When I told a friend I’d started practising yoga again, she asked where I was going to classes. Oh no, I replied, I’ve downloaded a yoga app so I can do any type of yoga class, anytime, anywhere, and all for the one-off price of $4.49.
She might have been a bit jealous because she said, so you sacked your yoga teacher? Later in the week, when I was saluting the sun with my new screen guru, I had to agree. I’d sacked my yoga teacher.
But that’s not the only Australian worker I’ve sacked. Take my app for learning Italian. I was going to book a course in Italian at my local community college. But then I found a $5.99 app. Now I practise Italian anytime, even during downward dog if I want. So I’ve kind of sacked an Italian teacher too.
When I asked friends if they’d sacked any workers, one said she used to attend Weight Watchers classes but now used the app; another dumped her trainer when she got a Fitbit; and a tradie said he learned everything about tiling from YouTube.
And that’s just the obvious people we’ve sacked. If you track all the stuff your smartphone does — the music, books and magazines that you get for next to nothing; the clothes bought offshore; the business services procured on the cheap; the dates found without lifting a glass — then there are many more.
Every time you open an app, a job disappears. Or, more precisely, every time you open an app, a wage drops, a price gets cut, a business loses a few more customers, a tradie sits in the ute a little longer and, sometimes, a whole industry disappears. If everything on the phone is doing stuff cheaper, faster and better than realworld providers, then real people have to cut prices, cut wages or join the unemployed. Sure there are a few winners who are making big money from screen services, but so far there are many, many more losers in the real world.
Now this leakage of business, prices, wages and opportunities is hard to detect. There are no company announcements about plant closures. Governments don’t step in with rescue packages. No one announces, another yoga teacher lost their job because Deirdre and her friends downloaded Yoga Studio.
But economic statistics are picking it up and people are feeling it. They know customers are harder to find and tougher to please. They know they have to accept less even if no one explains why. Sometimes they talk to the yoga teacher in the cafe and they shake their heads at what has happened to business conditions. And if pollsters ask them if they expect their kids to do better in life than they did, they reply no.
Apps are not the whole story but they’re the easiest to see and, according to experts, are just the beginning. Robotics, blockchain, cloud computing, the internet of everything and innovations that don’t have names yet will make more jobs disappear. Some reports say 40 per cent of today’s jobs will disappear. Some say it’s higher.
But not many people read those reports. No one blames the apps on their phone for their stagnant wages, tough conditions and cut-price contracts. Even if they’re aware of the old jobs that are disappearing because of technology, they can’t see the jobs that aren’t being created because technology is already in that seat.
So they kick out at people they can see; leaders who were once responsible for regulating their lives, people who have something to do with the new world order or just people who piss them off. They take their frustrations out on the EU, Washington, global institutions and politicians who are more excited by change than threatened by it. And they flock to those who sound as pissed off as they are. They chase yesterday because they don’t understand what’s happening today and are frightened of what tomorrow will bring.
But they too have apps on their smartphone and a browsing history that betrays the online markets they’ve visited. The new services come from everywhere but the faces they replace are Australian, sometimes they’re local and sometimes they’re nice guys. Sorry. gmail.com