Towering Panopticon

Hee! This, from the clever cloggses at McSweeney’s, is great.

Good news! In response to your “concerns” about our current open-plan creative campus, we are pleased to announce our new building: a towering panopticon à la Jeremy Bentham’s eighteenth-century vision of utilitarian corporate efficiency!

In our new office, all team members will work in isolated, transparent rooms called “Cells” on the periphery of a circular tower called “Synergon.” At the center of Synergon, management will reside in “Nest,” a glowing, elevated sphere of omniscience.

We know you have questions, and we want to address those.

I especially like this part:

This sounds terrifying and dystopian. Is it?

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Demanding the Post-Work Future

We have spoken about Inventing the Future by Srnicek and Williams before. The manifesto within is excellent and this morning I found a nice, graphical summary online (above, click to biggerize). Print it off! Carry it around in your wallet!

It came from this blog (by the way, why won’t Blogger fuck off with those huge and never-vanquishing cookie warnings?) and explains things nicely.

I like the point under Demand 4 that “we all too often valorize work,” which is something we can address individually and immediately with ease.

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Corbyn: a new settlement between work and leisure

UK Escapologists could do worse than support Corbyn’s Labour party. Not only has Corbyn proposed four new bank holidays and begun to investigate UBI, he had this to say about automation in his conference speech this week:

We need urgently to face the challenge of automation, robotics that could make so much of contemporary work redundant. That is a threat in the hands of the greedy, but what an opportunity if it’s managed in the interests of society as a whole.

If planned and managed properly, accelerated technological change can be the gateway for a new settlement between work and leisure, a springboard for expanded creativity and culture, making technology our servant and not our master, at long last.

As far as I know, he’s one of the only political leaders speaking in this way about the inevitable future (and dreary present-day reality) of work.

Here’s the Guardian analysis:

What is fascinating about Mr Corbyn’s speech is its hidden depths, most notably on possible “alternative models” to capitalism. The Labour party sees in the future not just the rise of robots, which might entrench economic feudalism, but also the worry that too many people will remain trapped in drudgery-filled, low-productivity jobs. Although Mr Corbyn did not spell this out, he referenced a little-publicised party report that fleshes out Labour’s view of the new economy. This states that accelerating automation is a key political project. Labour’s goal, the report argued, should be to accelerate into this more automated future “while building new institutions where technological change is shaped by the common good”. Mr Corbyn’s socialism is evidently more intellectually bracing than previously countenanced.

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I love quitting things. Possessions. Habits. Jobs. But you know that.

At the moment, I’m trying to overcome a health problem by temporarily quitting things to see what happens: bread, alcohol, caffeine, prescription antihistamines, hot showers. Giving up hot showers has been the toughest so far but the one that makes the most difference. Try it! It’s Hell!

Anyway, all this has led to my marveling once again about the importance of decreasing one’s requirements for life. It’s no fun quitting bread, but who really needs it? It’s liberating to see if you can go without something for a while.

Consistent, back-of-the-mind reflection on what you do or do not need is Escapology 101 and just part of the machinery of living as a free person instead of a worker-consumer — but it really is good to do and it’s worth remembering to do it if you don’t.

It’s also, it seems, suddenly topical.

Leo Babauta has been posting sporadically to his mnmlist blog and his Lowering Your Life’s Requirements entry just plopped into my feed this morning. He’s quitting coffee and booze:

I saw a long line at Peet’s Coffee, and decided I didn’t need the coffee to be awake, happy or alive.

When something becomes a need, a requirement, it locks us in. We have to have it, which means we start structuring our lives around it.

For lots of us, it’s more than just coffee: we need a glass of wine (or beer) in the evening, we need some quiet time alone, we need things to be neat, we need to watch some TV to unwind in the evening, we need the Internet for entertainment and news. There’s nothing wrong with any of these things, but soon the requirements for a happy life start piling up. What are your requirements, things you can’t do without?

Then I notice that Russell Brand’s been plugging a book called Recovery: Freedom from our addictions. It seems to be a memoir about his personal struggle with drug addiction but also a sort of self-help guide on how to apply the 12 Step Programme to quitting less dramatic addictions like Twitter-checking, pornography and sugar.

And then I find that Mark Boyle, the “moneyless man” I mention in my own book, is writing for The Guardian again. His little essay series, written from the perspective of someone who has completely rejected modern technology, contain such plums as:

most of what afflicts us today – cancer, obesity, mental illness, diabetes, stress, auto-immune disorders, heart disease, along with those slow killers: meaninglessness, clock-watching and loneliness – are industrial ailments. We create stressful, toxic, unhealthy lifestyles fuelled by sugar, caffeine, tobacco, antidepressants, adrenaline, discontent, energy drinks and fast food, and then defend the political ideology that got us hooked on these things in the first place. Our sedentary jobs further deplete our physical, emotional and mental wellbeing, but instead of honestly addressing the root cause of the illness we exert ever more effort, energy, genius and money trying to treat the symptoms and contain the epidemics.

Knowledge of what you need and what you don’t need is escapological in that it helps your great escape from worker-consumer culture into the good life but they’re also acts of escape in themselves; the escape from coffee, the escape from tech, the escape from dependencies.

Look around. What can you do without? Would life be better without it? How so? Would it save you some money, save some time, help you to be healthier, make you stronger or less frustrated when you can’t get it? Would it help you move into the good life?

Try escaping something for a limited time at first and then escape it forever if you want to.

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