The tech industry’s auto startups play themselves as the visionaries behind the car of the future. Thanks to one video sent to Jalopnik, we can see that the future envisioned by LeEco CEO Jia Yueting—the man backing electric startup Faraday Future—is straight up dystopia, with parents held back from their families, never-ending office work and apps that dominate your entire life. Also, he thinks he’s Batman.
This video is from LeEco, which is the critical central figure that unites three of the car world’s newest and most controversial upstarts. LeEco is a tech giant in China, part of LeShi, an umbrella of companies that started with China’s first paid video streaming service (the Netflix of China, as it has been dubbed) and extends all the way out through a phone company, a TV company, a movie production house and a number of other businesses.
The company wants to build a tech ecosystem, basically building and running and controlling every device, media and mode of transportation you ever use in your entire life off the same system. Convenient in theory, ceding control of everything you use to one company in practice.
The whole thing is run by its billionaire founder Jia, who acts (1) as the head of Silicon Valley’s auto startup Faraday Future, (2) as a major investor in Silicon Valley’s auto startup Lucid Motors and (3) as the head of LeEco, which itself has a startup car brand based out of China and assisted in a “strategic partnership” with Faraday Future. For instance, LeEco’s first concept car was designed and built by Faraday Future.
It’s clear that Jia Yueting and his LeEco are key figures in laying out how our automotive future will look. So it’s important to take a look at how LeEco presents itself as a company. That is, it is completely off the fucking rails.
It’s no secret that Chinese corporate culture is known to be deeply intense, probably much more so than most Westerners realize. But the way this video is framed—showcasing work for work’s sake, and not any of the company’s potential positive aspects—is kind of horrifying beyond simple cultural differences.
I am not entirely sure what is the purpose of this six-minute company video. It showed up in my inbox a few days ago sent from a reader, and it’s not clear if the video is an ad, a corporate promo or some internal hoo-rah support video. I haven’t been able to track it down on YouTube, Le.com or Weibo.
I have reached out to LeEco for clarification, but have not heard back. Sources close to the company have confirmed to Jalopnik, at least, that they have seen the video and it does indeed come from LeEco.
You watch as a company employee tells a story of missing Near Year’s Eve at work, eating instant noodles at her desk. “I kind of wanted to go home,” she laughs, nervously.
Several mothers working at the company talk about arriving home after their children had fallen asleep. One young mom talks about her own mother raising her kid for her, for her child’s first moments walking, talking, rolling over. Two others talk about working at the company’s Oriental Media Center headquarters in Beijing, overrun with cockroaches. The workplace was hilariously overcrowded, with four people crammed in two-person workstations. Potential hires walked out the moment they saw the office for an interview.
Before these descriptions of a terrifying HQ, the video shows Jia Yueting walking towards the camera in the Batcave garage used in the The Dark Knight. This dude thinks he’s the goddamn Batman. Oh yeah, no delusions of grandeur going on here. None at all.
Other employees talk about company policy not to hire people who were married or in relationships. The policy was on account of the work and the hours at LeEco being so exhausting that you couldn’t work there and support a relationship or family.
Another tells a story working on location in the mountains for a streaming video project and getting lost. Two of his coworkers, the employees says, “almost didn’t make it out.” Remember this is how LeEco is promoting itself. Oh yeah! Remember that time two of our employees nearly died in the mountains? Lol, we’re the best.
And in all of this, company employees were still reprimanded for not working harder. “The boss once told us,” one employee recounts in the video, “that we never saw our work as our lives.”
Cool. Cool. That sounds healthy.
So this is the corporate vision for the upstarts in the car world: crushing stress, doubt and overworking at the cost of personal health. Utter commitment to the corporate overlord and his app ecosystem is not just demanded, it’s seen as a positive for the company.
If this is the future of work, throw me under a bus.