On balance, Mary, you can do better.
Onward and forward.