Do We Really Want to Live in an Uber-fied World?

Share this:

UBERI knew I was in love the first time I used it. Hit a button on my phone and a car quickly arrives a few minutes later. Pure Genius.

Yet in the years since I first used Uber, things have changed a bit. It’s now a commodity. With Uber, Lyft or other ride sharing services I can quickly catch a ride whenever I want.  I can order almost anything using Postmates. Home cleaning is one click away on my phone. Heck, in Seattle, where I live, ordering marijuana is almost easier than ordering takeout.

The Uber-fication of everything is upon us, and it’s not just transportation these companies are after. Since observing the meteoric rise of Uber, the war chest of money they have raised, and the utter disrespect for humanity its management has displayed, I am worried we are too far down the wrong road to turn around. The company seems to want it all — and all our privacy that comes with it!

For context, I recently noticed a frightening trend with certain founders in the tech industry.

Here’s the plan:  Have a great idea. Get a few key people to join you and build it. Launch the product and raise money from investors. Experience massive success. Raise more money. Gain hundreds of millions of users. Raise billions of dollars and fight off regulators. Have unfettered access to billions of people’s data. Exploit it. Believe you are the second coming. Act like an uncaring, immoral capitalist. Care only about your wealth and not what you are doing to everyday citizens. And so on…

Given Uber’s recent missteps and the resulting outrage which ensued, we, as an industry, need to take a long look in the mirror. Founders need to take full consideration in how they are running their companies, the culture they are creating, the data they are generating and collecting, and the ultimate consequences of their actions.

We are standing at an unprecedented time in the history of business and technology. Everyday Joes now have the opportunity to create an app or platform that one day might just become indispensable to mankind. With its use, Joe will collect billions upon billions of data points on everyday citizens — like where those citizens are sitting currently, where they are going, who they talk to, what they typed and to whom they sent it, what they viewed on their phones, whom they connected with socially, etc..  With all this happening, Joe will find himself directly in the middle of our society holding a treasure trove of personal data and a devil on his shoulder just waiting for the right time to tempt him into exploiting it.

Imagine what Facebook knows about you. Couple that with your Uber or Lyft usage data. Toss in your Twitter clicks, Instagram photos, Gmail history and Google Chrome browser history.  What about the movements within your home Nest surely knows about you? How do we not know our each and every move of everyday life is not recorded and used for profit?

Scary stuff indeed. And we are doing this to ourselves. This is your fault and mine. We – the tech industry – are the ones creating this new world of massive data collection which is resulting in unprecedented spying, snooping, breaches of security, cloud hacks and the like. All in the name of making more money.

I am not here to end data collection and analysis, in fact I believe in it and when done correctly it makes for a better end user experience. I also know data collection is only going to get more prevalent with the expansion of categories like the Internet of Things and connected homes.

Like me you probably wake up each morning looking forward to Street Fight so you can  further understand how technology is changing hyperlocal commerce. It’s exciting, fascinating and I am honored to be a part of it. Yet, I am urging all of us to start thinking about things using a different filter, or perspective.

Let’s start asking ourselves these questions:

— Recognizing that all possible data about myself and every other person is now being collected, how to I structure my platform to best benefit mankind and society?

— How do balance personalization of my technology with personal security of my users?

— How do I proceed when I know I CAN do something but unsure if I SHOULD do something?

— Where’s my “do not cross” line?

— How can we best usher in a new era of technology applications where security is inherent within the structure of the product, not an afterthought when plugging holes after launch?

— How do I shift my perspective from making the most money possible with my application toward making the world a better, more secure and protected society?

It’s time to really start thinking about these questions. We are the ones creating the exact surveillance society we were deathly afraid of growing up. We just thought it would be the Big Bad Government or another foreign country, not ourselves.

Please understand hubris will sink anyone who thinks they are immune to it.  You – as a founder and someone desperately wanting to change the world – can now no doubt do just that. Let’s just make sure we know what change we are putting in place.

Nick HughesNick Hughes is director of business development for Knotis. He previously founded the mobile payment startup Seconds as well as Coinme, a new company built around expanding bitcoin and digital transactions into the physical realm via Bitcoin ATM’s. In addition to those projects, Nick is co-founder and the host of Founders RAW, a multi-media platform focused on highlighting stories of startup founders and their companies.