According to Bloomberg, e-commerce and technology giant Amazon plans to hire 150,000 additional seasonal staffers, about 50 per cent more than last year, as the company “seeks a cushion of workers to help it meet demand during the holiday shopping period.” Looking at the company’s track record when it comes to the way it treats its employees, we couldn’t help but wonder exactly what would happen to this considerable added workforce post the holiday season.
In reality, Amazon typically hires legions of temporary workers this time of year to help store, pack and ship items from its warehouses. And since the COVID-19 pandemic supercharged online shopping last year, Amazon has been ‘forced’ to rapidly expand its logistics operation, opening warehouses or smaller delivery depots in urban areas at a pace of roughly one per day. No, this is not a typo, we checked—one per day.
In September, the company said in a press release that it had already opened 250 US logistics facilities in 2021 and would inaugurate an additional 100 that month alone. Keeping these numbers in mind, it’s nearly impossible for common mortals like us to fully fathom the type of growth Amazon—along with Jeff Bezos’ wallet—is currently experiencing.
On Monday 18 October, the company said in another press release that the average starting pay of its jobs in the US would be $18 an hour. Facing fierce competition for entry-level workers, Amazon has also been offering signing bonuses of as much as $3,000, depending on the location, as well as an additional $3 per hour for workers willing to work overnight or weekend shifts. In other words, it is desperate for more employees, pronto.
As the second-largest private US employer after Walmart, it employed 1.3 million people at the end of June 2021. This time last year, the company said it would hire about 100,000 seasonal workers. That’s a sharp uptick to say the least, and it doesn’t come without any consequences. Amazon Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Brian Olsavsky told analysts and investors, after the company’s second-quarter (Q2) earnings report in July 2021, that the competitive labour market is leading to higher costs.
As mentioned above, the company has been on a hiring spree since the start of the pandemic—bringing on a whopping 500,000 employees in 2020 alone. Heck, it was so desperate for a larger workforce, it even tried to fix its delivery driver shortage by recruiting stoners.
All that being said, temporary or not, in the past, Amazon workers have been vocal about the company’s mistreatment of its employees—or at least they have tried to be vocal about it. And this is where the somewhat controversial argument comes in: we must all assume responsibility for our part in perpetuating this cycle of abuse in order to actively support efforts to hold Amazon accountable. One cannot come without the other.
While Elon Musk is working on improvements to Tesla’s autopilot features and teaching a monkey how to play Pong with its mind, Jeff Bezos—his now well-known nemesis—is allegedly partaking in yet another futuristic venture, one that could soon allow humans to live longer. Introducing Altos Labs, a biological reprogramming tech company currently looking into a variety of methods that could help reverse the ageing process.
As of now, the company has raised more than $270 million in funding thanks to massive donations from people all over the world who are banking on the company’s promise, Bezos included. Bezos is said to have a fairly long-standing interest in longevity research, and he previously invested in an anti-ageing company called Unity Biotechnology. Another investor, along with the richest man in the world, is Russian-Israeli entrepreneur Yuri Milner, as reported by the MIT Technology Review.
One method being studied by Altos Labs is whether this reprogramming could teach cells to revert back to their ‘stem cell’ origins, make them readapt to the skin and give it a more youthful appearance. In order to do so, Altos Labs has recruited Nobel Prize winner Doctor Shinya Yamanaka, who will serve as an unpaid senior scientist, chairing the company’s scientific advisory board.
“The Japanese researcher discovered that four specific proteins, now known as ‘Yamanaka factors’, could be added to a cell that would help reprogram it into its stem cell state,” reports Lad Bible. Also joining Altos Labs’ team is Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte, a Spanish biologist at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, who won notoriety for research into mixing human and monkey embryos and who has also predicted that human lifespans could be increased by 50 years.
Just so you get an idea of who we’re dealing with here, by 2016, Izpisúa Belmonte’s lab had applied Yamanaka factors to living mice, achieving signs of age reversal and leading him to term reprogramming a potential “elixir of life.”
Last but not least, the biological reprogramming tech company has also hired Steve Horvath, a UCLA professor and developer of a “biological clock” that can accurately measure human ageing, Peter Walter. Walter’s laboratory at the University of California is behind a molecule that shows remarkable effects on memory, alongside Doctor Jennifer Doudna, who won a Nobel Prize in 2020 for her co-discovery of CRISPR gene editing, as well as Manuel Serrano from the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB).
Altos Labs is luring more university professors by offering salaries of $1 million a year or more, plus equity, as well as freedom from the hassle of applying for grants. Serrano, who plans to move to Cambridge in the UK to join an Altos facility there, said the company would pay him five to ten times what he earns now. “The philosophy of Altos Labs is to do curiosity-driven research. This is what I know how to do and love to do,” Serrano told the MIT Technology Review. “In this case, through a private company, we have the freedom to be bold and explore. In this way, it will rejuvenate me.”
Long story short, although Altos Labs has so far managed to recruit some impressive names in the biological reprogramming sector, as well as some pretty big investors, its research still needs a lot of work before it can ever be applied to humans. But who wants to be a party pooper when there’s a possibility that in a couple of years, we’ll all still look and feel like 20 year-olds? Dystopian movie plots aside, I’m excited.