Lies, Lies, Misinformation, and Robots

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“Robots are coming for your jobs.   You can’t get ready for it.”

I don’t believe this for a millisecond.  But this narrative has a power to shape decisions, in small movements that are almost imperceptible.   Decisions about how we design our businesses — around all of our very human lives.

Over the past years I’ve chewed on this unfolding, uncomfortably.  Mostly in private conversations with other business leaders, and with emerging managers in my orbit.

Yesterday, I read Maria Bustillo‘s “When Truth Falls Apart.”   She speaks to the moment we’re at in US politics, and the path that brought us to the eve of this unfortunate election.  From the attacks on the World Trade Center, to campaign tactics in the 2004 election:

Ah.   What a great framework.

Maria also points out that this happens in business, frequently.  But that’s not her point; her point is bigger than business.

Allow me to bring her framework into my wheelhouse:

  • Information:  A job provides an even stream of cash-flows that matches off with the expenses you incur to survive.  (If you’re fortunate, to thrive.)
  • Misinformation:  Anyone can work as a contractor.  It’s easy to Be An Entrepreneur of Your Own Career; this will bring you Freedom and Flexibility!
  • Disinformation:   Contractors are Entrepreneurs, not employees.  Jobs aren’t necessary; everyone can be an Entrepreneur.
  • Dismediation:  Today’s employment laws aren’t equal to our challenges, so we may disregard themUniversal Basic Income is the key to our jobless future.

Uh, okay.  Now my queasy feeling has some shape.   Thank you, Maria.   (And thanks to Audrey Watters, whose excellent newsletter brought Maria’s article into my inbox.)

This Sunday morning, with my extra hour of sleep — and full day off of Twitter — I’m getting this down as a bit more than a fragment.  I may come back and fill it in a bit more.

Underlying this Misinformation and Disinformation about our jobless future, Francine McKenna writes about an underlying “truth,” the fallacy of shareholder value.  In my words, that corporations are required by law to disregard human truth, and basic values, in order to maximize returns to shareholders.

This leads to the operating agreement we’ve reached today:  we can pay people less than a living wage, for a full time job.  Business leaders, is this really okay?

And then there are other supporting memes.  Untruths like, “All you have to do is perfect your craft.”  “Create your Personal Brand!”  “Find the right platform, and it will bring business to YOU…”  Oh, and, “You’ll always get paid — and paid on time — because Blockchain.”

Who is telling these truths?  Why do I believe them?   Will they lead to a life that I want for myself — or the kids in my family?

How am I responsible for the future?  Not just my own future, but our shared future?

Photo:  [121/365] Maximilian Reloaded, by Pascal, via Flickr under CC2.0 license

(Editorial note:  Usually before I hit “publish,” I write, and then edit/rewrite over a couple of days.  After publishing, I rarely go back and edit again.  This post emerged more like a Tweetstorm:  rough, needs polish — what you’re seeing now has been edited since I originally posted, and likely will be edited again.)

Now We Are 10+

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When I started blogging in 2006, I was on a vacation.  I had a “real job,” which brought me financial stability without engaging my intelligence or talent.  (At one point, my only responsibility was to make a monthly powerpoint, not kidding.)

I was thinking about the future.  How could I be creative, when my paying job didn’t seem to want or require this of me?

What could I do or be, and where could I fit?

When I pressed “publish” for the first time, I felt a thrill I don’t think I’ll ever forget.  It was the thrill of rebellion, of freedom.  Of risk.

At first I was blogging, and learning, about the intersection of environmental sustainability and business.   Maybe I would fit there?

When I heard Majora Carter say, “Sustainability means not wasting people,” on a favorite radio program (now podcast) it lit a spark.

This gave me one of many noodges back to doing the work that I am best at, the work I’m doing today:  helping people to do a better job of managing other people at work.

We grow and age, and become more of who we are.

The internet sure has changed since 2006.  In my early blogging days, Valeria Maltoni and a prominent environmental outlet linked to me in highly viewed posts, and drove traffic to my blog.   (Thank you!)

In 2006, Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit were not major homes on the internet, Medium didn’t exist.  Search algorithms hadn’t evolved into blog-burying ad outlets that fail to surface offbeat content.  There was no Greek chorus urging us to write for free for exposure, or to blog every day.

As my business has grown and evolved, I learned that the time it takes to make good public blog posts doesn’t pay the rent.  The people I work with don’t wake up and read blogs.

I’ve also found that many people don’t talk about people management in public venues.  The best conversations about managing people veer into private, even tender territory — and for this to be meaningful and valuable, it takes relationship, context and trust.

So I started to focus on non-public interactions, in real life and online.  Today, when I write a blog post, it’s reflecting trends I’m seeing through my experience in more intimate settings.

When I take time to post something here, it’s also because I think it will be a useful asset for me to share in the future.   And, valuable for those who find this space randomly, or because someone told them that they might like to work with me.

While I’ll continue to post 3-4 times a year here, some of the effort I once spent blogging now goes to my monthly newsletter.  While it’s not private, there’s no public archive.

If you found this post — or are one of the few who receive it via RSS — thank you!

And thank you, Internet, Blogger, WordPress, Valeria Maltoni, and old job that didn’t use all of my bandwidth.  Thank you all for more than a decade of blogging.

Photo:  Wonewok by Alan Light, via Flickr under CC 2.0 license.