Mar 012013

Chris finishes off an involved piece on the internecine battles over Labour’s fiscal dilemmas with the following, almost off-hand, remark:

[...] The challenge for fiscal conservatives, then, is how to combine fiscal austerity with job creation?

Which brings me to ask a fairly obvious question, though not one I hear asked too much these days.

At least not in the limited circles I move.

What is the point of jobs in the first place?  What, indeed, is the point of all those job creation programmes?  If we believe that the main objective of jobs and employment is to share out the world’s wealth – in some reasonably sustainable way or other which allows the grandest number of people as possible to deal with and survive the buffetings of life’s unpredictable ups and downs – are we really saying that the current system of jobs is truly doing the best we can engineer, in a century where our predictive algorithmic powers become more and more sophisticated and accurate as time goes by?

I don’t think it is.  In fact, I think the random nature of the system – where millions of well-paid posts the world over remain unclaimed for months, maybe years, on end, and where billions of poorly-paid people struggle during entire lifetimes to make ends meet – is highly unsatisfactory all round.  Apart from anything else, it’s simply inefficient.  Using any measure out there, it’s economically inefficient.

Has anyone asked the question, then, whether there mightn’t be a better way to share out all this wealth than the one which has ended up attaching itself to the fetish of work?

I’m sure someone has.  I’m sure, in other stratospheres, this question is making clever people think.  But I do wonder, from way down here, amongst the dirty dirty, if it isn’t time we used our blessed algorithms to work out a far more cost-effective system of dividing up the wealth the earth most certainly contains.

What could we call it if jobs, work and employment were no longer our aim?

How about “life”?

Now there’s a thought.

Just think of the advantages: no benefits, no shirkers, no scroungers, no strivers; no privileged, no meritorious, no undeserving, no graft.  Instead, a beautifully hygienic system of support and release where everyone had enough to engage and survive; where no one, in fact, wanted for anything.

It does make you think.  It does make you wonder.  It does make you feel the current system has been designed solely so that the overly ambitious, the unbearably people-stamping and the downright alpha men and women out there can continue to have an outlet for their base and cruel instincts.

Instincts which would destroy them from within if the system of jobs – as we see it right now – did not exist.

And whilst the system’s hierarchy suits them down to the ground – suits them down to the very suits they always wear – they fashion enough crumbs to make the rest of us believe there might be a way out for us all.

Only the system is designed from the ground up to ensure the ground never manages to take off.

Yes.  For most of us poor souls, our jobs are boring and monotonous.  And they only exist, my dear friends, so that the people at the top can generously employ us as their stress balls.

So how does that make you feel?

Any better?


Thought it might!

Feb 082012

Our actions on social and other electronic media leave a trail of clues behind us.  Sometimes this trail is exactly part of what we do: we do it on purpose and – although we are not absolutely clear of the long-term implications – I guess, to a certain extent, we are complicit in what is happening.

On other occasions, however, the automated systems and processes – those ever blessed algorithms and crunched numbers which strive so hard to meet our needs – reveal far more about us than we might ever choose to allow.

Two cases today about which I may be completely wrong, but which – nevertheless – will surely interest the budding Sherlocks amongst you.  First, an example of predictive text which I highlighted some hours ago – and which a predictive text bot then retweeted thus (for those of you unclear as to the mistake, “Bing Bang Theory” should’ve been “Big Bang Theory”):

RT @eiohel: Funny how predictive text allows you to see what words and tools people use most. Bing Bang Theory? Clearly not a Googler!!!

What would a latterday Holmes deduce from that?  Either that the original tweeter a) uses the Microsoft search engine Bing in preference to Google or b) has a good friend called Bing.  In the grand scheme of things, I’d be inclined to believe the former.  There aren’t that many Bings around these days. 

The principle is therefore established: our mobile phones acquire and reproduce linguistic and technological fingerprints that clearly, and probably quite uniquely, belong to us – and then, via the software and systems in play in these devices, potentially lead us to tell the world far more about ourselves than we might in principle intend.

I am sure that in such errors a widespread future examination of predictive text-generated information would prove fruitful on more than one occasion.


The second case tonight involves an application for a short-term fixed-contract role I made recently.  In order to apply for the role, I had to register online with a service provider.  Whilst that application runs its merry course, this morning I received an invitation to apply for a second role at the same institution.  In this case, the salary was almost three times the original; involved managerial responsibility; and offered me the chance of moving into an area I have direct experience of.  And I wonder if the way I filled in the previous application – the information, all true, which I provided; the register, sensitive and inclusive, which I used – led the service provider’s automated systems to offer me a role which I’d probably have discarded as inappropriately ambitious, especially if I’d seen it all on my lonesome.

So I’m inclined – now – to carry out an experiment.  If I fit the job requirements (I still have to log on and check), I will also apply for this second role.  And then we will see if algorithms can far more accurately predict our real skills and aptitudes than, perhaps, even we are able to do about ourselves.

Which, finally, is what brings me to conclude that Sherlock Holmes would’ve truly loved the whole astonishing experience that is this second decade of the 21st century.

Don’t you think?