Dave’s view on work – or not to

8 Sep 2020 – David Gräber: ‘To save the world, we’re going to have to stop working’

Writing as part of Jarvis Cocker’s Big Issue takeover before his untimely death in August 2020, David Gräber explains his confusion about why we’d destroy the planet if we don’t have to

“Our society is addicted to work. If there’s anything left and right both seem to agree on, it’s that jobs are good. Everyone should have a job. Work is our badge of moral citizenship. We seem to have convinced ourselves as a society that anyone who isn’t working harder than they would like to be working, at something they don’t enjoy, is a bad, unworthy person. As a result, work comes to absorb ever greater proportions of our energy and time.

Much of this work is entirely pointless. Whole industries (think telemarketers, corporate law, private equity) whole lines of work (middle management, brand strategists, high-level hospital or school administrators, editors of in-house corporate magazines) exist primarily to convince us there is some reason for their existence. Useless work crowds out useful (think of teachers and administrators overwhelmed with paperwork); it’s also almost invariably better compensated. As we’ve seen in lockdown, the more obviously your work benefits other people, the less they pay you.

The system makes no sense. It’s also destroying the planet. If we don’t break ourselves of this addiction quickly we will leave our children and grandchildren to face catastrophes on a scale which will make the current pandemic seem trivial.

If this isn’t obvious, the main reason is we’re constantly encouraged to look at social problems as if they were questions of personal morality. All this work, all the carbon we’re pouring into the atmosphere, must somehow be the result of our consumerism; therefore to stop eating meat or dream of flying off to beach vacations. But this is just wrong. It’s not our pleasures that are destroying the world. It’s our puritanism, our feeling that we have to suffer in order to deserve those pleasures. If we want to save the world, we’re going to have to stop working.

Seventy per cent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide comes from infrastructure: energy, transport, construction. Most of the rest is produced by industry. Meanwhile 37 per cent of British workers feel if their jobs are entirely unnecessary; if they were to vanish tomorrow, the world would not be any the worse off. Simply do the maths. If those workers are right, we could massively reduce climate change just by eliminating bullshit jobs.

So that’s proposal one.

Proposal two: batshit construction. An enormous amount of building today is purely speculative: all over the world, governments collude with the financial sector to create glittering towers that are never occupied, empty office buildings, airports that are never used. Stop doing this. No one will miss them.

If we don’t break ourselves of this addiction quickly we will leave our children and grandchildren to face catastrophes on a scale which will make the current pandemic seem trivial.

Proposal three: planned obsolescence. One of the main reasons we have such high levels of industrial production is that we design everything to break, or to become outmoded and useless in a few years’ time. If you build an iPhone to break in three years you can sell five times as many than if you make it to last 15, but you also use five times the resources, and create five times the pollution. Manufacturers are perfectly capable of making phones (or stockings, or light bulbs) that wouldn’t break; in fact, they actually do – they’re called ‘military grade’. Force them to make military-grade products for everyone. We could cut down greenhouse gas production massively and improve our quality of life.

These three are just for starters. If you think about it, they’re really just common sense. Why destroy the world if you don’t have to?

If addressing them seems unrealistic, we might do well to think hard about what those realities are that seem to be forcing us, as a society, to behave in ways that are literally mad.”

Bullshit Jobs: The Rise of Pointless Work, and What We Can Do About It by David Gräber is out now (Penguin, £9.99)

the control group bet

Looking at how people behave around me, it feels like everyone is currently choosing their own control group – sick/non(never)sick, vacced/nonvacced, mingeling/nonmingeling, masked/nonmasked…
as no one can know what the future will reveal about all this, so everyone is making their own bet… risking (re-)infection over isolation(-in|sanity), risking long-term-impact over short term pleasure, choosing blissful or hapless ignorance over trying to navigate the flood of information coming in and changing every day…

I’m in the isolationist/vacced/nonsick/nonmingeling/masked control group… if that keeps me healthy but turns me into an irreparably anxious catweasel hermit, only time will tell… but if I can stay clear from this spread for another while longer I’m gladly following my introvert instincts and stay back…

why the leadership team at work is still calling in the crowds to (voluntarily) join large indoor events is unclear to me, but I guess this is one way to find out which control group will do better… but looking at past events and outcomes it seems that showing up no matter what improves your career, whereas more considerate steps aiming at prevention are a clear show stopper of your career…

so you can stay healthy or rise up the corporate ladder… if you are really lucky you can do both, but it involves more risk taking than I am prepared to accept… so here we are, and I am watching on from the sidelines, and keep comparing the groups… but whichever way this pans out, I have already had my share of sickness, disease and long-term impact in life, I am not keen on adding to that, even if it means I will earn less or have a less fancy title.

to be continued…

Chain my hash#

[This post is a note to self] – Blockchains are a type of ledger. Coin “miners” make calculations and add messages to the blockchain over time. The messages are hashed to protect the ordering and contents of messages. These hash ledgers are (allegedly!) tamper-resistant as the contents of later entries depend on the contents of earlier entries.

The novelty (in comparison to conventional dbs) is that it is a distributed system with no owner. This is what enthusiasts mean when they say that the blockchain is trustless: instead of central authority, like a bank, many miners compete to successfully write a new message to the blockchain. They do this by means of a proof-of-work algorithm, each with their own copy of the ledger.

Blockchains capture the previous digest and the current message to produce another digest.

Digital ethics

Digital ethics, safeguarding user and data dignity, is the very practice we don’t have enough of, the very concept that isn’t applied enough, the very standard that isn’t adhered to but instead sold out on.

Software and web development used to be a neutral space, but now it is where all the responsibilities lie. Grow up nerds, and look your own realities in the b/eye/te.

Whatever you collect and whatever you publish is also *your* responsibility.

Related: Neveragain.tech – The Tech Pledge

Read more about design that exploits natural cognitive bias and other inclination that sits with UI & UX in this formidable mastery blog…

and more on design ethics: “The Social Dilemma reveals the dark side of persuasive design. So-called dark patterns run rife through social media apps; the previously-mentioned chat bubbles and the ‘pull to refresh feature’ (mirroring a slot machine) are just 2 examples.

The time of the Great Derangement

A sobering yet splendid write up of the current state of affairs
Meanjin.com.au/essays/unearthed by @cityoftongues

We buy cheap clothes without letting ourselves think too much about the manner of their production, eat meat without thinking too much about where it comes from, catch planes without thinking too hard about the impact of them, or of the materials that went into building the plane, or the road, or of making the power that runs the lights. For those of us in the first world, any reckoning with these questions is likely to be particularly painful, demanding we learn to see the invisible legacies and ongoing trauma of colonialism and exploitation, dispossession and destruction that surround and enmesh us. Seen like this our resistance looks less like moral cupidity or wickedness than self-preservation. As T.S. Eliot recognised almost a century ago, there is only so much reality most of us can bear.

As a result we inhabit a weird duality, a world in which we know but do not know, and where these mechanisms of evasion and denial allow us to avoid staring into the eye of what is coming.

Five million Syrian refugees deranged Europe, a fraction of that has dramatically affected the dynamic of Australian society. What happens when tens of millions head north and south from Indonesia and equatorial or sub-Saharan Africa? When Central America or parts of India become uninhabitable? When Bangladesh and Myanmar flood? What happens when that occurs at the same time food grows scarce, water resources dry up and economic activity contracts to less than nothing as global commerce collapses? 

When sea-level rise has swallowed the Sundarbans and made cities such as Kolkata, New York and Bangkok uninhabitable, when readers and museum-goers turn to the art and literature of our time, will they not look, first and most urgently, for traces and portents of the altered world of their inheritance? And when they fail to find them, what can they do other than to conclude that ours was a time when most forms of art and literature were drawn into the modes of concealment that prevented people from recognising the realities of their plight?”

Persistence

Starting in a new team tomorrow. All the panicky bells and whistles going, the familiar anxiety combo. But age & experience have their advantage in that it’s all not so overwhelming anymore. Instead the pressure’s rather distilling. Boiling the essence out of my ingredients. I have learnt that my main USP is persistence. I tend to not give up. I might not be as diplomatic or graceful as others, but I do make things work.

The thrust for that I get from a vast word-zoo in my head. Words are my shtick. In my mind, thoughts are roaming the wild like a bunch of liberated serengetians. For me, doing work and giving structure to a project is the side-noise that keeps me sane… and lets me ponder in the background.

Intuition and decision making

Brain science tells us there are three kinds of intuition: ordinary, expert, and strategic.

Ordinary intuition is just a feeling, a gut instinct.

Expert intuition is snap judgments, when you instantly recognize something familiar, the way a tennis pro knows where the ball will go from the arc and speed of the opponent’s racket.

Strategic intuition is a clear thought. It’s not a vague feeling, like ordinary intuition. And it’s not fast like expert intuition. It’s slow. That epiphany of insight you had last night might solve a problem that’s been on your mind for a month. And it doesn’t happen in familiar situations, like a tennis match. Strategic intuition works in new situations. That’s when you need it most.

This third kind of intuition is what I go by whenever I can. Strategic intuition is what guides the majority of my decision making. And while it is unpopular these days to request time for thinking, you have to take your stand and do it anyway, and allow for proper time to reflect. I have a 24 hrs ‘sleep it over’ rule.

Which compliments my other approach to life and everything, something that’s called the OODA loop (observe, orient, decide and act). This ‘rapid evaluation routine’ keeps running permanently on the back of my mind (or wherever my intuition-o-meter sits). Originally the OODA method was derived by pilots who apply the loop to make fast decisions and review them in a constant cognitive circle.

You have to swim fast when the water is cold…
ooda loop

Universal Basic Income

From the Ethics Centre: A quick review of the topic of Universal Basic Income (UBI) – the idea of a regular and liveable payment with no strings attached – no exchange of labour or goods.

The idea of a UBI has deep historical roots. In Thomas More’s Utopia, published in 1516, he writes that instead of punishing a poor person who steals bread, “it would be far more to the point to provide everyone with some means of livelihood, so that nobody’s under the frightful necessity of becoming, first a thief, and then a corpse”.

Over three hundred years later, John Stuart Mill also supported the concept in Principles of Political Economy, arguing that “a certain minimum [income] assigned for subsistence of every member of the community, whether capable of labour or not” would give the poor an opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty.

In the 20th century, the UBI gained support from a diverse array of thinkers for very different reasons. Martin Luther King, for instance, saw a guaranteed payment as a way to uphold human rights in the face of poverty, while Milton Friedman understood it as a viable economic alternative to state welfare.

Would a UBI encourage laziness?

Read the answer here: Ethics.org.au/on-ethics/blog/may-2018/ethics-explainer-universal-basic-income

Internal wealth

Reading about human relationships, and the essence required to push through. According to psychological research, the greatest emotional need is security. Yet, trying to live in alignment with your goals and values often conflicts with the complexities of reality.

Wanting approval is a normal thing, but needing approval is very different. A need for approval leads to working on projects one is not excited about. Leads to eating unhealthy foods one doesn’t want to eat. Leads to ruminating and obsessing about problems and regrets one could easily remove or fix. A quest for perfectionism actually creates procrastination. Perfectionism is about an unhealthy need for approval. It’s about a fear of failure and looking incompetent. It’s the opposite of courage. And it’s the opposite of mastery.

Jody Williamson and Stephen Covey say “an abundance mentality springs from internal security, not from external rankings, comparisons, opinions, possessions, or associations.You must believe you are independently wealthy, and that you don’t NEED a particular prospect. When you truly believe and know you are fine and secure without THIS relationship or THIS opportunity, then you can act honestly and genuinely.

I am in the process of establishing just that. Independence, and inner wealth. Freedom, from the need of approval.

I so hope I have don’t cut all ties to achieve this.

Wish me luck.

 

Autopilot brain

Declarative vs Procedural

– Declarative learning is acquiring information that one can speak about. The capital of a state is a declarative piece of information, while knowing how to ride a bike is not. Episodic memory and semantic memory are a further division of declarative information.

There are two ways to learn a telephone number: memorise it using your declarative memory, or use it many times to create a habit. Habit learning is called procedural memory

Declarative memory uses your medial temporal lobe and enables you to recall the telephone number at will. Procedural memory activates the telephone number only when you are at the telephone, and uses your right-hemisphere’s skill, pattern recognition.

Research indicates declarative and habit memory compete with each other during distraction. When in doubt, the brain chooses habit memory because it is automatic. –

That is what my brain currently does: It runs on autopilot to deal with tasks at work. The burnout does not allow for constructive creativity and forward thinking. The lack of love only allows for getting through the day on autopilot.

#ITComms

“Brevity is the soul of wit. But not in so many words.”
@NeinQuarterly

There are two sides to Comms. One where big words induce calculated sentiment, to impact feelings and steer behaviour. The other where the lot is synthesised into a short succinct message. I’m with the latter. No one has time anymore. Make it brief, don’t waffle. People will thank you for it.

Greetings from the cusp of IT & Communications where ambiguity severs outcomes every single day.

I’m doing alright

End of year situations tend to make one reflect… so this morning I sat with my coffee and spent some time pondering over the past year, and came to the conclusion that, all in all, I am living my best life. I am doing alright. I was helpful to people, and tried not to hurt anyone. I looked after myself and others. I am able to forgive myself, and hold no grudges against anyone.

I am doing alright. Thanks world.