Old Ranty McRantRant down the street has said the kids are up to no good for years. Ah, he grumbles, they don’t make ‘em like they use to, he squints at the kids outside marching down the lane in their designer bullshit, look at them, they just look at their phones and shuffle about doing nothing. They make nothing, they talk a lot, they review bands and motels, our country makes nothing, he spits, the factories have closed, the farms are sprawling developments, the roads are clogged with rice burners and ching-chong-chung plastic ticky-tacky stores selling fucksticks and bimbo crotch cloth. Oh yes McRantRant, you think you know, but you see, the kids, the kids are alright because they’re knowledge workers, they are designers and programmers who work away in the fields of digital, the vis plastica of hidden virtues and slanderous rationes seminales in the ever growing network of Intertubes. They are competing and innovating and competing again and some of them are just 22 years old and dropped out of college and founded companies that have designed apps that tell you if it is light or dark outside so you can plan your day or night. They are the future, sir, and you and your need to make actual things, is so 1992.0.1.
It is the knowledge workers, the thoughters thinking and those rich from having thunk up ideas and websites where our economic progress is supposedly headed as we prepare all kiddies out there for college and career and beyond, lighting up the tight little fuckers to take out bank loans for tuition or bilking birth parents, caregivers, and guardians out of hard earned money. We want all of these kiddies to have degrees, degrots, and bona fides so they can create the New Big Thing like a Robocop or eyeballs for Roy Batty (a Nexus-6). Those toiling away inventing new web designs, user experiences (UX), metric relational data field quantum crowd-sourced cat boxing program languages are our hope to compensate for the rust belt, Monsanto fields, factory farms, and a general funk that hangs about many lower areas of the nation where water meets land. However, these workers are too caught up in a conundrum, a version of labour issues where we produce for the sake of production, not to fill actual needs. Perhaps the kids don’t suffer the same question described in Adam Curtis’s documentary The Trap (not to be confused with General Akbar’s “It’s a trap!”) which focused largely on issues of “freedom” and “self” but still our modern workforce suffers from that conundrum workers have faced since the dawn of industrial civilization – if you make a product so good it lasts forever, your job won’t last forever. Before the answer was to then build things that wouldn’t last – like the light bulb (see the secret history of the light-bulb) and consumers will have to replace that item. Today our answer is make things that don’t last. But consumer have learned to expect that, even demand it.
We have come to hate unions and government officials for all their make work and pork barrels they roll about (what the fuck is a “pork barrel”? can’t we just grow up from the days of Nast and say “waste of money”?), the “closed shop floors,” the grades and scales that determine which worker can touch what wire in what area, and that imagined aparatchaki who has neither title nor job duties and sits at that imagined desk reading the hypothetical newspaper, waiting for a paycheque of taxpayers money. We have come to resent anything close to what people in my grandfather’s day called “job security” which is strange since few of have any security in a work-at-will environment and some of the hallmarks of our employment such as fire doors and sick time was won not through the largesse of job creators but in blood and bullets of red necks and Piketon guards oh so many not that many decades ago. And here, in this hatred of make-work projects toil the Knowledge Workers, who are caught in the trap of the designer, the need to perpetuate their position by countless releases, upgrades, redesigns, and changes that ensure they will continue to tinker away and retain the right to pay with coin their many debt obligations.
Why are there so many updates to software? Why do so many websites (wordpress not immune) change, alter, redesign, re-release, re-fucktitude their websites in a way that keeps you searching for that “send” button time and again? Perhaps functionality, perhaps an inability to plan ahead, perhaps the inability to fund a product from conception to an actual working model before fostering it on the gullible public, but it seems that more of our Knowledge Workers seem more in the business of creating upgrades and constant “tweeks” to keep themselves in gainful activity. These color changes, these redesigns don’t add additional value. This isn’t moving from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age, this is piddling fiddling with digital nada to perpetuate whatever asshole company they work for.
Which, considering the companies that launch and are assigned value, it isn’t surprising the workforce of the future is setting itself up for a strange Soviet experience. Company after company seems to be launched that makes nothing but… social media, networks, and delivers content, so much so that often this blogger wonders if it is again 1998. Companies like Foursquare™ have inane b-plans and mange to sign up the willing masses of asses to do vague digital fingering (think DHCP or DNS) rather than delivering a three dimensional actual usable functional thing. Foursquare™ is known, has a brand, burns over two millions a month yet made only two millions in revenue last year, making people wonder how long before they burn through the cash and making this blogger wonder…. Where the hell can I get investors to toss money my way….
In our race to the top we have tossed out so many skills of the physical world for inventions of the mind powered by an aging electrical grid balanced on the peak of oil. We have degraded the union slob with a wrench and elevated the disposable Knowledge Worker who sprints from week to week manufacturing dithering half-coded releases and then working to either fix bugs or redesign the colour and texture to [your marketing scheme here]. With each passing year, our collective society loses real skills, forgets the paramount of hundreds of years of experience, and drifts into a digital paradise that were it not for the rare earth mined by children, oil rigs in the deep waters, nuclear power plants, cadmium mines, copper smelting plants, and bricks and mortar would not exist. We should all remember that our iWhatthefuck cannot replace the blood, sweat, and tears of industry.
The creeping masses of kiddies continues as the younger generation gets older and moves into our world. They keep themselves busy, work gets done but somewhere there is a desk with a state of the art computer, and sitting there is some employee who is revising the thing he designed for the umpteenth time. This time he’ll get it right, this time you’ll never have to even hit the button to whack the mole….
Tomorrow your bank will have a new login feature. Facebook will have another colour scheme. The digital tool bar will be beveled and the word “submit” will be replaced by “enter.” The kids are alright, they’re just coding as fast as they can to keep their jobs. We are indeed making things today, the same thing we made yesterday, but the url is different, but it is that same trap and perhaps exactly what Adam Curtis had proposed.
It is fitting that in the building I work, chock-a-block with knowledge workers and coder programmers it is the elevators stuck between floors, malfunctioning heating and cooling system, and toilets that are constantly plugged on the blink if not falling apart that define the day’s experience. Where is that unionized working slob with a wrench to fix shit when we need h/i/e/m/r?