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Employers are monitoring computers, toilet breaks, even emotions (theguardian.com)
232 points by pmoriarty 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 200 comments



Disclosure: im a "blue collar" automotive repair tech.

I cant understand why anyone would put up with a lot of this, but I can guess its probably some smug "white collar" manager who thinks production or revenue are down because people who didnt go to $college are inherently lazier than he is. Putting the screws on the workers is always the easiest way to compensate for bad decisions in the leadership change.

I worked in an old shop once that did an oil and air service for $59.99. We got a ton of business from a local rental car place because their service pool was under provisioned after their managers expanded the fleet. Now typically when working on simple stuff like a packaged deal, I inspect other stuff. Your brakes/brake lines and any leaks i might spot that seem dangerous. Those get logged in your invoice with a $0.00 fee. Typically the rental place would send the vehicle back for the additional service and a nice thank you box of donuts for the crew.

Management started seeing these 0.00 fees and assumed we were giving away free service because they didnt take the time to train on the computer system we all have to use. So they dismantled the service deal and started charging individually for everything, driving the cost up to close to $100. they also eliminated the inspection line items. We lost the rental place, and we had to spend 20 minutes hand writing issues we noticed on greasy post-its, which makes the shop look cheap.

I eventually quit the place when they started putting cameras in the garage bays "for safety" and changed our normal punch clock system to a fingerprint system...not because i dont like biometrics, but because they dont work when your hands are coated in 30 cars worth of grease and fluid. When the timeclocks broke down, we were always accused of sabotage.


> thinks production or revenue are down because people who didnt go to $college are inherently lazier than he is.

"Than he is" is unnecessary: He may think himself lazy, even to a point of pride when he thinks of the clever stuff he gets away with.

There are fundamentally two schools of thought when it comes to management:

1. People are inherently lazy, and work only to satisfy their needs - enjoying their job is at best a distant second priority. The best way to get things done is to drive them harder with closer monitoring, punishment for failures, and threats to their ability to satisfy their basic needs.

2. People are inherently creative, and work to satisfy their desire to create - your job as an employer/manager is to help them not have to worry about lower needs on Maslow's pyramid. The best way to get things done is to give them them a vision, opportinities, targets, and tools to be productive.

Just quit a job after 5 years slaving under the former type of manager, and my life has never been better since I began working under the second.


I know people hate on unions, but unions are supposed to negotiate two things: wages and working conditions.

Negotiating working conditions with a union-enforced contract gets rid of mickey mouse management, and establishes a process for workers to review working condition changes. I honestly believe that's the best feature of unions.

(The worst feature of unions is their tendency to protect the worst employees -- the "interently lazy" types. As long as "protecting the worst employees" is a key concept, unions won't make it back.)


The problem with unions isn't just that they protect the worst employees it is that they negotiate for employees as if they are interchangeable. A subtle difference.

What's needed is a situation more akin to what hollywood has. A union sets the floor on treatment and wages and individual agents advocate for their clients. Also, I think the situation with large German corporations is better too, since it gives the union a literal seat at the board which puts the people running the corporation onto the same team as the people running the union.


And yet another alternative to consider: employee-owned and run corporations.


Pity they can't compete with capitalist owned and run corporations. I would love for them to work, but they all seem to end up failing [0].

0. Yes I know there are the odd exceptions, but these are so rare they almost prove the point.


Isn't the question whether or not they fail at a higher rate than more traditional corporations? For example many fewer employee owned companies started is going to make the successful look exceptional even if they are more likely to succeed.


If fewer employee owned companies are started it just means the failure is upfront.


If you want to know relatively which does better you need to compare success in each population.

There are a lot of confounding factors in why different types of companies are founded. Saying that less employee owned companies are started is evidence of failure is at best a very shaky understanding of how to look at the business landscape.


I grew up in Detroit in the 80’s and I witnessed the dying gasps of the US auto industry - and I do believe that the UAW had a lot to do with killing it. The problem is, if you go back further, when they unionized, they basically had no choice - they were pushed into a corner by management like in TFA, so it was a choice of committing suicide slowly or being murdered quickly.


I grew up in a suburb of Detroit, and formed a slightly different view. What I remember is that even when there were mass layoffs, and a "for sale" sign in front of every other house on my street, there were senior auto workers putting in 60 hour weeks and collecting overtime, as was their right under the union rules.

Meanwhile, in some European countries (maybe Germany?) the unions were responding to the recession by cutting back on hours for everybody, to maintain broader employment. I remember thinking about 4 day work weeks.

The impression I formed was that the American unions were serving their narrow purpose of protecting members, especially senior members, but failing to serve as a "labor movement" with broader social goals, while taking credit for social gains of the past. It created a situation where many members of the working class believed that they were competing with the unions.


> The worst feature of unions is their tendency to protect the worst employees

"Tendency to protect the worst employees" as opposed to a tendency to protect the best, or as a logical consequence of protecting the set of all current employees?


I think what they mean is that unions will protect known law-breakers beyond what most people would believe reasonable. They might protect, for example, teachers who exercise physical violence upon pupils, just because the worker is in a union. In other words, they exhibit bad corruption (as opposed to say something relatively less bad like nepotism).


I think those 2 schools of thought exist, because those 2 types of employees exist.

I've been a dev for 20 years now, and I've definitely had coworkers that fall into both those categories you mention.

I'm new-ish to management now, but I'm working under the (hopeful/optimistic) assumption that most people fall in the latter category. But I need to find a style that can handle both types of employees.


To some degree, both categories can also co-exist in the same person.

Some people are self-motivated when crunching numbers on spreadsheets because they find it satisfying but would need to be dragged kicking and screaming to provide phone support -- and vice-versa.

And there are probably some jobs that it's more common to be self-motivated for than others. Garbage collection? Data entry?


I'd say both exist in every person. I'm a software engineer with some design background. I got into programming because after trying to get into design, I found it wasn't my thing, but I've had many employers that wanted me to fill in the gaps the design team left open which I hated doing. It comes down to learning what motivates each employee individually. Companies spend so much money on surveillance and productivity monitoring, but don't spend much if anything on taking inventory of employee skills and strengths.


Even development. I hate having to deal with project management software, detailed estimations, estimating points, etc. I know some of the drudgery of process is necessary, I just don't like it.


I don't mind the software. The estimates are asinine though.


I think type 1 managers can turn type 2 employees into type 1 employees.


It’s my experience of 20 yrs in IT/office life that 1) is a result of lifelong cultural pressure to obsess over other people’s needs and dreams (enabled IMO by a fertile history of pushing religious nonsense on people, it seems perfectly socially acceptable then)

And that 2) is the view that arises when that cultural pressure is mitigated

It’s follow daddy’s orders/daddy knows best wrapped in economics and math and history that tries to say see look all this work by humans in a closed room proves this is how an economy should work

It’s religious in that no one knows how it works but we’re convinced it’s right

Having not been raised in a church and growing up in a remote place studying physics and electronics since I was 8 with my grandpa who grew up similarly in the 30s... the blind allegiance to such nonsense has struck me as utterly bizarre

“I’ve never looked. I just keep believing what they say.”

Nocebo effect in action

Google Varoufakis’s talk about the meetings during Greeks debt crisis. They had no theory or clue; they just wrote math that worked for the context in question— “Greek must lose and investors must win.”

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not talking about basic human needs being met. I’m talking about caring about Steve Jobs as if he’s was a child and enabling his childlike tantrums to hold so much sway over our reality.


In a #2 place the #1 people start to get marginalized. Some of them either keep a low profile or they wander off. The sort that don't do either can be problematic, but they need to have the numbers in their favor to succeed (votes, filibuster, etc), and you can chip away at their supporters.


There are a lot of different types of people that require different levels of management. Some may require just a direction to point them in, some may require a lot of hand-holding and close watching. Lazy management decides that everyone is the same and applies the same thing for everybody. Nothing makes the 'point in a direction' types leave quicker than that...


I have tried to force #2 at a couple of places. Sometimes it works out, people junior to me almost always enjoyed their experience, but not always my peers or 'superiors'. It's a constant battle, and what's the reward for proving to a bunch of people that #1 is wrong? You don't even get a gold star.

It would be a better use of my time to find a 1.5 place and make it into a strong 2. Or a place that's already a 2 and make it even better. Let the market sort out the rest.


I would like to add another one: some people are worker bees, some people are inherently lazy, but both are not assholes and will try to not get you into shit if they think of you as a human being.

If you can get them to care about you or the thing you are trying to do, the worker bees will have to be stopped from burning out and the lazy guys will find ways to get the job done without spending too much effort.

How to so that is difficultut, but there's one thing that doesn't work: putting the screws


Harper's had a terrific piece on workplace monitoring a few years ago: https://harpers.org/archive/2015/03/the-spy-who-fired-me/?si...

One of the common themes is the unintended consequences. For example, UPS drivers who get scolded because the truck records that it was sometimes in motion without them wearing their seat belt. Regardless of the circumstances before the scolding (there are lots of situations where it would be reasonable to make such a judgment call, esp on private property like a parking lot), afterward they would simply clip the seatbelt empty and sit on top of it. Then the truck registers 100% seatbelt compliance and they are far less safe since they're never wearing it.


Yet another good example of the saying "When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goodhart%27s_law

I'm also reminded of a similar Chinese saying: 上有政策下有对策。 Loosely translated as "the higher-ups have policies, the lower-downs have antipolicies." The other analogy is squeezing a bag of water: if you push one place, another place pops out to compensate, and if you squeeze everywhere and too hard, it pops.


I think it's not so much unintended consequences as it is perverse incentives.

It's the same as measuring a programmers output by Lines of Code, you're just going to get a heaping mass of code that could be done in 1/10th of the lines.


agreed I worked as a consultant for a company that had exactly that problem. They based promotions based on lines of working code.

Result: You would see huge bloobs of autogenerated code getting shipped that could have been done with about 5% of that code, and then later get discarded by security as a security risk.

Even after my consulting(I was hired to fine our how mouch of there code is rly a security risk like there industry partners claim) they did not change there practice for 3 Years.

Im surprised the Company even survived, but it did and after 3 Years a big restructering basicly fired all of IT management.


It's weird to call these "unintended consequences."

What we know about human behavior definitively indicates that having a sense of autonomy and control is essential to motivation/performance. It's also obvious that stress increases under the knowledge that someone is monitoring you. Hell even the ancient Greeks probably understood the perils of micromanagement...

In the case of readily measurable output in blue-collar work, it seems obvious that a component of compensation should scale proportionate to productivity, so that you're rewarding high performers instead of implicitly penalizing everyone uniformly. And then you just fire (obvious) chronic underperformers, so that you still gain the advantages from there being a fear of repercussions.


I used to work somewhere that gave us discounts on our health insurance based on our daily average # of steps taken. People would hook their fitbits up to drill bits and spin it around on electric drills to log 10k steps per day to get the $75/month discount.


Good for you. One of the most important lessons I've learned in life is knowing when to quit and having the gumption to leave unacceptable situations. The struggle of finding a new job, stressful it may be, is still a better feeling than being treated like a crap-piece. Life's too short for the assumed-guilty workplace, or to work for hack managers.

I think a lot of people grow up being told to "never quit", so they don't prepare for the day when they should quit. Thus, they don't sock away f-u money and they take on too many responsibilities too early in life.


Not only this but you don't get keep a career in the same company automatically. Changing Job is the norm and to reflect this company are considering you as a resource: interchangeable with someone else having the same 'qualification'.


It's funny, every time a post about hiring practices comes up, there are a million different and contrasting comments about how to hire. It's chaos.

Then an article and a comment like this come along.

Honestly, there are a lot of businesses out there that are just plain run by idiots and/or crazy people. It feels like the majority are, to me.

So, next time you feel like the only sane person in the room/interview/review, you really should consider the possibility that you are correct, and not dismiss that thought out of hand.


next time you feel like the only sane person in the room/interview/review, you really should consider the possibility that you are correct

I've been amazed by how often this is true, especially in the world of "startup CULTure". When I was naive and fresh out of college, I assumed that people who made it into management or into executive leadership did so because they knew what they were doing. That couldn't be farther from the case. There are so many companies run by people who are borderline insane, and so many people who will just blindly follow them through their nightmare.

In contrast, there are great people and companies to work for if you put in the effort to find them. I will say that the whole tech recruitment industry has made that harder though as you have people who are financially incentivized to get you hired and tell you whatever bullshit you want to hear even if they know you will be miserable in that position and that 90% of that information is false.


> In contrast, there are great people and companies to work for if you put in the effort to find them

Is that true, though? That is, is merely putting the effort in enough? I'd expect there's an element of luck/timing, especially with startups, since funding is so limited.


I was thinking up a reply and now you're confirming it before I even write it. That's amazing.

I tend to be critical during interviews and demanding during work... but I'm always ready to forward some trust towards the guys on my team. More often than not, I end up assuming "There's probably a good reason for that decision".

And so far, it has paid off. If I trust people to make good decisions, people make even better decisions than I could ask for. Many, many people want to do a good job I've found.

Over 20 - 30 people I've had on teams, there has been 1 guy who stretched that trust and he was a known troublemaker people put on my team as a test. As a result, I gave them a clean and solid case to fire that guy.


> I cant understand why anyone would put up with a lot of this, but I can guess its probably some smug "white collar" manager who thinks production or revenue are down because people who didnt go to $college are inherently lazier than he is.

That is literally exactly what happens, and how too many people in management think. David Noble's Forces of Production is about machine tool shops in the 1960s and 1970s, and is full of accounts just like yours (with details right down to management accusing workers of sabotage), with sources from both the worker and management sides.


To me it more sounds like a manager who can't reach the goals. He was probably hired to improve profitability or at least keep it stable. If revenues fall he'll try to get them back up and this appears to be a quick fix. I don't think there's a management technique behind it, just cluelessness as to what would actually help.


Disclosure: I'm what most would consider "white collar". Also , this is tangential to your post.

One of my closest friends has been an automotive tech in the dealership world for the past 12 or so years and has mastertech certifications for 2 manufacturers.

I never cease to be amazed at how fucked that industry/line of work can be, even for someone who is firmly at the top of their game. The incentive structure seems totally out of whack to me, such that it's no wonder that people assume the worst when they are faced with having to take their vehicle in for service.


> I cant understand why anyone would put up with a lot of this

This has been ask throughout the history. And we have come a long way since we were duped that Kings, Queens and Popes have "Divine Authority".

However, today, we have been duped again. And just like in the past, people didn't readily realize it. It will take effort and probably blood.

Here's one good relatively recent example when people were finally fed up: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haymarket_affair


clearly "management" lost sight of the big picture. Why would you charge for finding new leads? Let us inspect the car for free, and if we find something that needs repair, then hey we can take care of that (for a fee). Even better, the customer feels like they got something for free - someone is caring enough to look at my car for free, looking for dangerous shit that I'm not aware of.

I suppose you could apply the value of the diagnostic to the eventual repair, but I'd feel trapped with that kind of arrangement and prefer not to enter it.


I worked as a bike mechanic which is a small subset of all of the goo you guys get on your hands and I remember the process for getting my hands clean enough to go to the bathroom took almost a minute.

I think washing your hands thoroughly before clocking out might have forced that issue, but it sounds more like the last straw for you.

Clearly they killed the goose when they unbundled that service contract. It's too bad some of you didn't walk and find a different shop to offer the same deal.


As an amateur mechanic (mostly cars), I've found wearing medical gloves (esp. the more expensive nitrile ones) helps a lot with keeping my hands clean. They tear open on sharp stuff of course, so you'll probably have to replace them several times, but it's better than not wearing anything, and gives you more tactile sensation than the thicker "mechanic's gloves".


I've found nitrile to be pretty durable - they're meant for protecting against needles and scalpels and things, so I'm surprised they're tearing on you?


They are durable, very durable, compared to vinyl and latex. But they're not some kind of exotic metamaterial; eventually something will tear them open, and car internals can be rough environments. The much-thicker mechanics' gloves are more durable for a lot of that stuff, but they really limit you because of their thickness.


Was I the only one who thought about Y.T's mother reading the bathroom tissue memo in Neal Stephenson's "Snow Crash" (quoting below)?

Y.T.'s mom pulls up the new memo, checks the time, and starts reading it. The estimated reading time is 15.62 minutes. Later, when Marietta does her end-of-day statistical roundup, sitting in her private office at 9:00 P.M., she will see the name of each employee and next to it, the amount of time spent reading this memo...

Y.T.'s mom decides to spend between fourteen and fifteen minutes reading the memo. It's better for younger workers to spend too long, to show that they're careful, not cocky. It's better for older workers to go a little fast, to show good management potential. She's pushing forty. She scans through the memo, hitting the Page Down button at reasonably regular intervals, occasionally paging back up to pretend to reread some earlier section. The computer is going to notice all this. It approves of rereading. It's a small thing, but over a decade or so this stuff really shows up on your work-habits summary.


Going back to Gibson's Neuromancer 10 years before 'Snow Crash' is also eerie:

"He stepped out of the way to let a dark-suited sarariman by, spotting the Mitsubishi-Genentech logo tattooed across the back of the man's right hand.

Was it authentic? If that's for real, he thought, he's in for trouble. If it wasn't, served him right. M-G employees above a certain level were implanted with advanced microprocessors that monitored mutagen levels in the bloodstream. Gear like that would get you rolled in Night City, rolled straight into a black clinic."


"Cyber-" as in cyberpunk comes from cybernetics: control systems.

A key theme in cyberpunk is control and means of escaping or disrupting it. Both of which might be physical violence, chemical (qv Case, or the salaryman), informational, or psychological.


That's how I imagine the Machine Intelligence dystopia. Not some kind of General Intelligence ruling like a evil human despot, but a inscrutable algorithm making decisions based on millions of data points, all affecting your life. Just like the gmail spam filter but affecting your job reviews, your access to health care, education, loans etc.


A majority of stuff mentioned in this article has to be outright illegal, if not borderline illegal when talking about privacy concerns. To get past it, they had to have put massive inclusions in their employee contracts and had employees sign off their entire existence to the company. It should also be noted that these happenings seem to all take place at sleazy, physical labor intensive companies. This isn't happening in any respectable sector I'd hope. I think the worst part is, is that these ideas are being created more and more by higher ups in companies and government who see no moral wrong in their plans. It doesn't affect them personally, but if it can be used in any way to further control a peon employee, then it's good for productivity. Even though it seems a bit like the article tries to defend this practice, there will never be a day on society where this is considered alright.

At the end of the day though, this is happening mostly to disposable workers who no on cares about. If one person complains about company overreach, well they can be replaced within 5 minutes. This is more something that lower income, down and out employees will have to worry about. This absolutely would not be tolerated to catch on to any respected industries/sectors. That's to not say physical labor workers aren't important, without them society would fall apart. It's that no one in authority typically cares about that type of worker and those employees concerns fall on deaf ears.


This isn't happening in any respectable sector I'd hope.

When a bigger company bought the smaller software company where I worked, almost the first thing they tried to do was change all the contracts to include things like universal IP claims and getting more visibility and control over things people were doing away from the office.

This culture was becoming pervasive even a few years ago, and the arrogance and contempt exhibited by the senior executive who came to tell us about it was almost unbelievable. It felt like he watched Darth Vader's "I am altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further" scene and thought it was an instruction manual.

The only meaningful difference seems to be that since it was a software business, a significant proportion of the developers essentially telling them to shove their deal or we'd walk was powerful enough to put a stop to it. Obviously people working in unskilled jobs where staff are fungible aren't so lucky. We're supposed to have employment laws to protect people in vulnerable positions like that from exploitation, but welcome to 2018 I guess.


The Darth Vader quote rings true with me. I was working at a logistics firm in its in-house dev team. There was a constant push to increase employee tracking. Toilets were fitted with swipe card readers, we were encouraged to "give time" to the company for free, and we came under huge pressure to install various apps on our phones so that we were always "connected in" to company operations. Some people accepted this, some refused. When there was too much push-back management just implemented it anyways.

For example, I wrote the performance monitoring web application. Each employees manager would rate them 1 (good) to 4 (bad) on 10 criteria (e.g. punctuality, quality of work etc). The scores would be averaged and you'd end up with a 1 to 4 rating. I was asked to change it so that an average score greater than 2.2 would automatically become a 4 and also a manager could arbitrarily lower the overall score if they wished. So someone getting a 1 average could be moved to a 4 if their manager felt like it. This formula was baked in to everyone's employment contract, so legally the company would have had to notify all staff and get their approval to make the change. I raised ethical concerns but was told to implement it and not tell anyone, or risk getting fired. I told people anyway, I knew I wasn't going to be working there much longer.


You would think so but companies like google do this for facilities management to divine usage patterns and whether to devote more or fewer resources to something. To know if more efficiencies might be derived. But yes it’s pernicious.


Most bigco has full monitoring and logging of everything that goes on in their networks and on the work computers and mobile devices. A bunch require MDM software installed on computers that access the corp network, so if you 'bring your own device', you have similar logging & control. Also security cameras recording everywhere.

Employees tend to use work computers for personal communication, browsing and shopping. They can do some fairly personal things on those computers because they don't realize the amount of monitoring, and who looks.

Some countries have laws against looking into personal usage of work computers, like Austria. Most don't.


Didn't read the article - but I have an opinion. Surprise!

I work in Infosec, and I believe filtering of web access are absolutely critical to any tech company, so much so I that I consider the lack of basic cyber security as [users can't go to malware.ru or run executables with their normal account] to be incompetent and certainly against industry regulations.

Your work computer is not yours to browse reddit on, unless the company assumes the risk of doing so.

Now, some things like behavioral analytics, emotion detection, micromanaging time and whatnot, that's spooky, costs outweigh benefits, and so on.


I work in infosec as well. I think you are conflating two very different things, even if both technically involve monitoring/filtering/logging/etc.

The SOC at some company will use monitoring to combat threats, and will not have interest in any sort of micromanaging or other business-related monitoring.

This topic is about use of monitoring for the purpose of micromanaging, not security.


If the parent poster acknowledges the difference, I am fine with that. I agree that it would be shady to use detailed web filter logs and behavioral analytics for worker reviews.

Often times, the person who complains about web filtering at work would be the person who complains about for any reason.


My employer recently started installing motion and heat sensors under employees’ desks. They claim it is not for monitoring individuals, but for analyzing workspace usage and identifying free desks.

Given that the company in question is a bank, and teams must often be physically separated from each other for compliance and liability reasons, I am highly dubious of that explanation. Only a handful of people outside my immediate team can even access the floor where we’re located, and they certainly couldn’t just plop down at an empty desk and start working. And yet we have the sensors anyway.

And even if that were the reason, the fact that they thought anyone would believe it is concerning in itself.


Watch out - you're about to receive a hot-desking initiative. See obviously only 80% of the workforce is in the building at any given time, so you don't really need to provision desk-space for all of them. There will definitely be no on-going productivity issues from all the time people spend trying to find somewhere to sit, or forcing people to setup their whole workspace every single day they come in.


yep. happened at my workplace. we had offices and cubicles. had sensors installed and now we are hot desking. many people don't like it and choose to work from home... so they are installing sensors under the hot desks to figure out how many of us are even coming in any more.


Obviously you'll need heat sensors at desks to implement hot-desking.


Normally I would agree, but I just don’t see how it would work in an institution where teams are often required to be physically isolated from each other, and almost everyone works on-site.


try moving to an empty desk and see if you get flagged for never being at your desk.


I know not everyone has the option to rebel against this kind of totalitarianism at the workplace, but as a person without family obligations, I'd sooner become a traveling hobo than work for a company that wants to implant a chip under my skin or so much as monitor my toilet breaks. F* that. My self-respect has no price tag.


My first bigger company experience consisted of a COO who felt the need to create seating charts every six months for no apparent reason. My smart ass blurted out, "I have not had a seating chart since kindergarten." Ya I lost that job.


We badge in/out. Which is supposed to be security, but the reality is that they wanted to see everyone had an 8 hour workday.

I think it backfired because the amount of people coming in late/leaving early hasnt gotten better. Tbh, fridays seem worse.

Now that we know we are tracked, people dont even hide it. Sub 40 hour weeks are becoming norm.(assuming you dont have a major issue)


That's interesting, in my office we badge in, but not out. I would have thought that the need to evacuate the building would prevent locking the exits? What happens if you leave your badge at your desk while visiting the bathroom or kitchen and the fire alarm goes off?


You badge in to give the illusion of security and so they can track that you are in the building, in part for their own liability in case of an emergency ("Yes we accounted for Jim's whereabouts during the fire, he entered the building at 9:05."). You don't need to badge out because the magnetic strip likely automatically tells them when you left the building by virtue of walking through the door.


During emergencies, all exits open.


I imagine the doors aren't locked from the inside out, and that keying-out is a voluntary process? Otherwise, your workplace is a disaster waiting to happen. All it's going to take is the fire detection system to fail, the unlocking system to break, or the front-desk person to fall asleep on the job. Or, worse yet, there's an active shooter and no time for someone else or some thing to unlock the doors.


Unless they don't. Can you hop over these gates?


If the badging didn't force an 8-hr workday, then how did the badging force an 8-hr workday?

Maybe the "forcing" was employee paranoia?


One of my colleagues used to be required to clock out for a toilet break, and I recall that there was a minimum time he would be docked pay for, even if his break was less than that. He worked for a supermarket.

My partner used to work for a business that had a swipe-in resolution of 15 minutes, so if you were just 30 seconds late, you would be docked 15 minutes of pay. You had to work the unpaid 14.5 minutes or you got your butt kicked out the door. That was a factory job.


The number of people who think like you is pretty low, methinks.


I once applied for a job that I thought was doing security engineering type stuff, and that's what the posting certainly described, but in the interview it quickly became a bait and switch, and they started explaining in detail about how their product monitors employees network usage in detail and the lengths they go through to make sure it is hidden on phones and workstations so employees don't know.

Nobody who worked there seemed to have a problem with it. I ended the interview early which apparently infuriated much of the company. Threats were made, but thankfully I never heard from them again.

You can say no to making bad things. Even if you work at Google, you can say no.


> I ended the interview early which apparently infuriated much of the company. Threats were made, but thankfully I never heard from them again.

Wow. Most would be thrilled that an uninterested candidate is moving on quickly rather than getting the job then immediately quitting or being terminated (both of which are things I have seen).

Trying to threaten a candidate into continuing an interview is just psychotic.


Oh no they just threatened to "end my career" if I ever talked about the interview or the company two days after I walked out. There are a lot of dirtbags in tech.


I've been a "techie" as long as I can remember, and truly believe in the potential of tech to make the world a better place. I put no stock in the AI fear-mongering "summoning the demon" stuff, and harbor only modest concerns about the long-term danger of "technological unemployment."

But this... this is the thing that gets me questioning if human nature is just so broken that creating newer and better tech really is a net negative for the world. This kind of story is the one thing that makes me want to wash my hands of the whole lot of it, embrace anarcho-primitivism and go live in a shack in the woods in Montana or something.

Depressing doesn't even start to describe this stuff.


Holy... I’m pretty sure that most of these things are illegal in Germany.

In any case, my prediction is that once these things go mainstream, companies with values that rely on trust as a core element of collaboration instead of surveillance will gain an advantage in the job market. I hope I’m right


My guess is that most people will happily (or not so happily) trade salary and job stability for surveillance. Modern corporations are basically authoritarian so the trend towards total surveillance will increase in my view.


> job stability

i doubt it. surveillance means less stability as there are more reasons to fire people.


I guess I meant immediate job stability. If you reject surveillance at your current job you will have probably have to look for another. This is pretty scary for a lot of people.


Or maybe more reasons not to fire? If you know someone's whole life maybe you'll be more understanding. Or is that too optimistic?


Understanding someone's whole life and making a corresponding graceful/merciful decision is at the discretion of the manager. In general, corporate incentives will guide managers towards firing if there is not overwhelming evidence that the person actually usually is or can be an above-average performer. Corporations are not set up to act like charities. The rare manager that can be compassionate in the face of his corporate incentives is at risk of himself being fired if he becomes too charitable too much.


This assumes that somebody actually cares, if they do, they would know that already by asking.


That assumes they can trust the answer.


This heavily depends on the environment and the culture of a company | department. In my experience, managers that actually do care about their employees tend to have much better results than the opposite.


Such understanding would likely extend to an individual's privacy, so people and institutions that subvert privacy (even with the consent of the surveilled) are unlikely to be induced to empathy by a profusion of data.


What it does likely mean is that there will be a reason to fire everyone. So management can use whatever excuse they'd like to get rid of someone just because of office politics. It's a bit harder now since they generally have to do bogus performance reviews etc.


Of course they will. They're already doing it to get access to Facebook, etc, so they just think that's the way the world works now.


I'm increasingly of the view that increases in communications technology, at the social scale, undermine trust.

https://old.reddit.com/r/dredmorbius/comments/6jqakv/communi...

Of course, Shoshana Zuboff beat me, and very nearly everyone else, to this in the 1970s:

https://www.worldcat.org/title/in-the-age-of-smart-machine-t...

(Her work began in the 1970s, though the book was published in 1984.)

Zuboff's laws:

1. Everything that can be automated will be automated.

2. Everything that can be informated will be informated.

3. Every digital application that can be used for surveillance and control will be used for surveillance and control.


A company I used to work for once tried to measure the productivity of developers by having a visible dashboard with each developer's amount of lines of code written (or rather lines of code committed to our Git repo). Anyone that knows anything about programming could tell you that quantity of code means nothing in terms of productivity and likely will make the worst programmers look best as a bad programmer will likely reinvent the wheel every chance they get thus having more lines of code that a good programmer.

Also, this company would repeatedly under-scope projects, go over budget and over the deadline in the design process, and then blame it all on developers when the project was behind schedule and over budget.


My employer monitors tap in, tap out and break times too. It started with a "good intention" from the HR and middle management started exploiting it in no time.

Background:

There was a lot of new about a year or two ago how the Japanese government was starting to take initiatives to reduce the overtime culture here in Japan. We always had to tap in our security cards to enter the building and perhaps the timings were always recorded for security concerns. But, the HR announced that in an effort to reduce overtime culture, these times will be automatically entered in the attendance system and your boss would be notified if you worked for 8 hours or more. "Ideally" the boss should then reprimand you and overtime, we would become overtime-free culture to work in.

What really happened:

While there were emails being sent for every employee working more than 8 hours, the manager would just approve it. There was no practical use of the new system and nothing improved. Rather, my managers started getting access to all this data they never had direct access to before. Colleagues were being sent emails if their break times exceeded 5 minutes more than the stipulated 1 hour. Same for coming in at 9:04 instead of 9:00. When a colleague back lashed, upper management threatened him by telling him they could also dig up his PC on/off/sleeptimes etc to give him significant paycuts.

The work culture was never worse.


I started out in the IT industry as the sole tech support guy for an ISP in Oklahoma City in 1995. I eventually built it into a department of about 20 people answering phones and emails, then I eventually moved into sysadmin.

It was great when the goal was "solve the customer's problems and get them online".

When they hired an official "Customer Support Manager", it started being all about metrics and went downhill. "How many calls are you taking an hour" vs "how many problems did you solve".

I hear that one of the large hosting providers here in town even does screenshots of everyone's desktops every 30 seconds to a minute. That's insane. My employer, on the other hand, doesn't care what you're doing in another window as long as it's not illegal and you get your job done.


> “You may never want to be chipped but if you’re a millennial, you have no problems. They think it’s cool.”

If that's true to any appreciable degree, that really makes my generation the biggest sellouts there ever were.


Luckily I've seen no evidence to support that claim other than the word of a man trying to sell microchipping services.

If anything it's the people around me in their 40s and 50s who are most cavalier about constantly sharing their location and activities with the world ala Facebook checkins.


It’s rampant in the young as well, but they’re just doing it in circles you aren’t a part of, on apps you don’t use or haven’t heard of.


Yeah, I was thinking the same thing but entertaining the salesman's claim. Although I could see his claim being true for certain parts of the service industry, overall I doubt that he's telling the truth.


There's also a huge problem with the article's followup question about GPS. It shows the author has no idea what he's talking about.

These chips are just passive RFID. This actually has been shown to be incredibly insecure; these chips have so little compute (necessarily), that all they can really do is broadcast a number. Walk by someone with a reader, and now you have everything you need to compromise security.

Given that you have to keep the implant super small to be easily injectable, how the hell could you put a GPS on that? You'd need not only the hardware for the GPS, but also a power supply of some kind. GPS is one of the most draining features on your phone. RFID and bluetooth are still the main technologies for consumer asset tracking because they're such a lower power drain.

This article is FUD. I would have a problem having an implant put in too, but it contains no more functionality than an employer issued badge. It's basically just a badge you can't put down. Now, that inserts all sorts of issues, yes, but it's not same as having a GPS or something that I can't put down. My phone is far, far more alarming from a privacy perspective than these are.


They didn't say the GPS was in the implant.

>The company has just launched a mobile phone app that pairs the chip with the phone’s GPS, enabling the implantee’s location to be tracked.

The phone app reads the RFID to ensure that the person is at the same location as the phone.


Look at the whole paragraph -

"The company has just launched a mobile phone app that pairs the chip with the phone’s GPS, enabling the implantee’s location to be tracked (...) Could he ever see the company using GPS to track its chipped employees? “No,” he says. “There’s no reason to.”

Maybe the CEO just meant -he- wouldn't ever use that, but to my mind the question makes more sense as asking "Hey, do you plan on putting a GPS on the chip" rather than "Hey, do you plan on actually using this functionality you just built out". But I may just be misunderstanding. That said, the level of technical knowledge of mainstream reporting has...generally not been the best.


I'm an old millennial (or young gen X, depending on who you ask), but I can't see anyone thinking it's "cool" to have a tracking chip implanted like a dog.


It's not cool that it's a tracking chip. It's cool that you can pay for your snacks and open doors without pulling a card out of your pocket.

Depending on how invasive it is, I wouldn't mind it just for the novelty of the whole thing.


They could do that with a fingerprint reader if that were the point. In that case you would get a choice in whether it were read or not, instead of it being read automatically whenever you're nearby.


I wouldn't even want my fingerprint to be in any of these systems...


Facial recognition is the answer here for practical reasons.


I've never met anyone that's part of my generation that thinks being chipped is cool. I would argue that older generations are often more likely to "drink the kool-aid" when it comes to corporate policy.


What I see as troubling is the photo of the guy doing the chipping is a big bearded dude with tattoos. I also bet he was very smooth talker and was telling silly jokes and making people laugh. I would even go as far as saying this is done purposefully to give the procedure an edgy feel to lure young people. I wonder what the turnout would have been if an "average joe" came in to do the chipping.


I suspect that tattoo/piercing artists are simply an affordable set of professionals with the right experience for implanting various body mods.


Good point and that occured after the post but still, adds that edgy flare needed to sell it.


Born in 91. I would never do this.


It's the same thing as social media 'influencers' FOMO, envy and greed is what fuels the millennials. Too bad it's also their biggest cause of unhappiness...


What are you even talking about?


Many years ago I was working on "electronic performance support" tools for call center operators at a large retail financial services organization, and someone proposed we install software on every worker's computer that measured idle time, keystrokes, etc.

I was vehemently opposed to this on simple grounds -- we already measured everything about the workers' performance that mattered to the organization's bottom line (customer satisfaction, productivity, etc.) -- what did we care _how_ they achieved their results? Measuring the wrong things is a total waste of time and effort. It's a distraction.

Oh yeah, and it's hideous and creepy.


Reminds me of this excellent short story called Manna[1]

http://marshallbrain.com/manna1.htm


> In February, it was reported that Amazon had been granted patents for a wristband that ... could “read” their hand movements, buzzing or emitting a pulse to alert them when they were reaching for the wrong item.

Setting aside the privacy violations of the rest of the article, this part is really depressing for me. I'm reminded of an episode of Mind Field [1] where they steer live cockroaches through a mobile app by connecting a chip to its antennae - the potential application being scouting of buildings, since it's cheaper to use a live cockroach than build a tiny robot.

This to me feels like Amazon are working towards a fully robotic factory worker - they have all the smarts done in software, but for now they need to use a human for the body. Could you imagine how dehumanizing it would feel to be the body of a robot?

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXNGvDdkXZE (YouTube Red subscription required, unfortunately)


Besides the obvious ethical problems, I don't why companies are worried about inducing stupid cognitive overhead with this. Employees will obviously change their behavior in response, and that will require nontrivial mental energy.


Isnt this the truth. People always find a way.


What cognitive overhead, exactly?



...care to elaborate?


this is tangential, but: the chips mentioned in the first section of the article are simple RFID tags, similar to the chip a vet might implant in your pet cat. they aren't GPS receivers, they aren't internet-connected, they don't even have a battery. they just store a key which is insignificant without the context of a larger system. i've seriously considering getting one of my own (to pair with smart locks or my car's ignition). i'm very privacy-conscious when it comes to technology, and people who know me are always shocked to hear me express interest.

there's a lot of unwarranted FUD surrounding implantable RFID.


On that note though, while you up the convienence, you also lower the security. Passive RFID can only broadcast a number; there's no compute to adhere to any sort of security protocol that is resistant to replay attacks. Meaning anyone with a reader that passes close enough to you will have the keys to your house.


> Passive RFID can only broadcast a number

Nope, not anymore. Current UHF RFID tags are able to store enough charge from the RF signal from the reader to have a half-duplex conversation with the reader and do small amounts of computation. See https://www.iso.org/obp/ui/#iso:std:iso-iec:18000:-63:ed-2:v...


Cool! Has anyone shown that a subdermal sized RFID chip is able to adhere to that? Further, does any RFID chip on the market have a real security story? Ideally you'd have public/private key encryption with some programmability on the part of both the readers and the chips themselves (so readers can be told "here's the public key of ID#1234, so only trust that you've seen 1234 if you get something decryptable with this key", so they can't be easily spoofed, and RFID chips can be told "here's the public key of the reader(s) you should respond to; anyone else ignore").

Until that happens, I just don't see it being secure.


> Further, does any RFID chip on the market have a real security story?

A few minutes of Googling would have told you that, yes, such things already exist and have for a while. Slap one into a implantable tag and you're done.


"Hey, can you take a picture of me and my friend?"

Later: "My phone got his RFID. Let's clean him out."


Parent said simple, not passive. Non-passive RFID is still simple.


From parent, "they don't even have a battery". Maybe my definition is off, but doesn't that mean passive? I.e., requires an antenna to activate it via an RF discharge, and then with that minimal charge it broadcasts back its identifier.


you're right, i did mean passive. something like [1]. i don't claim that they are a particularly secure solution. i only wanted to dispute the implication that they enable GPS tracking.

[1] https://dangerousthings.com/shop/xm1-plus/


Obviously these do enable tracking because they can be detected at different locations, just like your phone can be tracked as it travels along a store if can be distinguished by its Bluetooth or Wi-Fi MAC address.

And just because the reader in a door lock only responds to a nearby tag doesn’t mean they aren’t detectable from further away if the antennas are bigger.


you're right, i've edited that claim out. larger systems utilizing RFID can enable tracking; however, the implant itself isn't inherently privacy-averse.


It’s just as privacy averse as tattooing a barcode on your face. Both allow you to be tracked wherever you go. The only difference is that a tattoo is visible to the naked eye.


... which is just as privacy-averse as having facial features which are visually distinguishable from other peoples' facial features, right?

i apologize for the sarcastic example, but the point i was originally trying to make is just that media doesn't understand implantable RFID and constantly implies that if you get a chip you'll end up in a government database with constantly refreshing latitude and longitude.


Facial features cannot be distinguished as exactly and easily as a barcode or RFID tag but they are indeed hard to hide.

But if everyone gets an RFID tag you can be sure their locations end up in a big database the government can track, either because companies roll over each other in their efforts of covering the world with readers or the government placing them itself. Just like the database that records the tower your cell phone is connected to, all the time and basically forever. And you can be sure governments aren’t keeping their hands off that kind of data, they’ll find a reason why they need it.


As soon as you walk by someone or shake someones hand, they can copy your implanted RFID. Now, if you want to 'change the locks' to your house and car, you will need to dig out the chip in your hand and implant a new one.

To me, adding the capability to a watch, fitbit or other such wrist wearable is the far more practical option. Easy to change out if it gets compromised, plus you can build in a switch so that it is only capable of broadcasting when you press a button.


You're only thinking from a security standpoint. It's valid, but there can be other goals for the system. You can take off a watch to leave at your desk. You probably don't want to chop off a finger.


they don't enable tracking of any sort.

I wouldn't say that. They enable tracking much like a credit/debit card; they provide an unique ID that can be logged by the reading device when you use it.


Detecting proximity to a reader is tracking of a sort.


you're right, i spoke too broadly. systems utilizing RFID can be designed to enable tracking, but RFID implants themselves are not inherently privacy-averse.

if i set up a system at home, my implant would be useless in the context of any other system. i am not at risk of being tracked by unknown parties simply by virtue of having an implanted RFID chip.


If a few inches of fake fur[1] is enough to block it, I don't see how it can be tracked at a distance.

[1] (the video is loud) https://twitter.com/The_Sass_Hole/status/982519966225305600


There's no reason to assume the reader there is the best possible reader.

It might even be intentionally rejecting weak signals.


The disappointing part is that these practices can easily become standard. It's a race to the bottom like sharing SSN numbers with employers, which should have never been an acceptable practice, but people will "undercut" each other.


Every single business has associations, lobbies and industry groups.

The power of collective bargaining it seems is understood with clarity everywhere in business. Except when it comes to labour suddenly the waters become muddied.

Propaganda against organizing and unions remain at the level of one bad restaurant or bank discrediting the entire idea of restaurants and banks and people with IQ see this as credible. Yet without collective action it is impossible to stop this kind of creep.

Capitalism and free markets is all about choice but working and a job is not a choice for most people. Surviving is a compulsion not a choice. True choice includes the choice not to do something which is where the economic power of choice comes from.

If all companies in a race to the bottom adopt these practices what choice does labour have and them being forced to accepting these conditions is anything but meaningful 'choice'. It's coercion.


I don't understand why these articles always mention the ability of a company to monitor what websites you're on as a new thing, considering that's essentially been built in to the average network setup since the 80s; ditto with working at home if you used a company laptop or VPNed in


my employer keylogs all computers and does sentiment analysis.


I hope you're joking


Maybe they're working for facebook, in which case the statement is true in much broader way :D


If that's true, what do they do with that information?


cat keylog_data_of_200k_employees > /dev/null

Seriously any company doing this is not competent enough to do any kind of meaningful analysis on data of that scale.


there’s 200,000 employees so maybe they use it to help them make broad decisions about how different areas are doing.


And how do you feel about it?


my productivity has plummeted since I figured it out.


Who are the programmers writing this stuff? People even Facebook found too sleazy?


paranoia.


Anne Applebaum's "Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956" documents the process of imposing authoritarianism. Particularly important is the combination of surveillance and the threat of violence. You can't have a thug with a baton on every street corner, but with enough information, you can credibly extend the threat of violence far beyond the number of thugs available. The number of nodes in a tree grows much faster than its depth.

How should we compare this kind of upstream oppression--heading off free expression, movement, association before they happen--with more localized forms of assault? More concretely, what should we make of the software developers, designers, salespeople, and managers who collaborate in building these kinds of systems?


> More concretely, what should we make of the software developers, designers, salespeople, and managers who collaborate in building these kinds of systems?

That's too simple. Good systems have potential (good and bad). For example, "It went from looking for bad guys to monitoring underground pipes." -https://www.npr.org/2018/05/08/609493403/these-smart-sewers-...

Were you going to suggest we surveil people who collaborate in building these kinds of systems?


I don't even want to consider how the world would look if Stalin or the Nazis had had current technology. I think they would have succeeded.


There are a lot of people right now who want to stifle free speech. "Have a different opinion, that's abuse - or a beating". While not restricted to antifa, there seems lately a surge of "little Stalinists", who seem intent to crush or silence any dissenting opinion.

In short, history repeats itself, and "experience is recognising a mistake the second time you've made it."


I like that "antifa" just gets sliced in there, ignoring that the phrase and meaning is explicitly "anti-fascist", and it's only gained renewed visibility because there are actual fascists openly demonstrating and threatening people in the US.

You've always had a right to free speech, you sure as hell have never had a right not to be criticized for what you say.


I don't think someone is ignoring the meaning of antifa when pointing out they beat people up. Or by calling them little-stalinists, given that some of them are stalinists, and some even offer "critical support" to Bashar al-Assad or Kim Jong Un.

But it's pretty misplaced. Social media companies and the state have more power than ever to control the spread of ideas, and antifa has a street fight now and then.


> you sure as hell have never had a right not to be criticized for what you say.

I think that this is insufficiently emphasized.

Personally, I think what's even more importantly forgotten and has led to the rather ridiculous situation on college campuses[1] is that there is no right not to be offended. I would even go so far as to say that such a right would be the opposite of freedom of speech.

[1] e.g. trigger warnings


Trigger warnings are about not acting like a jackass to people. And the angry response to those who cavaliery show a disregard for the feelings of others are just as valid if you want to go down that path.


If I understand correctly, you're supporting my point.

Free speech is very much about allowing someone to act like a jackass (or worse!) to people with words and ideas.

It doesn't protect those speakers from the repercussions.

Trigger warnings aren't repercussions, however. They're prior restraint, and that's a no-no.


The irony of it all, that the Antifa is acting exactly like a fascist organization.

I am from Europe, and born/lived under communism, poor as hell, with food rations and all, people going to jail, etc and yes,

these dipshits (the Antifa) are nothing but a "my way of the highway" totalitarian movement, which resembles more to a loosely organized fascist gang, than anything else. Silencing and beating up opponents was a favorite tool of both fascists and nazis.


The naive part of me hopes that experience is recognizing a mistake the second time you're making it.


The reason history repeats itself is that all the people who made mistakes in the past are now dead and gone. Most people alive are doing this all for the first time.


The old people die, and the young can repeat the actions of the old.

Sometimes they make new good things, sometimes they repeat bad old things. I call it social mutation.


Yep, this is why we need to medically eliminate aging and achieve biological immortality. The conventional wisdom is that a society needs aging and death to eliminate old ideas and impediments to adopting new ideas and adapting to change, but this I believe is wrong. Young people fail to learn the lessons of the past because they never lived it, and so history goes in cycles; we keep making the same mistakes over and over. Eliminating this natural cycle should help society have a much longer memory, and medically fixing the problem where peoples' brains fail to be as good at learning and adapting with old age should fix the problems caused by older people being irrationally resistant to change and new ideas.


Seeing how badly a 'hegemony of the aged' cements in most places in the world in the form of wealth and political power, a lot of social problems and systems will have to be 'fixed' before that would be a net benefit.

Just go to you local city council planning meeting and see how gray haired and crazy the NIMBYs are, and they dictate local housing policy.


>Seeing how badly a 'hegemony of the aged' cements in most places in the world in the form of wealth and political power

I don't see the problem here with age. The problem you're describing seems to stem from other social issues, namely nepotism, classism, etc. People living longer isn't going to change that much I suspect; people have had these issues for thousands of years, and if anything, it's much better now than it was centuries ago. There's far more social mobility now than there was in Medieval times.

>Just go to you local city council planning meeting and see how gray haired and crazy the NIMBYs are

I think I already addressed that: age has an effect on the brain, so if we figure out biological immortality, we should also figure out along with that how to eliminate these aging-related problems/diseases.

The other problem you describe there is basically classism, and the ability of locals who gain power to shut others out of power. Again, this was much worse in the past when people didn't live nearly as long. The way to fix it isn't to have people die off early, it's to come up with laws and policies that counteract it.

The way to fix the NIMBYism problem is simple, and they've done something like this in Japan: you remove power from local government to set zoning policy. Obviously, local governments get people like this in power who don't look out for the overall good of society, and instead look to maximize their real estate value through manipulation of zoning, so you strip them of that power and move it to the state or national level. In the Bay Area, this means the state government needs to grow a pair and pass some strict laws about zoning, and severely curtail the ability of local governments to reject development.


There is the saying "History Doesn't Repeat, But It Often Rhymes".


Of all people, Hitler himself complained that he was being denied free speech.

There's a reason why free speech does not apply to fascist movements in most countries and it's illegal to use its symbols: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox_of_tolerance

Also, equating authoritarian systems with an anti-authoritarian movement literally named "anti-fascist action" is a bit ridicolous.


Just because a party calls itself something nice doesn't mean they are. The NAZI, as far as I know, weren't really socialists. So too antifa. Antifa uses physical violence against peaceful assholes. Let neo-nazi parade themselves with their tiki torches. Make fun of them while and after they do it. Show them love if they want to repent. Don't punch them in the face with a padlock.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2017/05...


Anti-facist isn't a nice name. Its a violent one. It's anti-facist like anti-clockwise, or anti-matter. The mirror image of facism.


It is from Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (English: National-Socialist German Workers' Party) [1] which is another interpretation of socialism.

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazism


Look at China and hope that someone like Mao never returns to power....


IBM's state of the art computer technology was crucial to the efficiency of the Holocaust.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_and_the_Holocaust


Powerpoint would have tipped the scale?


Not PowerPoint but the ease of near total surveillance that's available now.


What's with the U.S.'s obsession with efficiency? Life is much more than that. So what if your employees are not working at full efficiency? I doubt a lot of these execs work without taking breaks.


Understand that this is a deeply ingrained cultural problem in the US. One of the founding cultures was the Barbary Slave Trade, which quite literally worked people to death. Responding to the tiniest infraction with the whip comes naturally to some, and that inclination has permeated the whole of US culture at this point. Its sad to witness.

Read http://www.colinwoodard.com/americannations for more info.


It's fear and a facade to justify moral shortcomings elsewhere.

We might lose our grip on the world if we slow down - and there's not enough to go around.

"So what if we pollute? We're the cops of the world!"

There is way more to life than this.


Efficient is a term that can applied to one of many things. A company can be efficient at increasing yield in one set of things while dismantling quality, longevity of workers, morale...etc. Being an "efficient" human being, IMHO, means you take advantage of your emotional well-being and take care of it so you have the ability to be productive and produce quality work. I always cringe when I hear about managers who are looking at only one or more metrics like sprint speed, output velocity, issue metrics, or profit margins alone, one or more of these don't necessary imply quality. To the same extent, you can't be totally undisciplined that you are always distracted either.


> What's with the U.S.'s obsession with efficiency?

The US has no interest in efficiency, you're mistaking us for Germans. The US has always had an economy based in a combination of slavery, the exploitation of immigrants, the exploitation of the badly educated, and the exploitation of impoverished foreigners through cruel middlemen. As a country that started with slavery, and rolled into the industrial revolution right when slavery was dissolving, it has always expected an input for lightly-skilled physical labor of humans who have no civil rights and can be paid then minimum that it takes to keep them alive.

America doesn't consider a person fully human who isn't at least in management, or doesn't hold a position that requires a university education. The degree of humanity is directly related to the number of people managed, or the cost of the education.


Welcome to capitalism.


The sole ethic of a corporation is increased production, profits, and value for the shareholders.

This myopic view is the religion of capitalism.


This myopic view is the religion of capitalism.

There are plenty of capitalists who don't support this kind of degrading, dehumanizing shit. And for that matter, capitalism doesn't even require corporations at all. It would be more fair to say:

"This myopic view is a disease that infects some organizations in a capitalist economy".

The question is, how do we eradicate the disease without killing the host(s)?


The issue is that companies carrying the disease often grow and "prosper" while companies which do not get left in the dust. Thus the trend goes towards every company becoming diseased.

The only way to solve this is regulation. If you don't impose non-negotiable standards on everybody, the ones most willing to bend laws and morals succeed.


The issue is that companies carrying the disease often grow and "prosper" while companies which do not get left in the dust.

I'm sure that happens sometimes, but I don't think it's been demonstrated - not do I think it's true - that companies prosper because they do this kind of stuff. In fact, I'd argue that it's actually self-defeating over a sufficiently long time-scale.

And this is where we, as a community of hackers, need to put energy into doing the "stuff" that makes that sort of behavior self-defeating. We need to be the ones figuring out more clever ways to decentralize things and use all this cool tech we've created to allow individuals greater autonomy, and more ability to proper without requiring the trappings of the big enterprise.

If Coase[1] was right[2], then the main reason "firms" exist is to reduce transaction costs. So the question becomes - how can we use tech to make reduce those same transaction costs, allowing smaller firms (down to the level of the individual, ideally) to proper just as well, without needing to build some byzantine, bureaucratic, behemoth?

The only way to solve this is regulation.

Regulation is just another disease, which is arguably a more dangerous variation of the first. Regulation leads to regulatory capture, franchise agreements, taxpayer subsidized firms that can out compete the unsubsidized ones, ginormous military/industrial contracts, the F-35 debacle, Navy destroyers running Windows, all manners of corruption and artificial monopolies, etc.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronald_Coase

[2]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_the_firm


Very insightful comment. Some thoughts:

> I don't think it's been demonstrated - not do I think it's true - that companies prosper because they do this kind of stuff

I don't think it's because of this always, but it's certainly an advantage for companies that do.

> I'd argue that it's actually self-defeating over a sufficiently long time-scale

How long though, and how many people will have suffered by then? I mean, polluting the environment is self-defeating over a sufficiently long term, but we don't want to let this self-regulation happen because it will come with extinction. We should strive for things being fixed sooner rather than later.

> We need to be the ones figuring out more clever ways to decentralize things and use all this cool tech we've created to allow individuals greater autonomy, and more ability to proper without requiring the trappings of the big enterprise.

I agree 100%.

> If Coase[1] was right[2], then the main reason "firms" exist is to reduce transaction costs.

Oh, thanks for the link. I don't know enough about this to comment.

> Regulation is just another disease, which is arguably a more dangerous variation of the first.

Regulation refers to a setting rules. It's dangerous because the state is powerful, but it can also exist devoid of private interests for this reason. Like the FDA ensuring food is safe, or urban planning ensuring all buildings get water, electricity and other basic services.

> Regulation leads to regulatory capture,

Like running leads to injuries; I mean, if done wrong things will fail.

> franchise agreements,

These sound like regulatory capture.

> taxpayer subsidized firms that can out compete the unsubsidized ones,

Is this necessarily wrong? Subsidized fire departments and public libraries certainly out-perform unsubsidized ones. On certain industries subsidies might not make sense, but if it's an industry where a business model is hard to maintain (like a fire department) then why oppose it? Part of the reason regulation exists is to avoid market failure; sometimes private actors don't suffice.

> ginormous military/industrial contracts, the F-35 debacle, Navy destroyers running Windows

This sounds like government doing business poorly, not like government setting rules for better management and avoiding market failure.

> all manners of corruption and artificial monopolies, etc.

Well, if you have a corrupt government then yeah. There's instances of regulation done well too, though.


"There are plenty of capitalists who don't support this kind of degrading, dehumanizing shit"

That may be true, but they're not the ones in charge at Amazon.


> There are plenty of capitalists who don't support this kind of degrading, dehumanizing shit.

Unfortunately not the ones that matter on a meaningful scale. I can't imagine worker intel (even just the minimum: browsing on work machines, swipe in/out times, etc) is not being gathered at all Fortune 200 companies. These companies have the walk to the trash can calculated down to a quantitative loss in productive output. The solution? Tiny trash and recycling bins directly by your desk. Human asset management has it's tried and true methodologies, just as any other asset class.

Disclaimer: My view is U.S. centric, it is the mecca of global Capitalism.


How very nice for those other capitalists and their sentimentalism.

I look forward to having an employer whom I can help to outperform their overly-sentimental competitors.


I only just skimmmed the article, but a helluvalot more employers need to be monitoring emotions. In fact if no matter who you are, I bet you would do well to immediately agree to take a 20% pay cut starting at the end of reading this paragraph (I know I would) in exchange for nothing more than the sure knowledge that soon, somehow your employer will start monitoring your emotions.

Also by the by your dating life will improve by 500% if you do nothing else than start monitoring your date's emotions better than however you're doing it now. It's the single best thing you can do to start managing literally anyone and anything, including yourself. Do you know how you feel now? I bet until I asked you, you didn't, and now that I did, I bet you realize you're procrastinating doing something. (Not necessarily true, you could be taking a break for a few minutes.)


Emotions are extremely complex, and the thought that anyone can easily turn "monitoring emotions" into actionable data is laughably wrong.

/Acknowledging/ emotions may be much more useful, in case that's more along the lines of what you meant...


You're right and making those things actionable isn't trivial. but even trying to do so is a good start.


> I only just skimmmed the article

Great start

> Do you know how you feel now? I bet until I asked you, you didn't

So emotions only exist when they're put into words? Or only emotions that can be described have value?

Emotions are complicated, influenced by many factors, and exist as a composite of conscious and unconscious factors. To think that you can easily monitor emotions in a meaningful way, chart that to be useful data, and alter processes to "improve" emotional scores (whatever that means exactly) is foolhardy indeed.

Emotions exist when they aren't measured. Measuring emotions is hard, even if we directly ask a truthful person, we only get part of the story. Your manager isn't a therapist, nor should they be.


What I mean is that more than likely, you weren't paying attention to it. My main point is that on the whole employers don't pay much attention to the emotional state of their workers, or at any rate less than they should. Most people reading this comment who happen to be at work and managing people, may or may not know what mood those people are in right now. Most people don't care.


> Also by the by your dating life will improve by 500% if you do nothing else than start monitoring your date's emotions better than however you're doing it now.

This is totally true. How do you think Mark Zuckerberg managed to marry Priscilla Chan? He got improved emotional monitoring algorithms in one of his 2011 firmware updates.




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