Uberdystopian: the surge-priced nightmare future

Paul Ford's short story "One Day, I Will Die on Mars," depicts a chilling, all-too-believable dystopian world where Uber becomes a massive transhuman immortal colony-organism that treats its labor force as its gut-flora, to be continuously measured and perfected or discarded.

The smartest and creepiest part of this is how Ford depicts the demand-side of the equation — the customers for Uber's business whose look into the process only allows them to view their experience through the lens of whether or not it is as convenient as the algorithms told them it would be, and not the invisible human costs to the people who are struggling to live up to the machine's promises.

No cat food. No sofa. And now everything smells like, please forgive me if you are sensitive, but like poo. Apparently it's a 25x surge wastewater day because the seawall screw-up has flooded the sewers so of course my solids tank is full until it can do a night flush. I may have over-used the facilities (and I know you all find this
hilarious which is why I'm so willing to share my humiliation). Anyway, friends, I will forsake providing the details that I am sure you crave but as of about 20 minutes ago there was a…valve issue and now the whole apartment is redolent of poopery. If anyone knows how to do flush override on a 61B solid waste buffer message promptly.

I am Uber. I can see my thousands of cars. I don't know if I am an extension of them or they are an extension of me. They run over streets filled with pipes and electricity that I am also responsible for monitoring and optimizing. Hundreds of thousands of people are reporting back to me where they are. Beneath them is also an unoptimized subway system that runs empty trains at night, where everyone pays the same price no matter the time or demand. It is a form of madness. And of course it is failing, flooded, useless.

So I run this bag up the bridge. It's pretty rough until I crest and then I'm flying down the slope of the bridge into the city, I've got the weight on my back. Don't fall, though. Look for ice. Don't mess your ankle. UberDoctor will not be happy to see you. UberDoctor likes to give you pills and get you the hell out of there. MP, MP. A bridge to the left of me and a bridge to the right. Towers ahead. A big poster hanging down a building showing a driver in a space helmet. Going to Mars. We're five years away from mission zero.

One Day, I Will Die on Mars [Paul Ford/Motherboard]