Contractual choice offers one vision of autonomy for workers. But contractual choice is a narrow and manipulable conception of choice. Contractual choices often conflict with other kinds of choice, such as democratic choices and life choices. This commentary responds to the Future of Work in the Age of Automation and AI Symposium by drawing out the promise and perils of the continuing contractualization of work. This contractualization is newly catalyzed by gig economy platforms, preference-manipulating gamification and AI-powered surveillance and management techniques. Digital piece work is dissolving toward tailored tasks, contractually regulated down to each moment of human life. As these trends continue, will workers be able to exercise robust contractual choice over their legal relationships, to achieve a welfare-enhancing form of autonomy? Or will they tap ‘I agree’ with a fatigued, fated acquiescence that is then taken as legal and moral sanction for whatever ensues?
Enman-Beech, John, Two Contractual Futures of Work (July 11, 2020). 2020 Centre for Ethics Journal 55.