The Quicksand of Freelance Economy

At best, in a far away future, Freelance economy leads to concentration of expertise.

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Freelancers will have extremely narrow regions over which they will gain excessive mastery. In the words of Ryan Johnson, UpWork’s director of categories, “So you’re not just an accountant, you’re an accountant that specializes in the drone delivery market on the island of Manhattan, or something like that.”

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The unconcerned tone of one of prime leaders among the enablers of Freelance economy is first indication of the whole force of innovation being aimed at securing bigger margins for the businesses at the least costs.

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The excessive concentration of expertise simply translates to assembly line manufacturing of content and products for digital merchandising and consumption. The companies secure greater margins while the workers become alarmingly expendable.

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Freelance economy offers mobility, greater choice of moving between and across jobs, independence from adherence to office decorum and regulations. To the self-styled employee hooked on the need to experience authenticity and intensity without necessarily incurring the chaotic wrath of going astray, this mode of working offers a well textured cocoon of sorts.

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Freelancers, as the very tag implies, remain free of the need to commit irrevocably to a singular line of action and consequences while still retaining the access to a sanctuary of regular financial gains and social acceptability. To remain comfortably nestled in the non – comital zone, vaguely situated between what was hitherto a zero sum game of choosing between the my way of conventions or the highway of radicalism.

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Doing away the need to follow a routine and working on your own only to find oneself caught in the binds of another kind of much deadlier routine is what the digital economy is offering. Organizations get to save hugely on training costs, retention expenses and social benefits expenditures while on their own volition freelancers agree to handle their own affairs, a huge portion of which now taking shape in response to the work they do.

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A simple over-extension of the deeply flawed beliefs of the past, everything is possible and everyone is special, freelance economy offers the lifestyle suitable exclusively for ones with a perennial creative potential to all and sundry.

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Narcissistic ennui, breakdown of organic resistances against novel ways and ideas, increasing dependence on the demagogues of digital age for validation and enraged refusal of contrary evidence by sourcing in on the communal pool of affirmations as is readily available through various social media platforms are the few of the maladaptive recourses the huge number of self-willed creative souls are using to keep their fragile identities intact.

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Statistics show how businesses are benefiting heavily from the gig economy, Forbes reports on the basis of a research by Buffer; “Forty-three percent of companies using gig workers are saving at least 20% just in labor costs.” Companies are gaining economies of scale by increasing their productivity without incurring the overhead costs involved in hiring permanent employees, expanding their payrolls and expending on benefits costs. Further, the report says, “The cost of benefits alone, make up for more than 31% of the average employees total compensation package. “ Businesses have found an unusual ally in their pursuit of their usual targets, bigger margins and better profits, the present generation of specificity obsessed workers, the freelancers. Among the present generation workers, a study cites a figure of 81 per cent putting working as per their schedules as their top most priority.

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With a complete breakdown of business ethics, the first grand manifestation of which within the digital economy was the universal acceptance which was readily stamped upon the kernel of an idea soon snowballing itself  into the outsourcing industry, is only gaining further steam.

Atrocious and horrible terms such as graveyard shift, pseudo names for customer service representatives, disowning of overhead costs via the newly minted jargons crept effortlessly into the mainstream business lexicon enabled primarily due to the economic vulnerabilities of workers from third-world economies.

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Businesses seem to have completely shirked their share of the responsibility of ensuring an optimal work and personal life balance by feeding upon the misinformed sense of grandiosity of the present generation youth.

The same grand promises of self -sufficiency and autonomy were also made to the call centre workers. However, as soon as margins started to deplete the outsourced work moved elsewhere leaving their adopted sons and daughters in a cultural and economic limbo many of the participants are still struggling to climb out of. As the scriptures say, “Those who refuse to learn from history are condemned to repeat it,” the massacre of budding employees as performed by the grand promise of outsourcing seems on the anvil to repeat itself. Thou be thine own executioner seems to be the guiding principle of the hirers or willing agents to the ever expanding freelance economy. The heady mirth of self- sufficiency, even if based on the flimsy grounds of a chain of affirmations and reassurances provided by a group of faceless online commiserators is still too strong to simply let go off.

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Many in the fields of primarily intellectual work are already threatened at the pace at which emerging technologies are turning their hard earned skills obsolete. Even a mediocre writer of pulp fiction puts in endless hours of drudgery filled work to gain a modicum of command over the language he or she wishes to write in. Now, organizations such as OpenAI have designs of artificial intelligence ready to be deployed with an unassuming title of GPT 2, which shows the seething scorn towards imaginative works people working in pure analytics unabashedly harbour, which can write fancy fiction and news stories based on an input of some basic prompts.

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Rather, than being dependent on the whims and fancies of one talented author who cannot himself explain the process behind his masterpieces, publishers can now put an army of amateurs to simply generate one worthy paragraph after another and use an AI modality to put it all together into a sellable work of fiction or non fiction. Assembly line production never truly went away.

The war between natural sciences and humanities has definitely taken an ominous edge in favour of those who want to reduce everything to raw data.

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Freelance workers in their fabulous apathy towards the future of their work are actually arming this data driven faction with the exact tools with which they can come up with software patches and algorithms to make their voluntary provided contributions redundant. This may happen earlier than expected. Narrow specialization generates raw data upon which autonomous software architecture can be built. It is no overstatement to say, the ones at the forefront of the freelance economy are digging bottomless graves for themselves and their peers.

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Discipline of regular work and routine is essential for development of relatable and endurable personalities. Freelance economy probably will create one brilliant manifestation of sublimity in its narrowest possible expression among individuals too thinly spread out. The much dreaded pancake personalities.


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