Posts Tagged ‘anti-work’

Manna, by Marshall Brain

Friday, January 13th, 2017

Welcome to the automated future. Marshall Brain wrote about it in a novella called Manna in which a cynical future automates work, and then does away with work, and promptly has difficulty figuring out what to do with itself as its population blooms:

Manna was connected to the cash registers, so it knew how many people were flowing through the restaurant. The software could therefore predict with uncanny accuracy when the trash cans would fill up, the toilets would get dirty and the tables needed wiping down. The software was also attached to the time clock, so it knew who was working in the restaurant. Manna also had “help buttons” throughout the restaurant. Small signs on the buttons told customers to push them if they needed help or saw a problem. There was a button in the restroom that a customer could press if the restroom had a problem. There was a button on each trashcan. There was a button near each cash register, one in the kiddie area and so on. These buttons let customers give Manna a heads up when something went wrong.

At any given moment Manna had a list of things that it needed to do. There were orders coming in from the cash registers, so Manna directed employees to prepare those meals. There were also toilets to be scrubbed on a regular basis, floors to mop, tables to wipe, sidewalks to sweep, buns to defrost, inventory to rotate, windows to wash and so on. Manna kept track of the hundreds of tasks that needed to get done, and assigned each task to an employee one at a time.

Manna told employees what to do simply by talking to them. Employees each put on a headset when they punched in. Manna had a voice synthesizer, and with its synthesized voice Manna told everyone exactly what to do through their headsets. Constantly. Manna micro-managed minimum wage employees to create perfect performance.

The story is a fun parable of unintended consequences: humans see imperfection, improve on imperfection, and then realize they have made themselves obsolete. The only flaw in this story is that some people remain gainfully employed when the society in this quasi-realistic fantasy world has enough technology to delegate everything lower than Emperor to the machines.

Another view of the future is this: we return to the past. Namely, we need a time where people serve roles instead of being employed to do tasks. That means people are in curatorship positions, or stewardship positions, over various places and parts of life. These things might be able to be done by machines, but the real question is how society separates the useful from the non-useful, and that question is addressed not by employment, but by seeing who can be responsible, intelligent and wise enough to maintain aspects of civilization. Those must survive, and the rest must fall by the wayside; this is currently a task fulfilled (poorly) by our Communist worker’s society combined with a Gordon Gekko consumerist insanity.

This type of society will necessarily be ruled by culture which mandates certain roles which are more important than their measurement in terms of efficiency and economic necessity. They are things which should always be there, and always have been there, barring the modern interruption. Under this system, every piece of land has a caretaker, especially the wild land, and every social function has someone delegated to do it, in exchange for which they receive payment that allows them to survive. It is like capitalism, but with economic goals replace by cultural, moral and philosophical ones.

Either that, or we can wait around for the automated soulless future and machine existence posited by Manna.

Work Destroys Wisdom

Friday, January 13th, 2017

Conservatives — caught up in trying to compete with the socially more popular Left — have forgotten their original position against “Progress,” or the thought that humans can improve upon the order of nature by using human intent. Conservatives prefer time-honored methods guided by eternal principles to a search for “new” methods which are designed to impose the human will upon what nature has done, without regard for the order of nature.

As part of the original drive against progress conservatives opposed the notion of modern work, or employment to a limited series of functions instead of the more holistic question of role and purpose. Work replaces purpose with satisfaction of the demands of employers, and so detaches task from result. From this, much neurosis arises.

While conservatives have shrugged off much of their anti-work outlook, the fact remains that in the modern time, work is seen as part of a Utopian vision of all workers of the world united in a classless society which is a “meritocracy” meaning that anyone can rise if they are willing to spend the time memorizing the right things, and spending their irreplaceable time on projects others define.

If this time has a sacred cow, it is competition, which is seen as the way that the best rise, but as all things in this time, it has been inverted. Where best once meant “most competent,” now it means “most obedient” first with competence defined solely in terms of precedent and the acts of others. This means that on an individual level, people compete for the proxy of the employer, not a goal or qualitative assessment.

This competition makes people unstable. They start out with nothing, and must jump through many hoops in order to get ahead, which rewards those who have nothing else to do with their time and penalizes the most creative, active and intelligent.

Work defined by competition expands to fit the needs of its workers to jump through those hoops instead of being limited to the amount of actual work that must be done. As a result, people invent new work in order to demonstrate competence and get ahead, effectively burying others under the non-necessary or “make-work.” This causes jobs to be miserable and makes people vicious, resulting in the “crab bucket” mentality of rising by pushing others down.

On the other hand, aristocracy saw work as what it was: a means to an end. They also recognized that ability was innate and did not need to be proven, but required shaping by those who were experienced in a field, or had been recognized over time as excellent. This meant that everyone had a place and these places were stable. The crab bucket was unnecessary.

In our time, we see vast incompetence just about everywhere. This is a consequence of telling people that they are equal, but that some are more equal because they earn more, so that to be accepted above the minimum, people must earn a bunch of money. This convinces those who should by ability be in much simpler roles to take on complex roles, which they “succeed” at through conformity, but do the minimum toward the actual task because they are judged less on that than obedience. This creates a wave of incompetence across our economies.

As a result, wisdom is lost; we forget why we do things, and how to do them well not just in the short-term for a singular goal, but in the long term according to principle. We devolve. Our civilization crumbles. And we work more, and love less, with every step.

In addition, people are existentially miserable. The time required to “compete” for obedience + minimal competence equals a greater amount every generation, it seems, and so people work more and delegate previous functions of the home to third-party labor like maids, daycare and entertainment. This detaches them from their lifestyle as connected to nation and land, and makes them into revengeful free agents who resent how much time they must spend, even if they will not admit this in surveys and cocktail hour conversation.

For the West to rise again, it must decide to reform itself not in defense of the current system, but so that it can reach for something greater, starting with the sense of existential pleasure that one finds in a stable society where competition is not needed and most of one’s time is spent on living, not working.

Why I am a conservative

Friday, February 5th, 2016


In the current day and age, claiming to be conservative evokes disbelief. Not only is conservatism the banished enemy of our dominant liberal ideology, but “conservatives” — these days — seem to be people without a plan. Many people have gone looking for another alternative to being the captive opposition.

However, questions of philosophy do not reduce to who claims to hold a view, but what that view is. Over the years, every view becomes adulterated to fit to its audience instead of its audience fitting into it, and so periodic renewals occur when someone points out that the original idea has decayed. A view that is correct will always be so, and if it has been misinterpreted, needs correction not abandonment.

Another way of viewing this is that someone who possesses a conservative philosophy will manifest it no matter what name they call it. Philosophies generally have two major prongs: how to know what is true, and how to know what to do about it. In liberalism, this could be summarized as:

  • True: Whatever is new — not the existing order — is true.
  • Do  : If it makes people feel happy to think it is true, do it.

In this we can see the utilitarian nature of liberalism: whatever most people think will make them happy is right. Also revealed is its nature as a rebellious philosophy, namely that it assumes whatever has existed in the past is a nightmare and any replacement is an improvement.

We can imagine situations where this approach would seem right. If someone is emerging from a truly abusive situation, such as a bad family dynamic, the best thing to do is discard all that they have known as normal and to select new methods. Without further data, they pick whatever the group thinks will be good.

Naturally, this leaves us with half of a philosophy. How do we verify what of our preferred methods turned out well and therefore should be kept? Liberalism assumes this will be handled by the preference of the group, but that assumes that people remember what has gone before and what the options are.

Conservatism updates this with a philosophy that more resembles the scientific method, but with an artistic twist. Here is the conservative outline:

  • True: Whatever works according to results in reality, is true.
  • Do  : If what works leads toward transcendental goals, do it.

The scientific basis the reality test: does this produce the results it claims to, when actually tested in the real world? If not, it may be “real” as a thought can seem to be, but not accurate and therefore not true. The artistic twist comes from the transcendental goals, which are absolutes which can never be fully realized: excellence, beauty, goodness and truthfulness.

Unlike most philosophies, conservatism does not try to translate reality into symbols. Terms like “true” and “good” are left as an exercise to the reader, with the knowledge that the smarter and more honest/noble among them will figure it out while the other 98.6% (approximately) will do what Simians always do, which is do whatever their egos want to do anyway and rationalize it as good or true after the fact. (Some see liberalism as being of this nature, since it requires only intent and feelings and has no reality-based test).

As a guiding force for actual living people, conservatism works under any circumstance. It encourages us to know our world, and then to act for the best results. This does not mean that we can deny how the world works and conjure up an image of how we wish it would work, and then enforce that on others with the consensus of the group. At its heart, conservatism opposes group consensus because that consensus is a lesser method than truth.

The term “conservative” comes from the idea of conservation itself, which means saving good and functional methods under the constant onslaught of human desires to do anything but those. When we look at humanity, we see a species capable of remarkable self-delusion and a tendency to indulge in wishful thinking which it mistakes for realism. Against this flood of chaotic nonsense conservatives attempt to hold on to what actually works, fully realizing they are the smallest minority in their society because everyone else wants the opposite.

Trying to divorce the idea of “conserve” from the notion of conserving what is good has cost modern conservatives plenty. I fully acknowledge that these people are misguided, but I see them more as a consumerist production version of a good thing, like soda replacing sassafras, McDonald’s replacing food, light cigarettes replacing cigars, and Budweiser replacing beer. There is always a market for a dumbed-down version of any idea because this flatters the egoism of those who partake in it. They no longer need to know quality from junk, but can indulge in something conveniently sugared and salty and cheap and pretend they have the real thing.

Conservatism took me to some surprising places. In contrast to mainstream conservatives, I see the importance of conservation in both nature and human beings. This means setting aside giant chunks of land for its natural purpose, and liberating people from pointless activities including make-work jobs and bureaucracy. It also showed me the importance of keeping the law away so people can enjoy pleasurable activities like drinking at the pub, smoking a cigar with friends, or even the “reckless” fun things the Nanny State tries to keep away from us.

Not many anti-work and pro-conservation conservatives exist anymore, but we used to be at the forefront of both of these movements, resisting “Progress” back when progress meant industry at any cost. Conservatives have always defended the quiet life and the wild life so long as it brings actual pleasure, and not merely grim conformity like drug use and promiscuity seem to. We conserve life itself, holding back the flood surge of illusions dreamed up by lonely people in their unrealistic minds.

As new movements — inevitably based on liberal ideas infused with some conservative leanings — come and go, conservatism remains a bulwark because it is not a policy, but a way of thinking. It encourages us to recognize life for what it is and make the best of it. It forms the starting point of our thought and a workable basis for discovering where we should go. Since most of human thought is entirely irrelevant, it stands out as the one right answer in a sea of distractions.

Anti-work conservatives

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

Jobs are misery. Conservatives do not know how to respond to this because so much of the right is awash in “work hard and go to church” style thinking, but if we get to the core of conservatism, we can see an answer. Conservatism conserves the best that humanity has discovered. This includes liberating people from horrible jobs.

That task contains two parts. First, we can stop sending people to unnecessary jobs; second, we can make existing jobs better. This requires confronting a reality that offends the egalitarianism of conservatives, and using solutions that offend the special snowflake pretenses of liberals.

Eliminating unnecessary jobs requires rethinking work. An obstacle that arises here is that in our media-government lingo, “creating jobs” is always good, so our political authorities will oppose this idea. On the other hand, the way they create jobs — subdividing existing tasks and creating more by law — reduces the value of the end product, so there may be more opposition to them than they know.

The most important part of the idea of “unnecessary jobs” is the “unnecessary” part. Any role which does not directly produce can be eliminated by reducing the vast amount of regulation that requires paper-shuffling roles, and providing indemnity for corporations against certain kinds of lawsuits. Without civil rights, union-related and other government-imposed categories of liability, many paper-pushers could be sent home. In the same way, we could cut out a lot of middle management if companies were more free to hire and fire.

“But that’s against the worker!” says the well-educated (i.e. witless) modern person. Actually, it’s a question of what benefits the worker. Being able to quickly transition jobs, and having lower costs, benefits the worker by giving them more flexibility with fewer obligations that keep them entrenched in the nine to five. If we stripped aside all of the regulatory and liability crap we’ve added since 1945 or so, the average worker would have a lot more money and it would become easier to find new jobs because hiring would be less expensive. This would liberate many people from ugly job situations and force management to treat its employees better as a result.

In addition, we could halve the workforce by sending women home to have families. Those that are unmarried can live with their parents so that, instead of spending two decades in casual sex while wasting time at paper-pushing jobs, they can instead get started with families and have more time after the kids are grown to do fun stuff. Our bars, cafes and shops are filled with lonely single women who are wasting time trying to “date” when they should be looking for a marriageable candidate and creating a family instead.

That act alone would obliterate the perceived need for importing workers. Suddenly, we would have plenty, and competition would return in a positive form that emphasizes finding the best possible match for any job that is possible. Right now, hiring people is expensive and full of legal risk, so employers are highly conservative in how they hire. If that changed, they would take more chances on unproven workers and move many people up in the hierarchy.

In addition, we could shift our culture from a fatalistic celebration of the do-nothing cube slave job into one where proficiency was valued and thus, people took pride not in having a certain job, but in doing that job well. This in turn would reduce the manic number of hours people worked by redirecting our measurement of competence from time spent participating to results obtained.

Improving existing jobs requires making jobs relevant, useful and empowering. Jobs bore just about everyone because they are often “pro forma” or make-work done for the sake of appearances, repetitive and show no result other than a tiny detail in a large mostly redundant process. The solution here is to reverse all of those traits.

People feel power when they can have an effect. This means that they have an identifiable portion of the whole. Think of the credits at the end of a movie; even if a person has only a small role, they are listed and their work is shown as part of its necessary relationship to the whole production. Empowering people in the only sane meaning translates into giving them control over something where they will rise or fall based on performance, which encourages them to perform instead of languish.

In turn, giving people power reduces the extraneous and repetitious jobs because instead of the assembly-line mentality, where many people do small steps, someone walks a process through from beginning to end. At this point in our technological history, assembly lines are for robots; craftsmanship is for humans, and this applies to everything from filing loan applications to cooking a four-course meal. With the power to see a task from inception to completion, people feel they are masters of their own fate and boredom is reduced, as is job redundancy.

Employers counter this with the viable argument that it is hard to replace workers, so it is better to have a dozen cogs than two superstars. One solution to this is to hire people as contractors, and another is to avoid super-specializing jobs and instead, finding intelligent people and expecting them to “sink or swim” with learning the job. While this sounds cruel, it also gives them a sense of accomplishment and builds skills in a way that school never can.

This approach has to take into account congenital intelligence and temperament. Someone from farther right on the Bell Curve will by nature be less tolerant of repetition and lulls in the development process. Such workers need fewer hours of more intensity, where slower workers need the comfort of repetition and confirmation. This leads to conflict with the democratic ideology of empowerment through granularity.

The egalitarian ideal desires robotic, redundant jobs. In the minds of those who think equality is a solution to the challenges of life, the best job is one that anyone can do if given the right instruction. This approach eliminates the internal traits like judgment, aesthetics and depth of understanding and replaces them with external abilities like memorization, obedience and surface-level perception. Cogs utilize external traits; craftspeople use internal ones.

In an effort to validate our ideology of egalitarianism, we have made jobs into the type of dual hierarchy seen on Star Trek: a few main characters at the top do all the interesting stuff, and everyone else is a “red shirt” who can die and be replaced with zero interruption in the storyline. Egalitarian societies tend toward such “flat hierarchies with rock stars” because their ideology cannot admit the variation in natural ability, so it reduces everyone to a single level and elevates some on the basis of their supreme obedience. This does not promote the best, and as a side effect, it makes the people at the top remote and authoritarian. It is one of the supreme failings of egalitarian social orders.

Back in present-day reality, most people spend eight or more hours at the job and at least two preparing and commuting to work. This reduces their free time to fourteen hours a day, eight of which goes to sleep, which means they have six hours in which to exercise, eat and relax. That is enough time to waste on television, the internet or video games, but not enough to embark on any projects of significance, which keeps people forever in a loop where they go through repetitive days but never get a chance to work toward a real goal. They have time to make model planes, but not to build a plane, at least if they also want to get enough sleep to be healthy. Naturally, since the small amount of free time they have is where people have the most power and are most effective, they cheat on their time, which creates a society of sleep-deprived, bored, lifeless and zoned-out zombies staggering around going through the motions of unnecessary, irrelevant and demeaning jobs.

Conservatives have eschewed talking about the horrors of work because so much of our mythos in America rests in the “put your head down, work hard and get ahead” mentality, which itself is a compensatory behavior that arises in lieu of taking society as a whole in a positive direction. It is what people do when they believe they have lost and cannot change anything but themselves, so they desire to be successful as a means of offsetting the fact that their society is careening headfirst into the toilet.

However, the time has come to speak of all the ways in which the egalitarian liberal ideology has failed us since taking control starting in 1789. It has made life more boring, more crassly commercial, and more slave-like. It has given us “freedom” but then, because we must support the mass of others, strapped us into suicidally stupid, boring and ugly lifestyles in order to keep the system going. Like the Soviet Union, it removes the natural nature of free markets, free association and collaboration and replaces them with obedience and utilitarian, one-size-fits-all solutions. Since work is part of this, it should be noted that egalitarianism has failed there as well, and we should not be afraid to speak up for achieving a less miserable existence through an anti-work mentality.

The conservative anti-work movement

Friday, May 1st, 2015


Most people have jobs they hate which require their attention for a couple hours at most, and then fill the rest of the day with useless activity. This parallels the educational system which specializes in diversity exercises and coloring books.

Imagine that your day started at nine in the morning. You roll into work, having encountered far less traffic than usual. You sit down and make things happen for three hours. At noon, you go home.

Sound weird? Not really; this is how most of humanity has always lived.

Two things keep you at work: our pretense of inclusion and our need for interchangeable cogs.

First: Inclusion requires that all good people work to support those who do not.

When you combine state and local taxes, you are paying almost 50% of your income to government to do things for you. If you subtract out the essential things like military, you are left with a remaining 75% of that tax burden which goes to entitlements and well-intentioned programs.

Imagine getting almost half of your income back. You might opt to work half a day and keep your existing salary, then spend the rest of the time doing the things that make life worth living. Existential growth, family, friends, your own pursuits, that sort of thing.

True, the welfare state would collapse, but what do you get from that anyway? The people receiving welfare care only about what they get; isn’t it time you do the same? What does it do, directly, for you? Nothing.

The illusion that we must include everyone requires us to pay for them even if they contribute nothing. We must all get along and be a big happy family according to our ideological overlords. And yet, none of us actually benefit from this. Politicians do however.

Liberals freaked out when they thought that low-income workers at Wal-mart were able to work those jobs only because of welfare. It turns out this was another liberal study drawing wide inferences from minimal data. But turning it around, it means that you are subsidizing every low-income worker. Do you need what they do? Probably not. Probably 90% of what they do is irrelevant to you. And yet you pay for it.

Second: jobs require interchangeable cogs.

A large company fears the irreplaceable worker. This is the only power a worker has; unions are surrogates for this that can prevent a worker from being fired, but give him no power outside of the union. A worker who is unique in ability and drive however can negotiate his own salary and be the cornerstone of a business.

If such a worker leaves, replacing him proves very difficult. Even worse, an irreplaceable worker cannot be bossed around by middle management. He knows what he does well and has purpose to what he does, which means that when the average dummy manager shows up to make him lick boots, he will laugh and go back to doing what makes the company money.

The response by management has been to universally prefer cogs over independent actors as workers. This dumbs down every job, because instead of having one guy assemble the whole tube of toothpaste, a job which requires skill, you have five guys: a crimper, a filler, a painter and a cap-screwer. If any one of these guys flakes out or gets fired, he will be easy to replace.

In consequence jobs become boring. The worker spends most of his time waiting on others and then doing a single, repetitive task. This has even spread to the professions, where specialization means that doctors and lawyers see the same cases day after day. The result is blindness to anything but the most common cases, which is why so many illnesses are misdiagnosed by experts.

These twin illusions make modern work into a different form of slavery. It is comfortable and moderately well-paid. The worker has “rights.” However, the hours are long and the rights are inconsequential.

Worse, because every cog is replaceable, competition means putting in more hours which requires inventing more make-work. There are 200 people who want your job, and more pouring in every day, so your only defense is to make sure you are always seen at your desk and to invent ways to appear important. This makes people into little tyrants, always enforcing their authority or demanding people pay attention to them.

A conservative response to work is to see it for what it is: a distraction and a way of neutralizing the independent person. Work replaces humans with functions. Work makes every Dad too busy for his kids and definitely too busy to foment revolution. Work also transfers wealth from the good, obedient and productive citizens to the less productive and less aware.

With that in mind, policy regarding work can be formulated. Send the women home to be with their kids. Cut the work day in half. Remove any laws or institutions (including unions) which encourage make-work. Instead, encourage workers to have skills so they are not replaceable cogs. Then let the markets do what they do best and deliver lower costs at fewer hours.

A century ago people predicted that with the massive innovations in technology, future people would work a few hours a day and spend the rest of their time enjoying life. Instead the opposite has occurred. This should set off red flags everywhere, but from mainstream conservatives we hear a glorification of work and “working hard,” which in the real world translates to spending all your time at the office.

If we removed all of the parasitic social programs and cog-driven agenda of management, work would again become simply doing the job and going home. But for that to happen, the agenda of the supposed “defenders” of the workers, the left, must be eroded.

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