One of my favorite themes has been the extent to which the world the Internet has made has become a world that is steadily reducing workers to a new generation of slaves. The general concept is not a new one. Last April I had quoted Karl Marx on the concept of the worker who had become “the slave of other men who have made themselves the owners of the material conditions of labour.” For Marx this involved the need for complex and expensive machines required for manufacturing and agriculture. He could not have conceived of the concept of a “knowledge worker;” nor could he have imagined that such workers would also be enslaved by the need for similar complex and expensive machines.
Yet that is what knowledge work has become, and today’s Dilbert provided a painfully funny reminder that, while many of the major employers of Silicon Valley have figured out how to gild the bars, a cage is still a cage. The dialog says it all:
Visitor: At Google, we’re encouraged to spend 20% of our time developing our own ideas.
Dilbert: How many hours per week do you work?
Visitor: About sixty.
Wally: It sounds better when you don’t do the math.
Yes, Virginia, what Marx has to say today applies as much to Silicon Valley today as it did to the Detroit of Henry Ford in the last century!