Jiva Technology

Tutorhub Q&A: Locke & Rousseau

Tutorhub Q&A has a habit of throwing up left field questions that generate interesting answers. When I’m browsing though questions and taking a look at the myriad of answers, I often find myself thinking, “I didn’t know that”.

Given the recent debate about rising inequality, the intense interest shown in the work of french academic Thomas Piketty and the surprise success of Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership election, a question regarding the seventeenth and eighteenth century philosophers John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau reminded me that we’ve been here before. Rosie B’s succinct and elegant answer as to the importance of these two intellectual heavyweights to the French Revolution reminded me how often the great minds of the past can talk to us through time. It’s not just in science that our world today is built on the intellectual achievements of our forebears. It’s also a reminder of the importance of liberal arts at a time when we have a minor obsession with science, maths and technology.

Rosie B‘s response to the question on Locke and Rousseau reminds us how fresh and relevant these ideas are today:

Locke was the first with his rather bold ideas that essentially all individuals are born equal. We are born without innate ideas, simply the rules of society were what defined each individual i.e. the church determined what was morally acceptable and what was not. The society a person grew up in dictates who you are, according to Locke; we are all born with a “blank slate”.

Education is a sequence, from learning, though understanding to mastery and application. Understanding how to apply 400 year-old ideas to the world around us requires a mastery of the subject and considerable insight as to how they can be applied to the world around us. Few people are willing to necessarily make that effort, but for those that do, the rewards can be considerable.

Do two-way rating systems change behaviour?

Uber, in common with a number of prominent market platforms, allow both sides of the transaction – driver and passenger – to rate their experience. Your rating as a customer is not available through the app, but anyone who uses the service a lot should know that if your rating slips under 4.0, you may find it hard to find that ride home. You might even be surprised on the sort of things that irritate your Uber driver – things that lead to an ill-fated slide down the rating system. I love talking to Uber drivers because they are generally so positive about the service, but I was surprised that beyond the obvious issues like being drunk, being obnoxious or not being where you said you’d be, issues like asking for the music to be turned up too loudly could cause me to become a ‘bad customer’.

It made me think, ‘do rating systems actually change bad behaviours?’

The whole point of a rating system is for good drivers to get the most work and for bad customers to change their habits. But if I don’t know my rating, or how I’m rated, how can I change my behaviour? Perhaps it’s just a mechanism of protecting drivers from the worst of modern manners? What if I don’t even know there is a rating system?

Recommendation engines and rating systems have always suffered from the achilles heel of, ‘one man’s heaven is another man’s hell’. Unless the system has an intimate knowledge of my own personal taste and values, a 5-star mechanism will never serve a real purpose. Perhaps it’s just a ‘door close’ button a lift – it doesn’t do anything except make me feel better; that I’m in control of my surroundings…

Ideas have Moods

I have a long standing interest in creativity and new ideas. It doesn’t matter if they are good ideas, bad ideas or downright appalling ideas; as far I am concerned, they all litter the path to enlightenment.

My second favourite book on the subject of ideas is long (it runs to over 700 pages) and most definitely not for the faint hearted: Ideas – a history of thought and invention, from fire to freud. My favourite is the exact opposite: short, colourful and full of non-contributory pictures. A cynic would say the pictures are there to fill up the empty pages, a believer might say they are there to provide a rest between powerful ideas. The Art of the Idea (John Hunt) has 17 observations that don’t nudge you in the right direction, they knock you over and give you a good kicking for not taking creativity seriously.

One of his most powerful observations is that ideas have moods. Environment matters – the prevailing mood will dictate people’s willingness to take risks and appear silly. This usually gets translated into something stiff like, “the house rules are that there are no bad ideas”, but Hunt is more subtle than that when he talks about mood. You immediately get the sense of what he’s talking about. It becomes easy to see why big companies find it so hard to be creative and how easy it is for someone with the wrong attitude or the wrong body language to ‘kill the idea’.

Service Marketplaces: a way for people to work on their own terms

One of the big benefits of service marketplaces like Tutorhub, Airbnb, Uber or Thumbtack, is that they provide service providers with an extra income source and permit a great deal of flexibility in when, how and where you work. It’s a way to work on your own terms.

Whether it’s freelance professionals on Thumbtack, drivers on Uber or teachers at Tutorhub, the ability to dip in and out of extra work has become a really popular way to meet unexpected expenses, pay for a special trip or to maintain a steady income as other income sources become unstable. In a way, it’s the new way to save. Rather than hold back a percentage of my regular income for those inevitable ‘rainy days’, I can just get out there and get stuck into a second job when the need arises. I occasionally take the Uber car service and it always amazes me how positive the drivers are. Most of them give the impression that this isn’t a job they have to do, it’s something they genuinely enjoy. We see that with many of our teachers and tutors at Tutorhub. On the one hand, it’s a great way to earn some extra income, but you can see that sharing knowledge is something that comes naturally – it’s a joy to teach, not a chore, another aspect of the sharing economy.

But whilst the financial element is important, it’s the ability to feel in control of your own destiny that stands out. You don’t have to be there at 9 am every day. The only routine is the routine you set. Somehow it seems to fit with the more natural rhythm of how we want to work. Pre-industrial revolution, people didn’t work 9-5, 5 days per week, with annual holiday. Those terms were set by the original factory owners for whom it was more efficient to have everyone there at the same time. Artisans worked when they wanted or needed to work. Sound familiar?



Regus House
1 Friary

Temple Quay
United Kingdom