Socialist Worker

Lapsis—exploitation and resistance in a futuristic gig economy

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2762

These little robots really are after your job in Lapsis

These little robots really are after your job in Lapsis

What happens when a marvellous new technology is invented? In sci-fi satire Lapsis, it brings more money for financial traders and more problems for the rest of us.

Failing to upgrade his computer cuts off Ray (Dean Imperial) from accessing essential services. Soon he’s working as a “cablr”, one of the supposedly independent contractors stringing quantum data cables across the US.

A chirpy app tells Ray when he is allowed to rest or go to the bathroom. The pace is set by despised, unstoppable robot “helpers.”

Workers are penalised for being lapped by them. And of course, the cablrs are set against each other in competition for the most lucrative routes.

Their destinations are strange, menacing, featureless cubes isolated in the forest, carrying a technology that Ray doesn’t understand or trust to be safe.

Petty thugs like Felix (James McDaniel)—the “friend” who takes a 30 percent cut of Ray’s earnings—thrive in the informal “gig economy”.

For-profit medical providers mercilessly prey on Ray’s brother Jamie (Babe Howard), who suffers from a little‑understood chronic condition.

The social commentary is a bit on the nose. It’s also largely on the money.

Fittingly for a film about cables, Lapsis does sag a bit in the middle.

After an immersive and intriguing setup it is slow to introduce Ray’s clued-up colleague Anna (Madeline Wise) and get its teeth into the central mystery.

But what sets Lapsis apart from, say, a Black Mirror episode, is that it reflects the struggles workers in these sectors have waged and sometimes won.

Casualisation and automation are shown as weapons in an arms race between organising workers and counter‑attacking bosses.

Platforms such as Uber present themselves as empowering people by providing opportunities for work. Behind that propaganda is ruthless—and resistible—exploitation.

If anyone you know doubts that, Lapsis is the film they need to watch.

Lapsis is out on digital platforms from Monday 5 July

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