Uber uses psychology and video game mechanics to encourage drivers to work longer and drive in certain areas. Noam Scheiber for The New York Times details the gray area that Uber resides in since drivers aren’t official employees.
Uber exists in a kind of legal and ethical purgatory, however. Because its drivers are independent contractors, they lack most of the protections associated with employment. By mastering their workers’ mental circuitry, Uber and the like may be taking the economy back toward a pre-New Deal era when businesses had enormous power over workers and few checks on their ability to exploit it.
This probably doesn’t come as a surprise to most, but it’s interesting to hear about it in such detail. It’s also fun to play with the simulations by Jon Huang, which help you better understand the strategies Uber use.