What Do Hollywood & Uber Have In Common?

We are familiar with the ongoing court battle driven (pun intended) by Uber’s classification of the majority of its workforce as independent contractors.

Uber, and the ridesharing industry in general, isn’t the only workplace where the rights of freelancers are a hot topic.

Hollywood, for example, faces a similar scope of labor challenges related to protecting workers from exploitation of their employers.

Hollywood freelancers, however, benefit from a history of unionization efforts that afford them the ability to organize as a group when feelings of exploitation reach a tipping point.

Currently, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) is taking action against talent agents regarding conflicts of interest in packaging and producing scripts written by the writers.

Uber drivers, unfortunately, are not afforded the same rights.

Based on the court ruling in the 9th circuit appeals court back in September, thousands of drivers are essentially barred from suing as a group for better pay and benefits. This is because Independent contractors who communicate with one another and attempt to form a union often run afoul of antitrust laws that are meant to regulate price-fixing.

However, some municipalities have already gone ahead with granting independent contractors the right to unionize despite the Taft-Hardly Act’s (another legacy labor law) explicit exclusion of independent contractors. The Seattle City Council passed a bill in December 2015 allowing Uber and Lyft drivers to form a union (a bill certain to face legal action, however).

These issues date back to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), passed as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal in 1933, where the definition of employees versus independent contractors was not explicit, and left to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), an independent governmental agency tasked with investigating unfair labor practices, to decide.

Today, 86 years later, we’re still trying to clarify the same definitions, this time in a new era of workplace quandry triggered by the gig economy.

What does the future of employment look like for freelancers, especially with such inconsistency across industries in this gig economy? Only time – and court rulings – will tell.

Intelligent Design

In January 2000, contemporary artist Eduardo Kac created Alba, effectively a glowing rabbit, in collaboration with French geneticist Louis-Marie Houdebine.


Lac is a Brazilian bio-artist who essentially decided to create a new work of art. After Kac contacted a French laboratory and offered a fee to engineer such radiant bunny, Houdebine accepted the task by using the GFP gene found in the jellyfishAequorea victoria, that fluoresces green when exposed to blue light.

What can we learn from this endeavor?

  1. Engineering living beings is no longer an impossibility, but a current and inevitable reality.
  2. Alba is an example of intelligent design. Going forward, natural selection will not be the only determinant of creation as it once was.
  3. The potential, as indicated by Alba’s existence, signifies a revolution of not only scientific but specifically biological proportions.

How will the future be affected?

Intelligent design is replacing natural selection. How we choose to use science and biology – if we don’t annihilate the human race first – will dictate our future.

In sum, we as a society possess great power in paving the course of how we live, now more than ever. Our intelligence, and how we use it, depends on it.

Content: Creation Versus Curation

Content consumes us, each day and everyday. Our eyes lock focus on screens, whether they be our mobile devices, laptop computers or high-def TVs. We live in this inevitable reality that drives our engagement with others, virtually and otherwise.

While we are consumers of such content, we are also producers.

Taking it one step further, we are not only content creators, but content curators as well. While we share our own content in the form of photos, videos, Boomerangs, blog entries, comments, likes etc., we also have the means to curate how we share this information.

Let’s consider Netflix, for example. Not only has Netflix invested billions of dollars in producing original content, it’s algorithm is inherently based on behavioral preferences so that users only see what they will (theoretically) enjoy.

Therefore, my Netflix homepage looks different than your Netflix homepage. Even if it’s determined we would both like the same movie, I may see a different still than you because of our behavioral profiles. Thus, Netflix is not only a content creator, but a content curator as well.

As are you and I – at least we have the power to be. It boils down to a matter of what, how, and why. What, being the content itself. How, being the means through which the content is communicated (i.e. photo, video, article, in-person). And why, being the purpose driving the content in the first place. (I see you, Simon Sinek.)

If we took concerted efforts to think through what content we share and how we share it, we’d see some interesting patterns. Many companies with strong brands do this. Think of the Nike’s, Gillette’s, and Red Sox of the world. Looping back to the Netflix example, this company has made a business out of content creation AND curation. This is their greatness.

How will you use contention creation and curation to show your greatness?

Wage and Horror in Hollywood

Many independent movies produced in Hollywood incorporate as their own LLC.

Unlike a partnership, the investor in an LLC is liable only for the amount of his or her investment in that company.

Producers incorporate for legal protection, so they’re not personally liable for any loss they might incur along the journey of making their movies. However, their crews may not be not afforded a comparable degree of security.

How so?

Most crew members are 1099-ers, or contractors. While union crew members benefit from negotiated labor conditions which include pay rates, working hours, healthcare, retirement and the like, non-union crew are at the mercy of the producer and their budget. In general, non-union crew terms are negotiable, which could result in unfair pay and working conditions.

Hollywood is an interesting case study in the union conversation. Outside of Hollywood, where the gig economy is alive and well, unions are less common and declining in membership. Why have unions continued to reign supreme in Tinseltown, while in other industries – arguably largely impacted by technological innovations that led to companies like Uber, Airbnb, and Postmates – do not have an organized labor protocol?

Maybe they should. Wage and hour negotiations, not to mention healthcare benefits, continue to be major points of contention in the employee versus contractor debate (again, think Uber) beyond Hollywood’s vices. The Freelancers Union (https://www.freelancersunion.org/) which represents 57 million freelancers, is a contemporary reminder of what organized labor initially sought to accomplish for its workers: fair and safe working conditions.

Which brings us back to the original topic: are crew members – non-union or otherwise – afforded the rights and protection they deserve? While union membership has come to be used as a badge of honor or unofficial reference check, should that continue to be the case as the labor landscape evolves to include a workforce composed of a freelancer majority worldwide? Is Hollywood the exception? Perhaps it’s an ethical question regarding labor exploitation rather than an economic one.

Pursuing Inner Peace Part II

According to the United Nations, there are currently 7.7 billion people inhabiting the earth. That means there are 7.7 billion journeys to be embarked on and 7.7 billion realizations to be experienced.

How are we defining realization?

This realization singularly means: “I am embarking on my personal journey towards inner peace. I may never get there, and I accept this.”

This realization relates to personal awareness, the first of the 3 A’s: awareness, acceptance, and application.

We define awareness as the ability to look inside yourself and identify the things that make you who you are, objectively and without judgement or bias. The journey of inner peace is the act of seeking this awareness.  

The purpose is in the pursuit, not the destination. Pursuing inner peace allows you to manage the external chaos that is the world we live in.

Sometimes we get caught up in the “need to achieve” – a product of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation that is distinctly human. The key to understanding inner peace is this: the commitment to the journey of inner peace surmounts the achievement of it.

This commitment allows your focus to shift from finite details, to freedom of the mind and spirit. And allows you to start living, rather than simply existing –  the difference between conscious and unconscious being.

What do you choose?

Were the Mayans right?

According to the Mayan calendar, December 21, 2012 signaled the end of the 13th Bak’tun, an almost 400 year period in the Maya long-count calendar. Per Mayan philosophy, the end of the long count represents the end of an old cycle and the beginning of a new one.

Was it intended to predict the end of the world?

Actually, no, that’s just our society’s interpretation.

What’s more interesting, are the parallels to our contemporary world.

In our new reality, influenced most obviously by technological innovations like the iPhone and the internet, we are drifting further away from human consciousness.

Our new normal is characterized by a departure from thought to an existence comparable to that of animals, where action is taken out of instinct versus thoughtful inquiry. Or simply, asking why.

As author Nicholas Carr of The Shallows finds, we are becoming ever more adept at scanning and skimming, but what we are losing is our capacity for concentration, contemplation, and reflection.

The initial interactions in dating, for example, are now akin to an instinctual response to photos via swipes on a screen, rather than mindful musings of who a person is and how you might get along.

Our means of communication, too, emphasizes speed and quantity, over meaning and quality. While your Instagram following may improve your credibility in the digi-sphere, it does not correlate to your capacity to concentrate, contemplate and reflect – which ultimately defines your credibility as a person in the end.

We are moving away from why and disproportionately focused on what.

Maybe the Mayans were right. How do we navigate this new reality?

Pursuing Inner Peace

We expend a lot of our effort on optics. We are slaves to the external world and our roles within in. This external world is governed by material comforts and earning power – known to us conceptually as capitalism.

And for what?

What about our inner peace?

Before we concern ourselves with how we are perceived and engage externally, we should focus our energies on ourselves internally.

But for some reason, we tend to operate in the reverse.

Remember, the external is fleeting. Basing fulfillment and purpose on external variables is a moving target. Once I achieve material bliss, be it in the form of a revenue goal or salary threshold, my purpose changes to something else so I can continue the pursuit of what I believe equates to happiness and fulfillment.

The internal, however, is enduring. Our minds are governed by our thoughts, which only the individual can dictate. First, we need to cultivate a sound mind and live deeply by the meaning of our truth, before we grapple with our outward realities.

So shouldn’t we first look within before we look outside?

Throughout history, spiritual leaders have dedicated their lives to exploring this means of introspection.

Jesus Christ, the prophet Mohammad, and Siddhartha Gautama each embarked on a personal journey devoted to finding and understanding the meaning of inner peace. These journeys became foundational to religions, cultures, ways of life – narratives of what internal peace is and how it can be achieved.

These stories are legacies that speak to lessons, values and morals. But the truth is, every individual has their own story to tell.

It’s like getting in shape. Certain exercise and dietary regiments work for some people, while other regiments work for others. We use variations of such programs as they work and show results for us. The same can be said of the search for inner peace.

Inner peace is the destination, and the destination ultimately represents different things for different people. Truth represents different things for different people.

We seek peace, we seek truth. The challenge is we often don’t know what that peace and truth is for ourselves.

How do we figure out what it is? Where do we find it? That is a personal journey.