Building Things:

  • An short interview with Natan Linder of Tulip Interfaces, talking about how technology can augment the factory assembly line worker. There are some good quotes and points within the conversation that underscore the creativity of the human mind and its continued value even in a highly automated era. To a large degree, the public (and media) perception of factory workers is of a workforce composed of undereducated drones, completing rote task after rote task. While this may be the case in some plants, the best manufacturers understand the value of front line workers to solve complex problems, regardless of what their formal education is. In many factories around the world, line workers regularly invent new product features and contribute intellectual property. The notion of shifting as much of the cognitive load of rote work to computerized systems to increase capacity for human ingenuity is a good one, if not part of the standard narrative. 


Virtually There: 


Just A Game: 

  • A profile of people making a living from Twitch, the livestreaming service primarily used for watching other people play videogames. While it’s a uniquely 21st century way to earn a living, it shares a Horatio Alger lineage with the past: the notion that through enough grueling hours, one can crack through the dark tunnel of labor and bask in the fresh air and warm light of grand success. And like those better-life-through miserable toil stories of the last century, this one too requires immensely unhealthy practices. One of the now successful Twitch-celebrities states that in the beginning he needed to stream eighteen hours or more every day to grow his fledgling following, a routine so sedentary that it swelled his ankles and brought his weight to over four hundred pounds. It seems odd that watching someone else play a game for hours on end would hold appeal for so many. Some speculate that the value is similar to seeing an athlete or musician perform at their peak abilities: a vicarious delight in experiencing another human do something, anything, exceptionally well. The subtext here is that the precarity of work in the 21st century requires endless novelty and reinvention, and such reinvention reduces the likelihood of anyone ever truly gaining mastery over a subject, skill, or tool. There's a sense that to watch someone excel, even in an unreal world, is as close as we may get to deep practice ourselves. 

Machines for Moving: 




More next week.