Andrew Keen: Uber Is Not The Answer

Author and entrepreneur Andrew Keen points to Uber as an example of an unregulated internet innovation wreaking havoc on customers, communities, and even its own employees.

Andrew Keen: Uber’s Travis Kalanick epitomizes the frat boy libertarian approach in Silicon Valley. He has no respect for government, no respect for his employees, no respect for critical journalists who go after his company. Indeed there was a recent case where one of his VPs suggested that they would go after one of the journalists, a female journalist called Sarah Lacy and Kalanick did absolutely nothing, didn’t even dismiss this VP. So Kalanick epitomizes that libertarianism, he used to have an Ayn Rand photo on his Twitter page.

More seriously though although that’s also a serious critique, Uber epitomizes the reason why the Internet is not the answer. At the moment we have this free market ideology that says all you need are platforms, that the Uber platform for cabs will replace the old archaic monopolies of the twentieth century. But of course Uber represents a much more dangerous monopoly. The reason why Uber is valued at 40 billion dollars, the reason why billions of dollars of Silicon Valley and Wall Street money have poured into Uber is because it’s a play actually controlling the entire global cab transportation industry. Uber is not for the people, it’s not for the consumer. It’s for Uber employees, it’s for Travis Kalanick to dominate that market. It becomes the dominant platform. And with that domination it’s a really very scary prospect. Already Uber’s behavior I think is untenable and very morally questionable.

For example, the Uber market is so dependent on the free market that when it rains, when there’s a snowstorm, on New Year’s Eve, on Thanksgiving, on any occasion where there’s excessive demand for cabs, Uber fares go up 10, 12 X. There’s no regulation, there’s no defense. Let me give you the best anecdote I think of all. I was in Detroit a few months ago, got into the back of a cab, African American driver, had five cabs of his own, would have been one of those small businessmen who would be swept away by Uber. Hardworking guy, very anti-Uber. He told me a story. His brother-in-law got out of jail, done ten years for manslaughter. When he came out of jail I said to him, “What did he do? Come and work for you?” He said, “No, I can’t employ him. The regulations are against me employing someone who’s done ten years for manslaughter.”

But that brother-in-law got a job with Uber. There’s no checks on Uber drivers so when you get into the back of an Uber cab you can be attacked. There are more and more cases in the Bay area of Uber drivers bullying their customers, even physically attacking them. So all this free market libertarian ideology, this idea that the government is the enemy, that regulation is the enemy is lending itself to a system whereby Uber isn’t regulated, isn’t controlled, can charge us anything they want, can exploit us as customers. Uber is even exploiting its drivers. It doesn’t employ them. It doesn’t give them any security. It doesn’t allow them to join unions. And Uber drivers are indeed themselves striking against Uber because they see it as exploitative. So on every level whether it’s the driver, the customer, the legacy cab companies, the local authorities, Uber is exploitative and bad news. It’s the reason why without regulation the Internet is not the answer.

Directed/Produced by Jonathan Fowler, Elizabeth Rodd, and Dillon Fitton

 

Andrew Keen is a British-American author and entrepreneur whose latest book, "The Internet is Not the Answer," explores the internet's negative effects on our psychology, economy, and culture. In this interview, Keen uses Uber as an example of an internet innovation that is wreaking havoc on an entire industry while taking advantage of its unregulated status to exploit customers and employees alike.

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As we get older, these processes increase. Brain weight decreases by about 5 percent per decade after 40. The frontal lobe and hippocampus — areas related to memory encoding — begin to shrink mainly around 60 or 70. But this is just an unfortunate reality; you can't always be young, and things will begin to break down eventually. That's part of the reason why some individuals think that we should all hope for a life that ends by 75, before the worst effects of time sink in.

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Just as sharp as the whippersnappers

To find out what's behind the phenomenon of super-agers, researchers conducted a study examining the brains and cognitive performances of two groups: 41 young adults between the ages of 18 and 35 and 40 older adults between the ages of 60 and 80.

First, the researchers administered a series of cognitive tests, like the California Verbal Learning Test (CVLT) and the Trail Making Test (TMT). Seventeen members of the older group scored at or above the mean scores of the younger group. That is, these 17 could be considered super-agers, performing at the same level as the younger study participants. Aside from these individuals, members of the older group tended to perform less well on the cognitive tests. Then, the researchers scanned all participants' brains in an fMRI, paying special attention to two portions of the brain: the default mode network and the salience network.

The default mode network is, as its name might suggest, a series of brain regions that are active by default — when we're not engaged in a task, they tend to show higher levels of activity. It also appears to be very related to thinking about one's self, thinking about others, as well as aspects of memory and thinking about the future.

The salience network is another network of brain regions, so named because it appears deeply linked to detecting and integrating salient emotional and sensory stimuli. (In neuroscience, saliency refers to how much an item "sticks out"). Both of these networks are also extremely important to overall cognitive function, and in super-agers, the activity in these networks was more coordinated than in their peers.

Default Mode Network

Wikimedia Commons

An image of the brain highlighting the regions associated with the default mode network.

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While prior research has identified some genetic influences on how "gracefully" the brain ages, there are likely activities that can encourage brain health. "We hope to identify things we can prescribe for people that would help them be more like a superager," said Bradford Dickerson, one of the researchers in this study, in a statement. "It's not as likely to be a pill as more likely to be recommendations for lifestyle, diet, and exercise. That's one of the long-term goals of this study — to try to help people become superagers if they want to."

To date, there is some preliminary evidence of ways that you can keep your brain younger longer. For instance, more education and a cognitively demanding job predicts having higher cognitive abilities in old age. Generally speaking, the adage of "use it or lose it" appears to hold true; having a cognitively active lifestyle helps to protect your brain in old age. So, it might be tempting to fill your golden years with beer and reruns of CSI, but it's unlikely to help you keep your edge.

Aside from these intuitive ways to keep your brain healthy, regular exercise appears to boost cognitive health in old age, as Dickinson mentioned. Diet is also a protective factor, especially for diets delivering omega-3 fatty acids (which can be found in fish oil), polyphenols (found in dark chocolate!), vitamin D (egg yolks and sunlight), and the B vitamins (meat, eggs, and legumes). There's also evidence that having a healthy social life in old age can protect against cognitive decline.

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