Monday, December 30, 2013

A Ray of Hope for "Real Work"

Believe it or not, I take some comfort in the interview that Eric Schimdt gave yesterday on Bloomberg TV. As Don Reisinger has reported on the Mobile division of CNET News, mobile has won "the war against computers." Schmidt has worked up an awesome track record of both getting things wrong and saying them in the wrong way ever since he began to fumble the job of "designated grown-up" in the leadership of Google. I am much indebted to Schimdt for inspiring so many of my posts to this site, the most recent having been this past October.

Regular readers also know that I have been a strong advocate for maintaining the practices of "real work," much of which depends on reading documents longer than a tweet, taking the time to reason about what those documents are saying, and acting on those documents, which sometimes requires writing other documents. Those who still believe in such "real work" know how great the extent is to which just about all mobile devices are unsuitable for it. The best approximation remains the laptop. In my own physical space, that is very much a computer, particularly on my physical desk where it is plugged into a larger display and a keyboard more accommodating to the ways of the hand. (Ironically, that keyboard was made by Microsoft; and it is so old I cannot remember when I bought it.) I still find that I have very little need for a mobile phone, which means that I have even less need for anything that device provides beyond mobile telephony.

The other side of the coin, of course, is that the world of work is regressing to a state in which Douglas Englebart's ideal of "augmenting human intellect" is not just irrelevant but downright counterproductive. That is the Walmart version of the world, in which workers are little more than enslaved drones, paid wages that do not buy very much, thus obliged to spend earnings at the only place providing affordable prices … Walmart. There is no place for me in that world. If the time comes when technology no longer wishes to play a role in how I manage my own intellect, chances are I shall dump the technology and spend my final years reading the physical books that have accumulated on my shelves and working harder when I practice the piano.

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