News & Opinion | August 10, 2018 5:00 am

Silicon Valley Engineers Worry That They Have Created A Monster

They not only created the threats to the economy, but they are enabling them.

silicon valley
A driver with placards for both Lyft and Uber waits for a traffic light outside South Station after picking up a passenger. (Lane Turner/Globe Staff)
Lane Turner/Globe Staff

Companies like Uber, Lyft and Instacart have been hugely successful. Uber, which tells employees they can “make their own schedule,” is the most valuable start-up in the U.S., reportedly worth $72 billion. Lyft, meanwhile, allows workers to “Be your own boss,” and is valued at $11 billion. Instacart, a grocery delivery startup, is valued at just over $4 billion, according to Vanity Fair. But in recent months, multiple lawsuits have highlighted an alarming by-product of the gig economy: A class of workers who aren’t protected by labor laws or eligible for benefits provided to the rest of the nation’s workforce.

In July, a report commissioned by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission revealed that 85 percent of New York City’s Uber, Lyft, Juno, and Via drivers earn less than $17.22 an hour. Eve Wagner, an attorney who specializes in employment litigation, told Wired, “The number of employment lawsuits is going to explode.”

Silicon Valley engineers are now grappling with the question: What have we done? Software engineers have changed the nature of work in general, but not always for the better, writes Vanity Fair.