This is based on my listening of this episode of the changelog

What does the phrase “chickenized reverse centaur” mean? It’s a term coined by Cory Doctorow to refer to today’s gig economy workers.

“Chickenization” is a term used to describe a modern type of exploitation of workers by corporations. It is derived from the term “chickenization of agriculture,” which refers to the process of replacing skilled farmers with low-paid workers who are responsible for raising chickens in cramped, inhumane conditions. All of the risk is placed on the farm owner, who is inaccurately classified as a business owner. In reality, the chicken farmer has VERY little autonomy to make decisions for their business. They are held to a very strict specification of things they need to do — what feed to give chickens, when to give it to them, what kind of cage to use, and for how much they can sell their eggs to their “client”. The “client” in this case is one of three gigantic chicken conglomerates in the us that distribute the product to stores — a man in the middle that reaps all of the profit but assumes very little of the risk.

Gig workers are often treated like chicken farmers working for those poultry conglomerrates. For example, Uber drivers — they have to assume all the risk, but with none of the benefits of a full time employee. They are paid by the hour, not by the job, and they are often subjected to strict quotas and performance standards. They have no job security, and they can be fired at any time for any reason.

The term “reverse centaur” refers to the way that gig workers are often connected to their employers through technology. They are monitored by GPS tracking, and their productivity is measured by algorithms. They are essentially extensions of their employers’ machines, and they have very little autonomy — like a horse for a brain, but with a human body. Reverse centaur.

Last modified: February 27, 2024
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