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Jeff Bezos’ vision for the future has made him one of the richest people, but the comedian Jon Stewart sees it as a “recipe for revolution” — and he once told Bezos as much.
In an episode of the podcast “The Problem With Jon Stewart” published this month, Stewart described meeting Bezos at a dinner at the White House with President Barack Obama, then-first lady Michelle Obama, the billionaire Mark Cuban, and an unnamed guest whom Stewart described as the “inventor of the Oculus” virtual-reality headset.
Stewart said Bezos discussed what he saw as the economy of the future, one that would rely on service workers to perform tasks. Stewart said he told Bezos he disagreed, adding that people wanted to feel proud of their work and like they were contributing to society, not just “running errands for people that have more than you.”
“I think he views everybody as like a part of a fulfillment center,” Stewart said. “And so I said, ‘I think that’s a recipe for revolution.’ And then, like, kind of a hush falls over. And then you hear Obama from across the couch go, ‘I agree with Jon.'”
While the dinner Stewart described was at least five years ago, criticism of the Amazon founder and his company’s business model has ramped up in recent years as employees have increasingly spoken out about grueling working conditions and an intense focus on meeting lofty goals, all in the name of Amazon’s “customer-obsessed” culture.
During the pandemic, Amazon’s share price — and, by extension, Bezos’ net worth — reached new highs as consumers turned to the e-commerce giant more than ever before. But that success appears to have led to situations not unlike what Stewart warned about: As the company’s own warehouse workers fell ill by the tens of thousands, employees went on strike, filed lawsuits, protested outside Bezos’ home, and, at one Alabama fulfillment center, even attempted to unionize.