Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Culture of Amazon ... by gimleteye

On Sunday, The New York Times published an eye-popping account of the work culture at secretive Amazon, based on information provided by more than 100 past and present employees who spoke on and off-the-record. The report lays out the outlines of a brutal, even savage work environment that pushes sacrifice to corporate values to extremes.
Toilet paper-delivering drones may not be a thing (yet), but history was made over the weekend when Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld’s exposé on workplace practices at Amazon became the most commented-on story at The New York Times.

The article — Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace — describes a culture of intense competition, 80-hour work weeks, and interoffice sabotage at the nation’s most valuable retailer.

Amazon has revolutionized my life as a consumer the same way that Microsoft did thirty years ago when I first started using computers.

Earlier this summer, on the small Maine island where I spend part of my time, I asked the local UPS driver how much of his daily route was delivering packages from Amazon. His response: 80 percent. Retail merchants on Main Street have all but vanished. Even Walmart -- the ultimate retail category killer -- is feeling the sting of competition from Amazon.

As a result of Amazon's success, its founder, Jeff Bezos, is one of the world's wealthiest entrepreneurs. In response to the New York Times report, Bezos says that he "doesn't recognize" the company depicted there.

I circle uneasily around issues of wealth creation driven by technologies, wringing the human component of labor out of product cost and shareholder value.

Where practically everything is available within a few keystrokes and a few days, daily commerce may soon happen without any human intervention at all. It's not just the realm of science fiction and film.

Who wouldn't want robots on the ground against ISIS instead of American soldiers? On the other hand, what happens when corporations and technologies are turned against us?

In some respects, the story of Amazon tells us we don't want to know answers we already have.

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