Sunday, February 17, 2013

An antidote to the modern world

I found this article about working for Amazon haunting. What have we come to when staff are controlled in such microscopic detail that they are no more than fleshy robots? Only the computer knows where items are stacked and only the computer knows best route so there is no room for expertise  - remembering a layout, fixing a mental map, knowing what you are doing. But worse than that the computer knows how long you should take and makes sure you keep-up. No time for a chat or anything that would mark you out as human.

You could say it is a story as old as the industrial revolution and is there any difference with the production lines of the twentieth Century? I don’t know. Logically there are contiguous but most of those workers, especially in the car plants,were paid a good wage; there were unions, and a community. The line certainly forced the pace, allowed only so much time to tighten a bolt and limited the space for expertise but the Amazon world seems more atomised. The workers are controlled individually and have no collective rights -  it seems bleaker. Previous generations have had hard lives, ground down by work, but there have been hidden corners and ways to work round the edges of the system - the chance to find a little personal space. The cavernous warehouse echo;  empty of such places.

We all knew it would come to this. Science fiction has been writing about it for decades  but it still raises the question of what it meant to be human in the Twenty First Century. Where do we find our own interior life in a world where almost everything is shared and known?

A running blog is not the place to explore such wild and woolly speculative projects (and so I will go no further, except to say read this article from John Naughton that explains the template of the digital age and also read this tangentially related essay about the Google Bus and the effect on the neighbourhoods of San Francisco). A running blog is instead a place to remind myself what running means. How, despite all the technology and branding, it is still a basic, fundamental, human activity that connects us with our forebears. It is one of the ways we are meant to move and rediscovering this simple fact makes us feel more alive. It also provides one of those dark, fecund corners we can go to, to recover a sense of ourselves. We test the body and explore our physical capabilities, and have the opportunity to let the mind wander wherever it wants. Most thoughts will be (if you are anything like me) fleeting and  inconsequential but that is not the point. The point is the freedom.

Go for a run and you escape outside direction and are free from interruption (unless, of course, you take your phone with you).

1 comment:

Phil said...

Great stuff. Unfortunately I used to be a component in one of those highly designed profit is everything companys.