Hey, I caught your podcast. Brilliantly expressed, and I’m honored that my email inspired you to think and share about the topic! Your comments gave me a new perspective also, and has me thinking, especially about the relationship of all this to how technology has been used to drive centralized control methods for both companies and countries.
When we use technology to increase centralized control of people by powerful tracking and monitoring of their work, it has a real life impact on the general quality of life for front line workers. Especially when jobs are so competitive, and anyone in the world can conceivably compete for one’s job.
In the old days, Fredrick Taylor had designed work areas with rows of desks and managers towering over to make sure they worked hard enough (or at least looked like they were working hard). His goal was efficiency and productivity and managers overlooking the employees was the way to push workers harder and control their process compliance. Today, computers are leveraged to do similar things even more powerfully.
From that Wikipedia article above you can see where it started… “Early on at Midvale, working as a laborer and machinist, Taylor recognized that workmen were working their machines, or themselves, not nearly as hard as they could (a practice that at the time was called “soldiering”) and that this resulted in high labor costs for the company. When he became a foreman he expected more output from the workmen. In order to determine how much work should properly be expected, he began to study and analyze the productivity of both the men and the machines (although the word “productivity” was not used at the time, and the applied science of productivity had not yet been developed). His focus on the human component of production Taylor labeled scientific management.”
I can sort of see how that kind of “progress” led to stressed out employees. And to a culture of cubicle farm workplaces and constant demands of efficiency and productivity goals that are constantly on the rise.
Anyway, interesting topics. Makes me start to wonder if the internet and large governments and large corporations are really a step forward for the entire human species. Seems like less technology and smaller government and local shops might be less efficient, but a lot easier to live with for those who don’t want to sell their soul to the modern workplace.
(Forgive me if I’ve taken this in an uncomfortable direction… these are very contentious and sensitive topics. I don’t consider any of these positions more important to me than you as a person, so feel free to disagree!)
Take care, Bob R
Once again Bob has made me think about a subject in a different way. I personally do not consider this topic to be uncomfortable because when I think about it everything Bob says makes perfect sense.
Many of us sit in offices or even at home and we log on. Every single thing we do can be recorded. Whether it is a Zoom meeting, emails, instant messages etc etc. Technically it can all be monitored to offer a near perfect picture of a worker’s output. That is of course only perfect if you are concentrating on numbers / widgets and not what they create and ‘how’ they do their work.
As I consider this further I then think about what it is to be human and how far we are riding down a road where it is almost frowned upon to have free will and to not conform to set directions and processes. Technology enables and eases the path to control in a way we have not seen before.
It is a big topic and it is easy to ignore the benefits of the technology we use today, but just maybe we have to accept that progress cannot easily be tamed and that there are times when we simply have to go along for the ride and do our best to minimise the negatives as much as we can. In 2021, however, that feels like a very difficult task because the tech feels bigger and more powerful than ever.