Work and Pandemic Clarity

Sara Wachter-Boettcher has an article on how “Work needs to stay in its place.” Good read, and not a long one (by Medium’s estimate, you’ll be done in 9 minutes). It discusses how our relationship with work is shifting (or at least, many of us want it to shift), at least in some small part caused by the pandemic.

The loss of routines and norms caused tech and design workers to reflect on their lives — and many didn’t like what they saw: 11pm Slack messages. DEI lip service. Calls for “self-care” followed by reminders that even though the team was understaffed, the Q2 roadmap wouldn’t be changing.

People told us how their eyes felt open for the first time to how bad things really were — and it led many to reassess everything. They might not have the answers figured out yet, but one thing feels clear: they’re never going back to “business as usual.”

The post also links to a longer report, if you’re so inclined.

I’ve got a lot of feelings about work and careers and the “rat race.” To be clear, I like my job, I like my colleagues, I still put in the time and the effort when I’m working. But I still find myself looking forward to every Friday and if not dreading, at least feeling resigned to having to go to work on Monday. It’s not the work, it’s the structures of work that wear me the hell out. To paraphrase Fry Pan Jack, handing your brain over to others for 8 hours a day on the presumption that they’ll return it in an unmutilated condition feels like a sucker’s bet.

Digital Nomad Timeline

Found via Kottke, here’s an excellent timeline of the idea of remote work and digital nomadism. The idea has been around for a long time – the timeline starts in 1964, with Arthur C. Clarke predicting it (well before it was broadly feasible – it’s sort of remarkable how much some of those 50’s and 60’s futurists managed to nail it). It’s been a long time coming, and while it’s not for everyone, the pandemic certainly gave many more people the chance to try it out. (It’s an imperfect trial, since being in quarantine and many places in lockdown isn’t necessarily indicative of what it would be like if you didn’t have that restriction and background stress.)

It’s unsurprising but sad that many companies are already insisting people come back to the office, despite it: a) arguably being too early given vaccination rates, new infections, and variants; b) not being necessary, based on general productivity gains and losses compared to in-office; c) not being what their employees want, many of whom seem to prefer either remote or a hybrid of in-office and remote. (Personally, I’m quite happy working remotely 90% of the time, but recognize that it’s useful to get some real face time, too. Anecdotally, I seem to do best when I’m off remote most of the time, then go into the office maybe once or twice a week. I’d be interested in trying out something like being primarily remote and then coming to work from the office for a week or two maybe once a quarter or a few times a year.)

Anyway, definitely some food for thought, and interesting to see the sort of evolution and adoption of digital nomad lifestyles across the past few decades.

Link: Jobs are for Machines

Deep Learning Is Going to Teach Us All the Lesson of Our Lives: Jobs Are for Machines, by Scott Santens.

Advances in technology are now so visibly exponential in nature that we can expect to see a lot more milestones being crossed long before we would otherwise expect. These exponential advances, most notably in forms of artificial intelligence limited to specific tasks, we are entirely unprepared for as long as we continue to insist upon employment as our primary source of income.

Scott Santens

There’s been talk about this coming in varying degrees for years (and the idea of a universal basic income has been tossed around for decades — it was a central idea in For Us, The Living, Heinlein’s first [unpublished at the time] novel back in 1938), but this article does a solid job of summing up the state of where things are NOW, and why we’re out of time to put off thinking seriously about what’s coming.