Friday 6 July 2012

I am not a machine, nor the tick-boxes on a form. I am a human with all that goes with it.

Interesting. Ben and I decided to watch Dune again. We have several copies. Directors cut, theatrical release, the one with the Frank Herbert narration etc. All waaaay cool. We know the words to this movie off by heart.

And that got me thinking. Just why did we know the words off by heart? What is it about that movie and series of books that engenders such a feeling of some kind of almost nostalgia like fondness?

And that made me think about the documentary "What happened to our dream of freedom?" from Adam Curtis

And then it became so clear...

It’s not that I harken back to some kind of Victorian or Edwardian ideal. The "Eee it were better when I were a lass" stuff. Crap. It’s nothing like that. It’s more like this;
Mechanic less than 30 years ago goes to work. A BMW comes in which has a problem. The mechanic turns the motor over, listens, thinks a bit, revs the engine, listens, thinks a bit... then takes out a spanner and uses it to tinker with some part on the car. And with some judicious use of intelligence and understanding and fundamental capability, fixes the problem.

Now think back to 1973. A young person walks into a mining supply company in Perth, Western Australia. This person has no apparent skills. They ask to speak with someone in authority and despite repeated attempts by receptionists to defeat them, sits on a chair and states that they will wait to see someone regarding working for the company. Four hours later, a portly chap comes out and tells the young person to follow them. The pair ascend to an office high above the shop floor in the factory. The portly chap sits behind a beautiful desk inset with green felt and leather and arches his fingertips:
"So. You want to work for us. You have 15 minutes. Impress me." 
The young person launches into a spiel with reasons why they are good for any position in the company. The portly chap listens intently and the young person gets the impression that this person is not interested in what they are saying but how they are saying it.

The interview ends.
The portly chap leans forward, clasps the young persons hand and tells them to see the chief accountant.
The young person goes down the stairs wondering what just happened. They approach the chief accountant. The man puts down his phone and rises to meet the young person. He shakes their hand and points to a desk. "That’s where you will be working." The young person discovers that the portly chap is the MD of the company and is worth millions in 1973 dollars.
And so on. I could go further and show that the young person does a 9 year reconciliation for the most troublesome customer the company has, or that the young person has a plaque dedicated to them on the wall of that company, but you get the drift.

That young person was me if it wasn't bleeding obvious.

Now compare these two examples with today:
A "mechanic" enters his workshop. A BMW comes in which has a problem. The mechanic turns on his diagnostic machine and consults his checklist.
"Place cable A on terminal B. Place cable C on terminal D. Press ‘start’ on console. Read out result. Ah yes. 2.3456. If number is less that 2, replace spark plugs. If number is greater than 2, replace assembly B-456-fgh-567. Ok. So I replace the assembly." The "mechanic" calls the supplier, gets told that the assembly will be there tomorrow, and retreats to corner, pulls out his Nintendo DS Lite and plays Soduku for half an hour.
A young person walks into a mining supply office. They have no apparent skills. They ask to speak with someone in authority and get told to fill in a form. They do so. They are told they will be contacted. The form gets passed to a clerk. The clerk looks over their checklist: "Tick checkboxes" So they do. The young person doesn’t even get a look in.
See my point?

The humanity has gone. We’ve become slaves to the machinery of management. Humans have abrogated the responsibility of decisions to automated systems. No one cares anymore. If the machines ever get to the point where they could tick checkboxes themselves or attach cable A to terminal B, they don’t need humans.

I hate it. I do hate it.

The whole point is that in Dune the humans are the masters. The machines are tools. Just tools. As intelligent as a chisel or a hammer. No more than that. And like a sculptor who uses a chisel and hammer or a sculptor who uses laser etching or machines the size of houses the result is the same. The machine is a tool of the mind. The mind doesn’t subsume itself into simply being another part of some machine. The sculptor is in charge. The tools have advanced, but be damned if the sculptor let’s the machine do the thinking for hem.

Humans are in charge. Creativity is in charge. Responsibility is in charge. Emotion is in charge. Yes, emotions and humans cause wars and suffering and all the other ills that have beset humanity for millennia but at least humans were in charge! Somehow I can’t imagine the pharaohs accepting that excuse that the pyramid couldn’t be built due to stone supply problems in the Sinai. Or that Brunel would have shirked getting his hands greasy on a chain.

I hate it. I do hate it.

My skills are not the fact that I can code Java, or code C++ or code C# or any other damn thing. My skills are not about being a good little cog in a machine.

My skills are not about being compliant. I refuse to be compliant.

My biggest skill is being not capable of being stamped, check-boxed, measured, analyzed, twisted, folded or mutilated.

My skill is that I CAN THINK. I can reason. I can find a solution to an issue without having a checklist of patterns or tick boxes or qualifications or whatever. I shouldn’t have to prove myself by having 2 points higher on some test than someone else.

It’s not about some test. It’s about being prepared to take responsibility for ones actions and being willing to stand by them, and change them if evidence shows them to be false.


I can look at an issue or problem or just something just plain interesting and have something constructive to say about it. Sometimes this translates to a better mousetrap. Sometimes it doesn’t. But at least it’s a human using their creativity, their brains, their fundamental capability to come down out of the trees, walk upright and know that a stick can dig a furrow for planting crops or equally kill another human.

Either way, it’s a damn human making the decision, not a damn form.

No comments:

Post a Comment