- The circular economy could create an enormous jobs boom (Fast Company) — "The circular economy presents an opportunity to weave together initiatives on innovation, productivity, and job creation with environmental and climate objectives."
- The Vision for a more Decentralized Web (Decentralize.today) — "Today, we see that we have gone too far in the direction of centralization. We have our data abused and sold by the corporations who mostly care about growth."
- Local-first software: you own your data, in spite of the cloud (Ink & Switch) — "Local-first ideals include the ability to work offline and collaborate across multiple devices, while also improving the security, privacy, long-term preservation, and user control of data."
When I was a teacher and school senior leader in my twenties I worked all the hours. Not only that, but I was writing my doctoral thesis and we had a young baby. I’ve never worked so hard or be so close to burnout.
Since switching to being based from a home office in 2012 my life has been transformed. With no commute and no planning, preparation, and assessment, I’m paid for the time I actually work. And since 2017 and setting up a co-op, I’m jointly in charge of the means of production as well.
As Cal Newport writes in The New Yorker, others are cottoning-on to these advantages since the pandemic, leading to a wave of resignations.
These people are generally well-educated workers who are leaving their jobs not because the pandemic created obstacles to their employment but, at least in part, because it nudged them to rethink the role of work in their lives altogether. Many are embracing career downsizing, voluntarily reducing their work hours to emphasize other aspects of life.Words
Many well-compensated but burnt-out knowledge workers have long felt that their internal ledger books were out of balance: they worked long hours, they made good money, they had lots of stuff, they were exhausted, and, above all, they saw no easy options for changing their circumstances. Then came shelter-in-place orders and shuttered office buildings. This particular class of workers were thrown into their own Zoom-equipped versions of Walden Pond. Diversion and entertainment were stripped down to basic forms, and it became difficult to spend more than the cost of a Netflix subscription or batch of sourdough starter to keep occupied. The absence of visits with friends and family reinforced the value of social connection. The unceasing presence of video conferencing and e-mail enhanced the Kafkaesque superfluousness of many of the activities that dominated the pre-pandemic workday. This class of workers was suddenly staring at the proverbial cabin and wondering if a copper pump would really be worth the labor required to cultivate another acre.Source: Why Are So Many Knowledge Workers Quitting? | The New Yorker
Before starting therapy, my wife said that she was concerned that I might “lose my superpowers”. One of the ways of thinking about this is as the Main-Character Energy discussed in this New Yorker article. It’s a vitality you bring to each day because you see yourself in a starring role.
Therapy did strip me of that, but in a good way. Instead of some Hollywood actor, I now see myself in a much more realistic light, rather in the way that social media can distort and mediate the view I have of myself. It means that I see myself a part of a whole, rather than set apart from it.
The impulse to see oneself as the focal point of the action is all the more powerful as we emerge from the dull isolation of the pandemic, when activities were limited to the likes of re-growing scallions and feeding bulbous sourdough starters. Post-covid, we want to reclaim control of our stories, exert ourselves upon the world, take our places as protagonists once more—and then post about it. During quarantine, the Internet was one of the few tethers to public connection. But publishing evidence of any social engagements, even C.D.C.-compliant ones, came with the risk of being shamed as reckless or self-indulgent. Now, suddenly, much of that fear of critique is gone. The “return of fomo,” as a recent New York cover described it, means the return of jealousy-inducing Instagram stories and glamorous TikToks.Source: We All Have “Main-Character Energy” Now | The New Yorker
The idea of subsidizing W.F.N.H. efforts is not novel. Last fall, a startup in the U.K. called Flown began developing what it describes as an Airbnb for undistracted knowledge work. The company’s home page features enviable locations, such as a room in the Cotswolds with a desk facing a floor-to-ceiling picture window overlooking a meadow, available for short-term rent. As the founder of Flown, Alicia Navarro, explained to me, when we talked on the phone, the target for these rentals is not individuals but large organizations that can buy time in bulk to support their employees.Source: What if Remote Work Didn’t Mean Working from Home? | The New Yorker
Quotation-as-title by Elizabeth Bransco. Image from top-linked post.
I'm fond of the above quotation by Douglas Adams that I've used for the title of this article. It serves as a reminder to myself that I've now reached an age when I'll look at a technology and wonder: why?
Despite this, I'm quite excited about the potential of two technologies that will revolutionise our digital world both in our homes and offices and when we're out-and-about. Those technologies? Wi-Fi 6, as it's known colloquially, and 5G networks.
Let's take Wi-Fi 6 first, which Chuong Nguyen explains in an article for Digital Trends, isn't just about faster speeds:
A significant advantage for Wi-Fi 6 devices is better battery life. Though the standard promotes Internet of Things (IoT) devices being able to last for weeks, instead of days, on a single charge as a major benefit, the technology could even prove to be beneficial for computers, especially since Intel’s latest 9th-generation processors for laptops come with Wi-Fi 6 support.
Likewise, Alexis Madrigal, writing in The Atlantic, explains that mobile 5G networks bring benefits other than streaming YouTube videos at ever-higher resolutions, but are quite a technological hurdle:
The fantastic 5G speeds require higher-frequency, shorter-wavelength signals. And the shorter the wavelength, the more likely it is to be blocked by obstacles in the world.
Ideally, [mobile-associated companies] would like a broader set of customers than smartphone users. So the companies behind 5G are also flaunting many other applications for these networks, from emergency services to autonomous vehicles to every kind of “internet of things” gadget.
If you've been following the kerfuffle around the UK using Huawei's technology for its 5G infrastructure, you'll already know about the politics and security issues at stake here.
Sue Halpern, writing in The New Yorker, outlines the claimed benefits:
Two words explain the difference between our current wireless networks and 5G: speed and latency. 5G—if you believe the hype—is expected to be up to a hundred times faster. (A two-hour movie could be downloaded in less than four seconds.) That speed will reduce, and possibly eliminate, the delay—the latency—between instructing a computer to perform a command and its execution. This, again, if you believe the hype, will lead to a whole new Internet of Things, where everything from toasters to dog collars to dialysis pumps to running shoes will be connected. Remote robotic surgery will be routine, the military will develop hypersonic weapons, and autonomous vehicles will cruise safely along smart highways. The claims are extravagant, and the stakes are high. One estimate projects that 5G will pump twelve trillion dollars into the global economy by 2035, and add twenty-two million new jobs in the United States alone. This 5G world, we are told, will usher in a fourth industrial revolution.
In China, which has installed three hundred and fifty thousand 5G relays—about ten times more than the United States—enhanced geolocation, coupled with an expansive network of surveillance cameras, each equipped with facial-recognition technology, has enabled authorities to track and subordinate the country’s eleven million Uighur Muslims. According to the Times, “the practice makes China a pioneer in applying next-generation technology to watch its people, potentially ushering in a new era of automated racism.”
Automated racism, now there's a thing. It turns out that technologies amplify our existing prejudices. Perhaps we should be a bit more careful and ask more questions before we march down the road of technological improvements? Especially given 5G could affect our ability to predict major storms. I'm reading Low-tech Magazine: The Printed Website at the moment, and it's pretty eye-opening about what we could be doing instead.
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