Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Recently I've been debating my concept of what work is or what constitutes work. Has the model of work shifted from a previous viewpoint to a new one with the changes in technology?

The Old Ways

When the Industrial Revolution hit, there was a strong need for labor. People started to give up working on their parent's farms and moved into the city to work in large factories. Thanks to the assembly line style, each person did a specific task in the advancement of the creation of a product. The amount of work done was a direct effect of the worker's efforts, how quickly and correctly they could accomplish their given task.

In this system, a job works similar to the concept of bartering. You, the worker, are using your time, effort and energy in producing a product for your employer in exchange for payment.

The New Ways

In the Information Age, the age of higher education and computers, this system seems to have broken down.

Now computers are doing the mundane, repetitive tasks that the workers were doing before. The workers now are in charge of directing the computers. So instead of doing the work, the workers now seem to just be in charge of making sure that the computer functions and completes the job on time. It seems that the goal of companies is to collect more and more people that can manage these computers and maintain a certain quota of people who have the skills needed to fix problems that could come along, as well as find ways to make the computers work faster or more efficiently.

In this system, instead of the worker trading their time, effort and energy, it's more just about time. You are "on call" or in a place where the employer can call on you to do something if necessary and in exchange you are paid.

Why has this happened?

At one point I was eating lunch with some contractors who were working on a project with the core group of testers. One of the guys was relating some experiences he had at previous companies where the business was poorly run, but the government still fed it more and more money. The other guy then broke down his explanation of the situation like this:

The government is seen as responsible for everyone. If you don't have a job, the government is believe to be suppose to step in and give you the welfare to keep going. The problem is that this is a large job and the government can't do it all and prefers not to have to do it. So what the government does is it just keeps pushing out the money it collects from taxes back into the economy. It'll keep funding poorly run companies just because they keep people employed no matter the quality of the work produced. If people are employed, then they are no longer the government's problem. So in effect, the government doesn't care what you do with the money as long as you are keeping people employed that it would have to deal with itself if not for you.

Is this true?

When I heard this I didn't really believe it. But now that I'm pretty much living in that situation, I can't deny it anymore. It seems that companies are more concerned with maintaining a certain amount of "resources" or skilled laborers, that are available for projects than actually completing a certain amount of work. This is why movies like Office Space are made. We have a surplus of available labor that is not really being used, but is just available for use.

What do you think? Do you think this is really how it is? How do you categorize a successful, productive day at work? How do you justify your eight hours of work each day?


Thomas said...

So you took the red pill, right? Just kidding... ;-) I think a lot of people feel that money is not enough to motivate and make them feel energized. The problem is that they are not AWARE of that fact. When you realize what the purpose is of you being at work, you loose motivation, because this is far from the purpose of YOUR life. The purpose is to earn money but that's money misunderstood. More money is just a way to live more on purpose.

~christophany~ said...

Thanks for your comment.

I think the problem with the modern work place is that things have changed and the systems haven't. Look at the FedEx commercial where the guy thinks he's busy and keeps shouting out "Busy" whenever anyone comes by, even though FedEx is now doing all of his work. That is how things are nowadays. Computers do 90% of the work, and there just isn't enough work left to keep everyone occupied for 40 hours a week. The internet has just become the new TV, keeping people entertained while time ticks by and they count down the days till retirement.

I like what The Science of Getting Rich says about money. Our society is setup in a way where money is the way to get what we want. Therefore, everyone has the desire and the right to get money, because money is what we need to develop to our full potential. How we go about it is the problem. We are trained that the only or the best way to get money is to exchange our time, effort and energy for a set salary that goes up in increments that are arbitrarily determined. That's the problem, and that's what I believe needs to be changed.