At Amazon, machines are often the boss—hiring, rating, and firing millions of people with little or no human oversight. Increasingly, the company is ceding its human-resources operation to machines, using software to manage workers in its warehouses, oversee contract drivers, independent delivery companies, and the performance of office workers. People familiar with the strategy say CEO Jeff Bezos believes machines make decisions more quickly and accurately than people.
For contract drivers, algorithms scan a gusher of incoming data for performance patterns and decide which get more routes and which are deactivated. Human feedback is rare. Drivers occasionally receive automated emails, but mostly they're left to obsess about their ratings.
Drivers and former Amazon managers say the largely automated system is insufficiently attuned to the real-world challenges drivers face every day. Amazon knew delegating work to machines would lead to mistakes and damaging headlines, former managers say, but decided it was cheaper to trust the algorithms than pay people to investigate mistaken firings so long as the drivers could be replaced easily.
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