Wisdom 2.0 and Work-life
Last Friday’s Guardian (19 September 2014) had an article titled, Wisdom2.0: it came for our heartbeats, now Google wants our souls. I am always dubious about such headlines, it’s my sort of personal “click-bait”. As I read it I was a little unsure whether it was serious – I concluded it was and those the article were reporting on were earnest in their proclamations.
It contains some interesting snippets about the future of working life according to the tech giants.
It was reporting on a conference held at Google’s Dublin headquarters called:
Wisdom2.0, a Californian conference that grew out of the west coast’s twin obsessions of technology and self-actualisation, and that came to Europe for the first time this week.
Guardian 19 September 2014 Wisdom2.0: it came for our heartbeats, now Google wants our souls
Now, I have been around technology long enough to know that in terms of version numbers, the following usually apply.
- Version 2.x.x. Trying get right something that they kind of got wrong last time round
- Version 2.0 What “they” think “we” want and often hurried out before it is ready.
- Version 2.0.1 Quickly putting right cock-ups spotted by us as soon as we see it.
- Version 2.1. Starting to put right issues of functionality that “they” did not include in version 2.0.
So I am dubious about any thing that is “2.0”. End of bias warning.
It might be called a conference, but to the uninitiated it looked more like a revival meeting or religious gathering – just without the religion bit getting in the way. Prayer bells called the delegates back to session, regular “stillness” breaks were built into the agenda, and at one point participants were told to put their arm around the person next to them, softly stroke them “and feel the connection”.
If I want to be grabbed by a complete stranger, I can always go to Church (version 2.0) and have complete strangers not just hug me but kiss me – in a way that would get you a section 8 non-harassment order if you behaved like that outside a church. Some of us find such faux-intimacy with people we don’t know, confusing, threatening and toe-curlingly embarrassing.
Wisdom2.0’s mission is to address this, “the great challenge of our age”: how to “live connected to one another through technology … in ways that are beneficial to our own well-being.”
Perhaps we should revert to just living connected to our families and physical neighbourhoods and not look to digitalise our entire lives.
Kelly Palmer, head of “talent transformation and inclusion” at LinkedIn made in her talk entitled “Fostering empathetic connection: lessons from compassion Efforts at LinkedIn” which included the information that “sometimes the most compassionate thing you can do is to let an employee go.”
To “let an employee go” has to be one of the worst euphemisms. The implication is that the “employee” is not free to go but is in some ways “enslaved” and therefore “permitting them to go” – when you are actually kicking them out – is a generous act of liberation. If an employee freely chooses to go that should be an act of self-determination – rather different to being given your freedom. Still the phrase does highlight that the idea of a “salary slave” is still uncomfortably current – and wrapping it in HR-speak and euphemisms just isolates the “slave-owner” from the “slave”. [“Slave” in quotes to distinguish from far greater problems of modern-day slavery both at home and abroad.]
There has been “a convergence of work and personal life,” she said. “People are never really off so we have to address the whole person. And if we can help people, it helps employee retention. Anything that helps people personally has benefits that apply to the whole company.
This sounds (from the report) that they are looking to fix the symptoms rather than the problem. Surely “People are never really off” is the problem?
Technology is not human-paced in the same way that a hand-tool is paced by its user. This has been a problem since the introduction of the likes of the spinning-jenny in 1770. And yet, we have still not found an effective and persistent answer. Computerisation and the virtualisation of much modern work just makes the problem more acute and modern communications means that work need not stop at the office door.
Wisdom 2.0 – as reported – does not seem to answer the problems – but merely seeks to make the situation sufficiently tolerable that employees not only don’t leave but are willing to allow work to intrude further into their lives. Does not seem wise to me.