When you first sign up for the service, you’ll be assigned an “Alfred.” The app shows you this person’s picture and some general information, as well as the verification for the person’s background checks. You’ll then choose a specific day for this person to deliver your goods each week, and you’ll compile a grocery list to get them started.
After that, the app works on its own in the background. You don’t really have to open the app again after you’ve signed up unless you need to make adjustments to your weekly grocery list.
Afterward, your “Alfred” will head over weekly to drop off your clean laundry, put it in the closet, drop off your household supplies, and replace supplies as needed – like putting new paper towels on a towel holder, for example. He or she will also put your groceries away and make sure the house is spotless. The idea is not only to cut into the 30 average hours per week that people spend on household chores and related tasks, but also to make using the variety of apps and services in the shared economy even easier.
So apparently the best new tech startup of the year is an app that connects you to your own personal servant. Said servant drops off your groceries and laundry and does various other chores once per week. Amazingly it only costs $25 per week so for that to be profitable after overhead you’re almost definitely looking at a sub-minimum-wage servant.
The obvious narrative here is the one about how Silicon Valley startups no longer pursue big new technology ideas. Instead they’re mostly just figure out how to offer new luxury services to highly-paid tech workers wanting to signal their status via conspicuous consumption. However there’s more going on here.
The labour market has now diverged to the point where there are plenty of people making hundreds of dollars an hour and even more people who are desperate for any form of gainful employment whatsoever. The market of performing basic tasks for very low pay for rich people is going to be a huge growth industry. Services like Uber (which treats its drivers terribly) have already done very well, and full-on domestic servitude seems like the next logical step in this direction.
The United States is developing a reputation much like Germany had in the twentieth century of being tactically and operationally superb but strategically inept. Often stated as a tendency to win the war but lose the peace, this problem has a huge theoretical component that the national security community has only recently begun to address.
Completely eliminating means of resistance is impossible. Theoretically there will always be one enemy soldier armed with a knife who is willing to give their life to continue the fight. Destroying the enemy’s means without breaking his will leaves you with a less capable but still hostile foe. Conversely, breaking the will to resist ends the war regardless of the enemy’s remaining combat capability.
It is clear that fighting will not stop unless the combatants see peace as more desirable than a continuation of conflict. In Clausewitzian terms, if the effort required exceeds the value of the political objective, the fighting has to stop. Achieving a desired or acceptable outcome may be a precondition for conflict termination, but the end of fighting does not necessarily signify victory. In fact, victory and conflict termination are two distinct and sometimes mutually antagonistic concepts. It is possible and sometimes desirable to terminate conflicts without producing a winner. Conversely, it is also possible to continue a war unnecessarily in hopes of achieving victory or avoiding defeat. Winning a war, however, almost certainly implies that a state of peace exists even if the existence of peace does not necessarily imply victory.