Episode 612: Who Just Joined?

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Peter Fenzel and Matthew Wrather conduct an important business meeting via videoconference, with an agenda set by OTI members.

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5 Comments on “Episode 612: Who Just Joined?”

  1. John C Member #

    Pete mentioned the possibility of matching up Selena Gomez and Magic: The Gathering audiences and, maybe interestingly to someone, the DC Universe streaming platform has added a show where Freddie Prinze, Jr., brings his slightly-less-but-still-famous buddies to play old DC-themed roleplaying games; apparently that crowd plays other games on a YouTube or Twitch channel, somewhere. So, this sort of homespun corporate synergy isn’t out of the question.

    Lateness-wise, I previously worked on a team that was “collectively remote” (we were at a consulting company at our own office) where we would inevitably get on conference calls a minute or two late (passwords and the like), only to find out that we’d still need to wait a few minutes for their end to show up. And then they’d somehow make fun of us for being…early, I guess? It was a weird situation.

    For the replacement work, I was also going to suggest that there’s never not some documentation to write. If they’re truckers and other people generally dismissed as “rabble,” you get the bonus of better integrating them into the company, since they’re going to need to talk to people to get the information they need.

    The futurism angle interests me, because I remember being sold in elementary school (so, Pete’s time-frame of 1985 isn’t too far off) constantly on the idea that automation was going to be good, BECAUSE it was going to put people out of work, freeing them up for whatever they wanted to do. And yet, here we are forty years later, where we’re still trying to keep people saddled with jobs for as long as possible, even where the jobs are drying up. The possibility of figuring out how to house and feed those people without the job is still only a fringe thing, with all that runway.

    To answer my own found-media question, I’ve been doing a little bit of cleaning and discovered (the reason I asked) that I own a couple of seasons of Benson and NewsRadio, which…I don’t remember buying, but I’ll definitely watch now that I know they’re there. Assuming the DVD player still works, I mean.


  2. Margo #

    Is it too early to be nostalgic for the 2010’s? I am thinking of late 2015 in particular. I am nostalgic not so much for the pop culture than with reality: I am Canadian, and Justin Trudeau had just been elected. For a brief, precious time, we Canadians and Americans came together to bask in the beauty of the Truebama (Trudeau/Obama) bromance and its associated fan fiction, where the two smart, handsome leaders would meet in private, look deep into each other’s eyes and discuss policy: “Tell me your dirtiest liberal fantasy, Barry. Single paper health care. I know you want it.”

    We also had the Paris Climate Agreement. *Cries*

    In terms of pop culture, 2015 did bring us Mad Max: Fury Road, arguably the greatest action film ever made.


  3. Three Act Destructure #

    This isn’t really the place for a rant so I’ll try to keep this mercifully short, but what 2008 taught Corporate America is that we already live in a fully automated, post-human work environment.

    After all, automation is not the replacement of people with machines but simply the existence of the structure with which to do this and also undervalue human labor to the point of market worthlessness.

    Does anyone really think that creating a self-stocking grocery store shelf is any more mechanically difficult than creating a bowling pinsetter machine? Or that we couldn’t easily switch to a system of drivers/drones moving all food from warehouses/kitchens directly to homes — what, in about a month? Maybe two? And before anyone asks about rural people, my answer is simple: would anyone care? They make up twenty percent of the US population. There are literally more alcoholics here. If companies really wanted to be more efficient then they would simply stop supplying essential services to those areas and let the situation sort itself out.

    Does anyone really think that we couldn’t have automated delivery trucks within a year? The technical challenges are inconsequential. If this were really the future tech it’s sold as then Tesla would already be out of business and its technology would have been stolen by a consortium of the largest auto manufacturers. They’d roll out their fleets before they were road-safe and let bribes to the government and their army of lawyers crush any of the inevitable lawsuits. That much performance data coming that quickly would get them to viability pretty fast anyways.

    In reality, our piece of the economy is an artificially maintained bubble wherein labor and capital are still loosely connected.

    That’s why our (American) federal tax revenue is about 4 trillion, which is also about what we have earmarked for spending on pre-existing programs like social security and defense. They figure out what we’re allowed first and then tax us to make about that amount. That way we can’t afford anything new. Why do you think that keeping wages depressed is so important?

    Meanwhile, even a 5 percent tax on the wealthiest 160,000 households (the 0.1% annual earners) would give us 20 TRILLION in tax revenue. Five times our government’s budget.

    The only reason that human labor still exists in America is because:

    1. Up to 25% of Americans are addicted to work. The “job creators” are on par with smack dealers.
    2. It reinforces class structure.
    3. It prevents us from organizing by keeping us busy.

    Meanwhile, both sides of our political apparatus constantly harp on about how “small businesses are the backbone of the economy” when, in reality, they create very few jobs and are tough to unionize at. Most of them never offer any real competition to the big dogs and are gone within 5-6 years anyways. Capitalism on our end has become nothing more than a lottery system and this is one more way in which it’s sold to us.

    The real solution to empowering workers is co-ops but the people at the top already know that which is why, despite them performing better financially in most studies, they don’t represent more than a tiny fraction of businesses. Because banks literally won’t loan to them. They know the danger to the oligarchy present there.

    So, as far as what will change because of the coronavirus? Not much. If this were a real economy then it would have to adjust but since it’s just a playground for the lower classes, I’m sure its current structure will remain funded even after a second Great Depression.


    • John C Member #

      I would agree with you that a lot of these jobs can already be automated if we wanted to do it, except that companies (McDonald’s has been a good example, I think) keep claiming that they’re going to do it any day, now, but they still cave to demands when it looks like employees might walk out. Even as as a software person, I’m starting to wonder how much the promises of automation are real and how much are just a new way to demean jobs to artificially suppress their wages.

      This situation is a perfect example. Trump wants everybody packing in churches by Easter (which sounds like an attempt to slaughter Christians, but let’s ignore that for a bit…), but the reality is that this is going to be at least a couple of months and maybe longer-term if we don’t start aggressive testing and tracking. But two weeks in, we’re not seeing evidence of the drone fleet Amazon has been promising forever, but we are seeing Whole Foods turning into Amazon warehouse annexes.

      I don’t want to undermine the overall point. I know that 2008 was used as an excuse to lay off bunches of people who were no longer necessary due to automation, and those jobs are permanently gone, for example. But I’m getting the feeling that a lot of our impending technology is more of a bluff than a reality.


      • Three Act Destructure #

        I think it depends on what you mean by “bluff”. We tend to think of capitalism as a system which drives people to certain results. But it’s quite the reverse, especially now. Amazon likely can’t release a drone army right now to satisfy its target user base. But, if they decided to, then how long would that roll out take? Six months? A year? The tech exists and it would obviously save them money in the long run. So why not have done it in 2016?

        In a sense, I think that you’re correct that they can’t implement the technology. But the available evidence suggests to me that they only can’t because their class system depends on having employees and employers. If they actually needed any of us to still do work then why would they have made work itself nearly untenable?

        We already have no value in this system except for our potential to resist it.


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