Saturday, February 5, 2011

The perfect anonymous corporate serf

After working over 2,100 weeks, 11,000 days and over 88,000 hours I finally realized, two weeks ago, while sitting next to a pool, reading a book, on a hot island, that all my years of toil and so called achievements has made me into nothing more than the perfect self employed, self made, anonymous, corporate serf.

Got the kids and their kids, a house, two cars and a wife, who hasn't left me yet, but I don't own any of it. You can't own people, even your family members in my neighborhood and the banks own everything else. So I continue to work to service the debt and remain the perfect TD customer. I just wish they had more of those comfy green chairs available, so I could at least relax when I deposit my bi-weekly interest payment.

But, anonymously blogging as Willy Loman, even as sparsely as I do, is a real break from reality and great for my soul. I can anonymously rant and rave, bear my grievances, state my case or just have fun. Blogging is my way out from under, so to speak. At least that was the case, until I read You are not A Gadget by Jaron Lanier, that book by the pool.

If you do not know Jaron, the dude in the picture, he is a fifty year old computer scientist, known as the father of Virtual Reality, as well as a whole whack of other geeky stuff. His book reads like a rant and is actually made up of a series of rants that he has published over the past ten years. These are rants about technology, the current state of the internet, the blogosphere and social networking in general, from someone who was around at the beginning and on the inside.

It is a difficult read and not written for the computer illiterate. Willy Loman is technically astute, meaning that I at least know the meaning of all the acronyms in order to sell the technology, and I have sold a lot of different technologies over the years, but Jaron is coming at you as computer scientist, code writer on steroids, so you really have to dig deep to follow his logic.

But logical he is. Jaron's biggest complaint and he admits that it goes against the flow of the current community of Silicon Valley gurus, that he is a member of, is that they are destroying the individual and if they do not change the direction of the current technologies, the technologies will become locked and future ways of expressing individual creativity will be lost. We will all be a modified version of the Borg's gallery of templates.

However his book is not all doom and gloom, he offers many ways that things can change, cool stuff. He also, almost nonchalantly includes little tidbits of cool stories about early engineering choices that were made along the way. As an example, in reference to blogging, he describes and laments about the decision to allow anonymous posting and how the blogosphere might be very different today with less hateful rants and more decorum, if we all had to take ownership of what we post or comment on.

On that theme or at least the darker side of that theme, Jaron believes, that we, as bloggers, tweeters etc., no matter how many hits we get or followers we have, are simply supplying data to the group think, that is controlled by the new corporate overlords, Google, FaceBook, Twitter and the like. We are currently no more than corporate serfs that at best provide searchable data.

And if Jaron is correct, which I think he is after spending four days reading and rereading paragraphs in the hot sun, blogging anonymously makes me nothing more than an anonymous corporate serf.

Hi you can call me Al and I will be back.

8 comments:

The Mound of Sound said...

Hey Willy, you dog. So, what lovely island are you inhabiting while the rest of us endure Canadian winter?

As for Jaron and his comments about bloggers, tweeters, etc., has he been to Cairo lately? I'll bet Hosni Mubarak wishes he'd been right.

WILLY said...

Hey MoS

I am rusty at these book reports and I hopefully have not misconstrued Jaron's manifesto. He is not anti technology he just thinks it should be developed to serve humanity and i would assume that he is on the side of the angels on this one, but who knows.

Imagine tweeting a million person rally in days...

I was drinking at Avery Tolar's favorite pool side bar and now back facing the cold reality :)

Beijing York said...

I hope you enjoyed your pool-side getaway.

I am the queen of internet alter-egos and I have no regrets. Yes, anonymity can lead to less than honourable discourse and blatantly hateful commentary but it can also provide the shield to speak freely without fear.

If anonymity encourages free speech, I'm all for it. I know for professional reasons, there is no way I would ever publish a single comment under my official name. It's too easy for it to come back and bite me. And yet I feel I have much to share and feel free to do so under a cloak of an assumed name. I don't see that as a negative.

WILLY said...

I agree anonymity encourages free speech. Hey, I'm obviously not Willy or maybe not even Al for that matter.

Right now I service my debt by selling and supporting software. I have customers in industries, locations and even specific organizations that I have railed on about on these pages and sometimes not fairly. Organizations that the online Willy would never be caught dead, dealing with.

And though Willy gives me the freedom to say whatever I want, maybe if I was being honest I would curb my talk to match my walk, so to speak.

The serf part of my interpretation of Jaron's Manifesto, bothers me more. Look at how many bloggers & Tweeters have now added Google ads. Hi volume sites that originally scoffed at the thought.

Millions of sites with millions of hits providing market research so that messaging can be fine tuned to create new markets. This type of messaging or product works best on Progressive sites, this better on ConservatIve, this info on females, this type on males. This type for 15 year olds this type for the 16 year olds

Google and their ilk are not about free speech, they are about ad revenues and more importantly market research. It is not who we are individually, it is which sector we get parsed into based on the sites we visit, the links we click.

If these technologies become locked (so ingrained that no new technology can replace them) where does the research and data collecting lead to in the future, if it is the only way we have to communicate.

Except he explained it much more elegantly and provided alternatives.

And I had a good holiday, first one in while.

The Mound of Sound said...

As one who left a big city to retire to a somewhat removed, relatively small town (we actually have a "village idiot" and everyone thinks he's great), it's terrific for me to be able to correspond with the sort of minds I like to engage across North America.

Sure the information gets harvested. Not a week has gone by in a long time that I haven't been visited by Lockheed Martin, Northrop, US Navy Intelligence, US Army Electronic Intelligence, the CIA, and - as of last week - the FBI. It proved to me that you don't have to be subversive to be watched.

But even as your information and views fall into the wrong hands, so it also reaches the right hands, the people you want to inform, to persuade, to cajole.

There is so much information out there and much of it simply falls through the cracks. When I began working in a newsroom (we had manual typewriters back then, manual - not electric), I was riveted to the wire service machines, the teletypes. They had so many stories you just knew would never make it on the air or into print. Today, ordinary schmucks are able to reach out and snag some of that information, keep it from falling through the cracks, try to put it out there one more time.

What kind of world would you or I have without e-mail, blogs, twitter? I guess you would have to go back to the late 60s to experience it.

WILLY said...

Ahh the 60's, the good old days, "young people speaking their mind, facing so much resistance from behind" out there organizing, protesting, or just choosing a new way to do something.

Maybe this is the Arab world's 60's decade and they used today's tools to organize. I imagine though that there already was an organized underground movement and they used today's technology to say "Now"

I often wondered, are village idiots, always male? And I pictured you as a retired lawyer..

The Mound of Sound said...

Yeah, I'm pretty sure village idiots are always male. We keep their female counterparts confined knowing there would always be plenty of stupid bastards lining up to take advantage of them.

Yeah I am a retired lawyer. I went from the military into journalism and then into law. What can I say? It was a confused time.

WILLY said...

The military to journalism is as fucked up as journalism to Law, no wonder I enjoy reading your stuff everyday. As simplified for me, it was high school to dope to family to selling stuff. Nice to meet you MoS.

Surprising, although appreciated the environment plays an important part in your posts.

A avid follower.

Cheers

Al