What concerns me as much as these developments is the broader picture of which they form only a part: a world in which the exact forms of labor women have fought to have recognized and remunerated—chief among them caretaking labor, tedious household labor, buoying-the-male-ego labor, service-with-a-smile labor—are being co-opted, monetized, and sold back to us as shiny, premium, cutting-edge tech, the intermediary step of individual households outsourcing such tasks to workers primarily from the Global South having been insufficiently profitable for the Silicon Valley brain trust. As automation rises, technology will increasingly undercut the wages of these workers; the human workers who depend on these precarious gigs are viewed by the tech industry and the broader economy as a temporary inefficiency.
This is the dark ethos of the twenty-first century: most of us are performing labor that can and will be at least partially automated. We work, and as we work, we audition for the right to continue working. There is no room at the negotiation table; any unpaid work will remain unpaid until, in due course, we will pay to have that work done for us by automation. And like that, the mainstays of human life become premium services we pay for. Like that, the value only flows up.