University of Chicago Legal Forum


The confluence of two digital forces—a shift towards platform-mediated peer-to-peer exchange, and a rise in the cognitive capabilities of artificial intelligence and robotics technologies—will dramatically reshape tomorrow’s workplace by making it difficult for a growing fraction of the population to earn a living as a provider of labor and talent. I contend that the emerging economic model of crowd-based capitalism could offer an alternative to the traditional employer-employee relationship. I discuss the factors that have led to the recent advent of crowd-based capitalism, arguing that the model becomes increasingly attractive as digital technologies blur the boundaries between institutions of differing scale that have historically facilitated the provision of trust and the use of intellectual capital. Facilitating this transition will require policy that favors the redistribution of capital rather than of income. Governments must cede a significant fraction of their regulatory responsibility to platforms and other self-regulatory bodies, while catalyzing the emergence of new educational infrastructure and providing incentives that favor platform models that decentralize the ownership of structural capital over those whose providers are simply sources of on-demand labor. These policy prescriptions are a politically feasible path towards the redistribution of capital ownership and in contrast with other proposed radical interventions like a universal basic income.

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