There are too many distasteful things about Uber to cover in one brief opinion piece. But one of the choice talking points in recent days has been an MIT study that illustrates the truth about working for the ‘modern-day sweatshops’, Lyft and Uber – a median profit for drivers of $3.37 per hour.
In fact, the study demonstrates that about 30% of drivers actually LOSE money working for these companies.
It is against this backdrop that Garrett Camp, the co-founder of Uber, announced that he is launching a new cryptocurrency called ECO with the intention of “creating a digital currency for everyone”. This was apparently inspired by a visit to Kenya, during which he was stunned – stunned! – to note that some people in that country did not have access to basic human needs, such as food and clean water.
Camp’s creation would, according to the Eco website, be “a global currency not controlled by any single individual, organization, or nation”, which would “create a more equitable distribution of resources”.
One might suppose he would start in his own backyard, by insisting on paying his drivers properly – but no. It’s straight to crypto.
Naturally, given his history, Camp has a distribution plan that would undermine incumbent players such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. He’s planning airdrop tokens to the first ‘billion users’ – in other words, hey everyone, free money! (This is often, as we have noted, a scam.)
Oh – and of course, 10% of the new global currency would be controlled by advisors and contributors, while another 10% would go to ‘strategic partners’.
If that’s not the antithesis of the decentralization movement that has propelled cryptocurrency and blockchain development, I’d like to know what is.
Let’s put aside Camp’s abysmal track record in giving a flying fuck about human rights as Chairman of Uber. Let’s ignore the hostile work environment, ignore the Waymo debacle, ignore them spying on rivals, and of course ignore the fact that the new MIT study proves it is virtually impossible to earn a living wage as an Uber driver.
Ignore it all: is Camp really the man we want in charge of changing the world economy forever? More to the point, do we want ANYONE in charge of it?
Camp, famously described by that hero of the gig economy, Travis Kalanick, as “the guy who invented that shit” [Uber] has vowed to give away half of his $5.3 billion fortune by the time he dies, as part of Bill Gates’ billions-are-completely-irrelevant-to-us Giving Pledge. This trip to Kenya really did a number on him, it seems, as it somehow inspired him to generate the life-changing sentence “Philanthropy isn’t just about donating money, but also sharing your advice or spending time solving important problems.”
Garrett Camp has created one of the world’s worst companies in the name of lowering costs for consumers and fulfilling the company mission – “Transportation as reliable as running water, everywhere for everyone.”
Now where did we just hear something like that… oh, right, from Camp himself, describing his motivations for the ECO currency. “…meeting people who struggle just to find clean water or enough to eat.”
Look beyond the hype, and you’ll see the true hypocrisy behind Camp’s plan. Just like his plan for Uber was to drive cabs and taxis out of business, leaving Uber as the last company standing, this sure looks like the plan for ECO. A plan to be the Walmart, or Uber, of money.
Who knows, perhaps Camp even believes his own charitable hype. Silicon Valley has been described as an echo chamber more than once. Perhaps he believes that this Second Coming of Uber will indeed cast him as a savior for faraway farmers.
But it seems that by laying away 20% of ‘money’ for future, unspecified partners and advisors, he probably has at least some idea that behind the glaze of futurism and humanitarianism, there’s simply more propheteering.