Looking forward…

Not everything here on End of Work….we’re looking to get out of this mess we are in as both individuals and as a nation.

So we’re starting to see that the frustration with the current way things are is now leading to the rejection of the Old Ways and we begin to search for the new.  This article in the Atlantic is one of several that are starting to point the way.  Now, I’m as sure about how much these changes will come from any one geographic region, as this writer is stressing the South, but let me give you a nice quote from it I really liked.


Most places, he says, might as well be sprayed with “startupicide.” Startupicide is what damps down and repels startups and those who would build them. “I could see the average town was like a roach motel for startup ambitions,” he writes. “Smart, ambitious people went in, but no startups came out.”

Startups are fragile things by their very nature — few succeed even under the best of circumstances. What makes Silicon Valley and a very few other places different, he noted, was that their culture contained an antidote to Startupicide — such places embrace an ethos that encourages rather than crushes startups and the broader mentality from which they grow. “The problem is not that most towns kill startups. It’s that death is the default for startups, and most towns don’t save them,” Graham notes. “Instead of thinking of most places as being sprayed with startupicide, it’s more accurate to think of startups as all being poisoned, and a few places being sprayed with the antidote.”

Jane Jacobs identified almost exactly the same dynamic when I asked her some years ago why only a handful of places pioneer innovations and unleash the creativity of their residents, while most are content to sputter along, stagnate, and even die. “Each and every community,” she told me, “is filled with lots and lots of creative and innovative people.” The trouble is with a small core of people she dubbed “Squelchers,” who are instinctively opposed to doing anything new or different. Unfortunately, these people are often a town’s business and political leaders. You’ve probably seen them in action; maybe you’ve even bumped up against them yourself.

Only a handful of places are endowed not only with a great research university, but a culture that tolerates and actively encourages risk-taking. Most places prefer to play it safe. But doing more of the same is hardly an option when your prospects are as bleak as they are for so many cities these days. The economic crisis has brought us to a great tipping point, what I have elsewhere termed a Great Reset — an epoch when creative destruction spreads from technologies and industries to society, culture, and geography at large; when new business models, new institutional systems, and new geographic clusters of innovation and risk-taking come to the fore. A Great Reset is one of those rare occasions when “Squelchers” and their old squelching ways are transcended, when more and more people and places can get access to the antidote to startupicide.

Despite what the die-hard Squelchers might want you to believe, the Start-Up Nation is growing. Part of this growth pattern is borne of necessity. With the economy in tatters and government all but broke, there’s little choice but to go out and build something for yourself with your colleagues, fellow-travellers, and friends. Startups are much less capital-intensive than they once were. Partly because of the better tools we have at our disposal (the Internet, advanced software, etc.), partly because we live in a more modular economy that allows critical functions, from manufacturing and distribution to design and marketing, to be subcontracted out. Some of it is because others have done it, and we’ve seen what they can do. And a lot of it is from a cultural revolution: the fading of an old dream that saw a good job, a big house, and a big car as the goals by which success was measured, and the emergence of a new one that sees the challenge of building something novel and unique as the key to true fulfillment.


I’m working on a piece related to this that I’ll have up shortly.



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Crowdsource My Life II: This Time It’s Personal

Ok….Tomorrow we’re having an “idea party” for me to see what I can do to raise more revenue/ find more work/ do more crazy stuff.

Amba suggested I write up stuff about my life/skills/interests and here it is!


What I do/know

Many years of writing in C,  also C++
Fortran, Pascal are among my languages
Nearly all this programming is “process control” programming;  controlling sensors in Auto emissions test equipment, steel mills, water treatment plants

I also have done a lot of “simulations” programming where you simulate a process like an assembly line or a queue like  a hospital with a very specific language
I have taught many other professionals in this language, both formally and informally.  I have also given many simulation presentations to groups.
I have also written technical materials for the ACT.
Obviously, I’m pretty Internet aware, and was in a startup for an internet bookstore.
I’ve taught adults in many programs, and progamming languages, both formally and informally!

I do have academic interests,  so let’s deal with those first.
Many of my interests center around History, specifically Roman History, Military History, and 20th century History.  I have done a lot of reading in those areas, and have some experience doing academic research in libraries.
I also have a large Philosophy/Literary interest ( one of my two college majors being Philosophy) with a pretty strong specialized knowledge of Nietzsche.

Pop Culture stuff.
Strong Movie History knowledge.  (Specialty in Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers, Kubrick)
Very strong Baseball knowledge; I’ve done quite a bit of work for Project Retrosheet, an attempt to get every play by play of every major league game.
Quite a bit of pop music knowledge (Specialty in The Beatles)
I have large music, comic book, and movie collections.   I even have a collection of art created for me from comics artists around a theme…. Comic Book characters attacking computers!
I have a game collection of over 300 games…and have designed a card game.  I was a playtester for a game that sold thousands of copies.

Now, I may have missed a thing or two…those of you who know me….goading/prompting is accepted.  We stress the positive here, but not the dour; the more ‘out of the box’, the more intriguing…..the better!   As we have said…I’m the guinea pig, and how well I do will connect with we do this for others.


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The idea is spreading….

This post on Seth Godin’s blog, (thanks Instapundit!)  goes right to the heart of what we discuss here….that the old “jobs” based economy has gone.  It’s a good read, and the ending couldn’t ring truer to me:

” No one is demanding that we like the change, but the sooner we see it and set out to become an irreplaceable linchpin, the faster the pain will fade, as we get down to the work that needs to be (and now can be) done. This revolution is at least as big as the last one, and the last one changed everything.”


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Crowdsource My Life…Please!

No, Uncle Miltie will not solve the nation’s problems….though not for lack of trying!  No, we’re about to try something exciting here at EOW.  We’ll be having something like one of Barbera Sher’s “Idea Parties”  very soon!   Watch this space for further developments!



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I, for one, welcome our new Robot Overlords

Farhad Manjoo over at Slate has a new series begun this week on whether robots will steal our jobs….An EOW topic?  You betcha!


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Here we have an excellent article pointing out some of problems we’re discussing here.  Recommended!

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Ultimately….whatever you want.

Yay!  Our first EOW video…and it’s about 3D printing.  How is this an EOW idea?  I’m struck when I read remarks about how younger people have less and less attachment to the physical objects related to music; CD’s and for an even older crowd, records.  All their music is on an iPod or in the “data cloud.”   I’m of the age where I still have an attachment to my CD’s….and I still have albums (no record player,though!), but I was glad to make the transition from records.  But there are advantages to not being beholden to the physical objects, right?  Maybe  I don’t want to read all my books on a Kindle, but if I can carry — how many?  hundreds? thousands? — books, all at the same weight, in the same physical space, a much, much smaller space than the actual books….there’s a lot to be said for that!

I thought about 3d printing when I needed a certain type of pliers the other night, a kind I didn’t have.  Did I really need to buy those damn needlenose pliers to use once every few years?  But if I had this device….I could ‘print’ one.

Indulge me a little here.  Imagine that these things get cheaper, better, faster….but not to the point they could replace everything, obviously.  But what if they could ‘print’, say, 40% of the basic physical objects of your home?  That would be amazing!  Let’s say you could ‘print’ a lot of your furniture (at least frames, say) in some sort of Frankenstein-meets-Ikea experiment gone mad!  Today you want Danish Modern, tomorrow…who knows?  Who cares?  Your mood can set the decor.  The term ‘bespoke’ which is now a fancy term for hand-made goods like suits may devolve to mean ‘not printed’.

Your EOW future may have you owning less and less…but having ‘access’ to everything.


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What are we buying?

All this wealth we’re building up….what are we buying with it?  I think the surprising answer is….ever greater connectedness.  I know that sounds trite, but it’s actually at the center of what we’ve been doing for a long time.  The telegraph, the automobile…these were tools to destroy the isolation of distance.  The telephone and television do the same destruction of isolation for the senses of hearing and sight.  (jokey aside:  Ever watch a cooking show talks up how they wish you could smell what they smell….”Smell-o-vision”.  My feeling is that if they ever get that technology to work online the internet will fill up with fart jokes)  And the creation of all our products?  I think the products themselves matter….but the where and how are of less interest to us, because they don’t make us feel connected, connected on our terms.  The manufacturing life, with its demands that transcend our interests….we came to see it as a chore, as something to avoid,….as “work.”  Oh, we appreciate the money!  Absolutely!  But, despite a large amount of cultural training in that area, it was and is something we don’t want to go to anymore.

Perhaps what we are starting to spend on is the deepening of how we earn our “living” (good choice of a word, really!) and we spend our days.  To really make that work we need an “Internet Plus”, the knowledge exchange functions we see on the Internet as well as other more formal connections to work, to supplies, to resources…we’ve just started this part, it’s like the highway system, circa 1920 would be for cars.  How do we keep fleshing it out?


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Are We Meme Yet?

In the comments in the previous post, Melinda (thank you very much, Melinda!)  puts a link to an Atlantic article “The Freelance Surge Is the Industrial Revolution of Our Time” which is right in the core of what we are talking about here at EOW, enough so that I felt it should be in its own post.  (Are we “EOWers”?  Can we have T-shirts?  Dental?)  It looks like the piece is the beginning of a series that the Atlantic intends to do on how work is changing, again, something that dovetails with what we are doing here.  Even just reading it gave me ideas on whole new things that will develop in the economy.  I don’t doubt that many “freelancers” (an oddly romantic military term!) want many of the things that people had in a more institutional, industrial era, but we will want them in ways that fit how we work now, rather than forcing people to hew to the older standards.   Just as an enormous untapped set of markets alone…..this has tremendous possibilities!


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Work is a shotgun wedding between two people that don’t even like each other.

They don’t want you there; they dream of the robot or clever piece of software that could take your place.  But, hey, you don’t want to be there!  Boring, mechanical, soul-crushing, they take your good ideas and find some magical way to render them inert, and make you do a bunch of silly nonsense because the management-consultant-de-jour said it would “improve morale,” but hey, why ask you about that?

You both know the reason you’re there:  the baby.  Er, sorry, “the paycheck.”  And you both took it seriously, because of the baby, er, sorry again, “work.”  But it’s wearing thin and you both want out.  You want to take care of what is important AND enjoy what you do; it’s not ‘New Agey’ to want this, and even more importantly, doing something that you genuinely want to do in a way you want to do it will relate to your economic success as well.   Perhaps over time we will see ‘work’ as a culturally lesser thing, something that robots do, and what we do will be, what, a calling?  I like to use the idea of a ‘task’, as ‘calling’ has sort of religious overtones that are not necessary   This notion of a task is something I’ll be devoting some writing to.  Thoughts?


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