There are no shortage of headlines and stories in the news (actual news, not Twitter or whatever the current social media of the day is) about how the transition to working online might be permanent. This. Is. A. Bad. Idea.
Working online separates us from our colleagues and people in general. Yes, the current state of great jobs are all tech based that can mostly be done from anywhere. However, this ignores the fact that human beings need social interaction of some kind: not virtual interaction, actually being present with them.
Perhaps the transition to online work would be better, but there is no evidence that would suggest this is true. It is important to consider the social cost accompanied with the transition to working on-line. First, human labor did not change much until the first industrial revolution. Hand labor accomplished everything that humans needed. Almost overnight (at least considering the existence of modern humans is ~200,000 years old) we transitioned to factories, replacing human labor with that of machines. For the wealthy, this did not change much, but for the rest of society it was a shock. The industrial revolution took place ~300 years ago and that is a considerably short amount of time for things to change so quickly.
Secondly, moving things online would only exacerbate the divide between the haves and the have-nots. People that are disadvantaged in society (and there are a lot) already face tremendous hurdles for taking part in the digital economy. How often have you seen ‘apply online’ for what might be considered unskilled labor? It might be easy for college graduates to apply for jobs online, but what about those without home internet? Those without smart phones? ‘Just go to the library and pull yourself up by the boot straps.’ Easier said than done.
The rumblings of work online serve to benefit a select few, while leaving the most vulnerable people out of luck. This is not right. This turns our back on our fellow human beings. Regardless of your spiritual affiliation (or perhaps lack thereof) anyone who is not a sociopath has at least some sympathy for other people. Creating an economy that continues to marginalize the most vulnerable is not the right thing to do and will only serve to increase the profits of people like Jeff Bezos, whose company made $800,000,000,000 in 2018 yet paid NOTHING in federal taxes.
This is not a rant to eat the rich, but is an appeal for everyone to be kind and consider those who are not as fortunate.
I often warn my students that becoming a subject specialist (librarian) is not all glitz and glamour. The idea of being in charge of an entire discipline/subject area for collection is quite appealing (to ~0.0001% of the population, but includes myself). However, purchasing books for your library can be a dream turned nightmare come true.
Consider the following. You are a subject specialist at a pretty ok university and have $40,000 to buy books on political science each year. Yes, this sounds awesome, but it also ventures into a kind of punishment.
The Simpson’s have a great moment to illustrate this.
There are number of data scientists working on applications to help track the spread of Covid-19. This is a good idea in theory, however we need to consider a few things.
First, everyone does not have a smartphone. Shocking as it may be, this is the truth. Those less likely to have a smartphone are lower income and already vulnerable to the ills of society.
Second, what exactly do we stand to gain from tracking? How accurate is phone tracking?
Finally, what are the implications for privacy? I am relatively tech savvy, but it is still unclear to me exactly how one’s location is known, but more importantly are these tracking features being used all the time? Which ‘terms and conditions’ did users opt into to enable this feature?
Now more than ever we should rely on fact based information, not just the things that are a shinny distraction.
A week or so after the pandemic started our Internet went out, entirely at first and then back to a fraction of its capacity after a week. Taking part in Zoom meetings was impossible for me, the preferred medium of the institution I work for. Both my professors and students were all understanding of this situation. However, the reliance on the Internet for work made it clear that Internet service is critical for being able to participate in modern work culture. The Internet is more like a utility in this instance.
However, the Internet is not as important as clean drinking water and powering the lights. We have created a culture in which access to the Internet is not an option for most people that want to participate in the modern economy. If it is that crucial, we need to do more to ensure that everyone has access, not just those that can afford it.
Practicing my handwriting has become part of my daily attempt to keep insanity at bay during this period of isolation. Try as we all might, it is difficult to avoid shopping from Amazon (the company not the forest). Recently I have started looking for new books for practicing Spencerian writing: I am determined to write my qualifying exams by hand, although I’m sure this will be soundly rejected.
In the search for new study material I came across this.
Are you kidding?
What? A Kindle version? How, exactly would this work? Also, why in Sam Hell is the electronic version cheaper than the print?
Whenever possible it is best to purchase from smaller companies, such as Goulet Pens, Jet Pens, or Nibs.com. If you are interested in what has been dubbed American Cursive, check out Michael Sull’s website. Mr. Sull is a Master Penman with unbelievable skill, here is a video of him at work.
If you are interested, and have made the poor decision to have kids, try Handwriting Without Tears.
Back to writing.
*Note, no one paid me or asked me to promote their products, nor do I make any money off of this blog.
The US airline industry has asked for a $50 billion aid package to help them survive this crisis, which they will likely get. $50 Billion. Why does the industry need this? Also, how does this keep in line with the basic tenants of capitalism laid out by Adam Smith?
Smith believed in the Invisible Hand of capitalism. That is, the market would determine the best case of action through demand. This is contradictory to bailouts and subsidies. If the US airline industry cannot stand on its own, then it simply cannot/should not exist as a group of privately owned companies. This is not to say that they should be federalized, but that might be an option. Large multi-billion dollar corporations have received enough bailouts.
It would appear that more people are concerned about social security checks being used to buy alcohol or smartphones than subsidized corporations giving their executives multi-million dollar bonuses.
Regardless of who gets ‘free money’ there will always be waste. However, there might be a slightly higher net-gain by giving people (poor people that is) money in hand. Bailing out companies is not the answer. It is also important to consider that Jeff Bezos paid NOTHING in federal taxes for the 2018 tax year. Does he really need to be tax free?