Why we need a new operating system for work

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Gee… whenever I discuss doing this same thing, people here tend to gang up on me as being somehow a naive idealist. I guess I should be happy that it is less asinine and even worthy of an article when somebody else says it.


"Institute for the Future "

Where do I join?

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So those references to wages in the Old Testament, they got there some time in the last 300 years?


I guess I should be happy that it is less asinine and even worthy of an article when somebody else says it.

I have some problems with some of it.

For example, when the article said:

large organizations came to dominate our production landscape because they’re highly efficient mechanisms for producing at scale

I laughed at that crock of shit. Large corporations are efficient at stomping out competition from vastly more efficient, decentralized small businesses. The large corporations are efficient at wasteful, unethical collusion and bribery of politicians.

The article is confusing wasteful, corrupt sloth with true, big picture efficiency.


Most people seem to casually disregard that measures of “efficiency” are entirely dependent upon what one’s goals are. There is no universal, objective measure of efficiency, and certainly not in the social domain.

Functionally, this industrial, mass-production ethic seems to encourage competition, but deceptively not within the bounds of the stated goals of the organizations. Instead, they compete for capital and resources for their own sake.


I just love that the common term for this sort of work is “The Gig Economy.” As in, “let’s base the future of work around a slang term developed by musicians who worked for beer.”

Remember when your parents told you that there was no future in being a Rock Star? Your parents were right.


I noticed also that “making a living” sounds like something out of a zombie movie. Earning a right to exist by random toil is only rationalized sadism. It’s babysitting for adults who would otherwise be truly participating in society.


I was hoping for something radical. But, on a first quick reading, it just looks like business-as-usual with apps and a few buzzwords


This really bugs me. Where is the evidence for this? Trading across continents has existed for 1000s of years. London’s soil is brimful of Roman artefacts. Travel anywhere in Italy, and to this day, you will discover evidence of thriving trade with North-Africa and Asia. Has Marina never been to Venice? The city is covered in evidence of thriving trade with faraway lands. Nothing about trade and production in medieval Venice was local or small scale.

Such un-evidenced generalisations weakens the whole argument.


Boing Boing linking to a blog post written by another “naive idealist” does not make your ideas any less asinine. Even if it were an article written by a professional journalist and published by a respected periodical… They’re still sitting at a completely different table from reality.

That’s merely a casual dismissal. What do you assume that their ideals supposedly are?

Sounds like loaded phraseology to me. How does one profess that what they write is journalism? And respected by whom?

It’s easy to play critic when one doesn’t do anything to create the current reality themselves. It seems to mostly involve assuming that “someone else does it”. Social reality is what we do, so we are all responsible for it, and pro-active in making it - otherwise, nothing would happen.


This is why I support full employment for robots and a guaranteed minimum annual income for all adults.


Hmm, you seem to mistaking my meaning. I was rebuking your apparent assumption that your ideas are validated by claiming that another person is espousing the same ideas.

That said, I have a hunch your ideas aren’t too objectionable to me, they’re just framed such that they put me off.


I entered the legal workforce in 1961. I write “legal” because in New York State at that time one could not legally be an employee before age 16. (I’d been mowing lawns, but that operated under the legal radar.) When I got my first gas-pumping job, I was introduced to NYS labor law and its various protections. The ones I recall were a minimum wage, a limit on how many hours I could work (since I was a minor), and (had I not been a minor) a requirement for one 24-hour period off out of each week. There were probably others as well.

What I’m getting at is that there doesn’t need to be a new operating system–there needs to be a legal framework that sets minimal standards for employer behavior and employee protection, along with a legal environment that permits workers to organize to deal with matters that government is not well-suited to addressing. In the current environment, employers set (and set aside) work schedules to suit themselves, limit or expand hours, or dump permanent employees altogether and outsource to temp agencies whose contractor status short-circuits the need for benefits or job security. The “gig economy” is just a romantic-bullshit rebranding of underemployment and the joys of day labor.


I don’t agree with the arricle’s general thrust, either, but on this point I believe that the author is referring to the relatively recent rise of wage labor as the primary labor form. Prior to the industrial revolution, the overwhelming majority of people earned their keep through agricultural labor, and wages for more specialized work were generally not calculated to the hour as they are now. There were some precedents but they never covered the globe as the current system does now.

Additionally, while old trade networks and production methods may have been prolific in their day, their scale is dwarfed by orders of magnitude by today’s economy.


I am not taking issue with the origin of wage labour, which in part depends on how we define ‘wage’ and ‘labour’ as @dragonfrog said such things were mentioned in the Bible–so not all that new. And I am in no doubt that there is a wide range of definitions in circulation among historians.

My issue is with the assertion that trade was small and localised [quote=“pesco, post:1, topic:70472”]
Before wage labour, we produced, traded, and invented things, but it was mostly localized and on a small scale.

That is just a statement out of thin air with no basis in history. And when intellectuals perpetuate the idea that somehow the world use to be oh so small and provincial while now suddenly people and goods are in motion, it annoys me endlessly.

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The gig-economy is overblown. Tech reporters and blogs always imagine it is the wave of the future because getting hired and paid for a single isolated task where you work when you want/need to and then face a period of uncertainty of the next gig is precisely how they work. It is a form of excited naval gazing. “Yeah, this kind of sucks… but it is the next big thing! I’m sure of it! I’m ahead of the curve!”

Most jobs have institutional knowledge: who has the keys for which closet has the mop and bucket, which cover sheet to put on the TPS reports, where the crash cart is located in the ICU, which accounts you bill shipping from so and so too. It is why there are so many jobs that won’t hire you if you tell them that in 6 months you will be moving to start graduate school.


Good point - the pyramids of Giza, the Coliseum, Angkor Wat, the Roman legions, they weren’t small scale artisanal productions with supply chains managed on personal reputation and a handshake.


the 1099 vs. W-2 debate…

Goes like this:

All of American law and case history and IRS regulations say unequivocally that Uber drivers are employees. Uber says they are not. It’s a “debate” the way climate science is a “debate.”

And this one particularly makes me mad, because back when I did taxes, I had clients whose bosses robbed them in the same way. Instead of a refund, they got a tax bill. The SSA has a form you can fill out to request an investigation, and they never ever used it.