I seem to work a lot. At least, I think I work a lot. Like many in the modern world, I find it pretty hard to tell the difference between work and the rest of my life. Apart from when I’m sleeping, I’m usually reading, writing or thinking (or doing some combination of the three). And since that is essentially what I get paid to do, it is difficult to distinguish between work and leisure. Of course, reading, writing and thinking are features of many jobs. The difference is that, as an academic, I have the luxury of deciding what I should be reading, writing and thinking about. This luxury has, perhaps, given me an overly positive view of work. But I confess, there are times when I find parts of my job frustrating and overbearing.… Read the rest
Tag Archives | Work
Change and the unknown may be the commonest fears, along with public speaking. All of which hold the potential of limiting progress. Perhaps some adhere to a notion of singularity, maybe ignorance, perhaps others are prone to the narratives passed down from parents. I don’t know, and I accept that. What I do know is that we all have the power to educate ourselves, and to choose. For the sake of balance I offer you this.
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Many experts would have us believe that robots and other technologies are behind the job drought. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.MIT Technology Review editor David Rotman recently wrote an article called “How Technology is Destroying Jobs.” The title not only sums up the article’s thesis, it sums up the view of many pundits seeking to explain lackluster job growth.
Humanity is nearly obsolete. MIT Technology Review writes:
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Rapid advances in technology have long represented a serious potential threat to many jobs ordinarily performed by people.
A recent report from the Oxford Martin School’s Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology concludes that 45 percent of American jobs are at high risk of being taken by computers within the next two decades.
The authors believe this takeover will happen in two stages. First, computers will start replacing people in especially vulnerable fields like transportation/logistics, production labor, and administrative support. Jobs in services, sales, and construction may also be lost in this first stage.
Then, the rate of replacement will slow down due to bottlenecks in harder-to-automate fields such engineering. This “technological plateau” will be followed by a second wave of computerization, dependent upon the development of good artificial intelligence. This could next put jobs in management, science and engineering, and the arts at risk.
At this point we should all know that the word Occult is derived from the word occluded and is often interpreted as the search for “knowledge of the hidden”. By that definition, I’ve often pointed out that the most obviously hidden aspect of our society is that we don’t talk about what we’re up to exactly pretty much ever. If you came up to a person on the street and asked them the meaning of life, I’d say the likelihood they’d reply: “to blindly churn out as many humans as possible through reckless fucking and build as much new weird stuff as quickly as we can” would be fairly slim. I guess the reason for that would have to do with the fact that it sounds utterly insane when you say it out loud, which is precisely why we don’t do it. And yet, it is the supreme goal nearly all of us spend a great deal of our time contributing to every single day.… Read the rest
I know you’re never going to believe this, but apparently life in 21st century America will make you a little nutty. Okay, that’s no surprise, but I’m confused by the difference between a “real” mental illness caused by social pressures and a “fake” mental illness that people use to rebel against the society that is driving them crazy.
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In “The Epidemic of Mental Illness: Why?” (New York Review of Books, 2011), Marcia Angell, former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, discusses over-diagnosis of psychiatric disorders, pathologizing of normal behaviors, Big Pharma corruption of psychiatry, and the adverse effects of psychiatric medications. While diagnostic expansionism and Big Pharma certainly deserve a large share of the blame for this epidemic, there is another reason.
A June 2013 Gallup poll revealed that 70% of Americans hate their jobs or have “checked out” of them. Life may or may not suck any more than it did a generation ago, but our belief in “progress” has increased expectations that life should be more satisfying, resulting in mass disappointment.
Via the Baffler, David Graeber on the possibilities of revolution and the increase in “guard labor”:
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Under no conditions can alternatives, or anyone proposing alternatives, be seen to experience success. This helps explain the almost unimaginable investment in “security systems” of one sort or another: military…intelligence agencies, militarized police…a massive media industry. Mostly these systems do not so much attack dissidents directly as contribute to a pervasive climate of fear, jingoistic conformity, life insecurity, and simple despair that makes any thought of changing the world seem an idle fantasy.
Yet these security systems are also extremely expensive. Some economists estimate that a quarter of the American population is now engaged in “guard labor” of one sort or another—defending property, supervising work, or otherwise keeping their fellow Americans in line. Economically, most of this disciplinary apparatus is pure deadweight.
In fact, most of the economic innovations of the last thirty years make more sense politically than economically.
As we have seen time and time again, one of the challenges of modern myths is their relative invisibility. It is the outsiders of any age, those who are alien to their own times, that make the best artist shamans, and the same goes for mythic explorers. If you are too close to a culture, you will very frequently mistake the truisms of culture, the myths, as a fact. This is true with “human nature” (as we have seen), and it is also true with our myths of labor and work.
Let’s consider the example presented when one generation judges another,
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“Twenge and Kasser analyzed data from the Monitoring the Future survey, which has tracked the views of a representative sample of 17- and 18-year-old Americans since 1976. They compared the answers to key questions given by high school seniors in 2005-2007 to those provided by previous generations.
To measure materialism, the youngsters were asked to rate on a one-to-four (“not important” to “extremely important”) scale how vital they felt it was to own certain expensive items: “a new car every two to three years,” “a house of my own (instead of an apartment or condominium),” “a vacation house,” and “a motor-powered recreational vehicle.” They were also asked straightforwardly how important they felt it was to “have a lot of money.”
To measure their attitudes toward work, the seniors rated on a one-to-five scale the extent to which they agreed with a series of statements, including “I expect my work to be a very central part of my life,” and “I want to do my best in my job, even if this sometimes means working overtime.”
The researchers found a couple of disturbing trends.
Via the Huffington Post:
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More than 100 people in the United States die every day as a result of their work, according to a new report from the AFL-CIO.
The union found that about 4,693 workers were killed on the job in 2011, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 50,000 workers per year die from work-related diseases. Combine those numbers and you get about 150 work-related deaths per day, the AFL-CIO report found.
To put that number in comparative terms: Americans are 271 times more likely to die from a workplace accident than from a terrorist attack, according to an op-ed last month from Mike Elk, a labor reporter for In These Times.
The recent industrial disasters in West, Texas, and across the globe in Bangladesh have brought the issue of workplace safety into sharp focus. The fertilizer plant explosion in Texas killed 15 and injured hundreds, while the collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh last month claimed the lives of more than 700.
Monday’s just around the corner, and with it the godforsaken shriek of the alarm clock. Oh, but to have five minutes more sleep… Well, how much is it worth to you?