Treadmilling

Day 142 Week 21 Q2 Tuesday, May 21, 2024

From what I gather, the behemoth tech companies on the left coast have undergone a transformation. They are no longer the havens for creative outliers they once were. The old freewheeling idealism of ‘we can change the world’ and the ‘do no harm’ mantras, coupled with the freedom to spend time on personal projects, have faded. The HP Way and the Individualistic Idealism of Apple, which were revered in the eighties, led to near-death experiences in the early nineties. 

Today, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) reign supreme, and everything is expected to be quantified. This has led to a narrowing of work focus objectives. The need to avoid layoffs at the bottom, combined with the constant on-call demands, has left many of the once uniquely talented tech professionals feeling like they’re on a treadmill.

It’s hard to be idealistic when you are a disposable cog in a giant machine. It’s not a place for creative outliers, creativity, innovation, innovators, or innovation relationships. You’d better stick to the startups for that, but as the majority of them are capitalized by professional investors seeking to scale and exit with nonlinear gains, perhaps they are simply another kind of treadmill. 

There was a brief time when super-nerd tech folks were more admired than simply exploited. Now, the price of real estate in the tech centers and the work demands are becoming increasingly unreasonable, and the almost expected and demanded integration of what is currently called AI is likely to make things even worse for freethinkers unless they can find ways to use the Large Language Model AIs as helpers to increase their productivity.

We are using billions of transistors to process billions of bits (Gigabypes), resulting in trillions of operations per second (TOPS) and all of us are receiving more communication than we can effectively process, even though the majority of it is either spam or scams. 

Being armed with degrees in physics and electrical engineering in the eighties made for a much more glorious time for me personally. I never felt for a minute that I was on a treadmill because I wasn’t. I felt courted, respected, and valued for my as-yet-undefined talents. 

Today, it seems more about money than about excellence. I feel sorry for these modern worker bees, toiling away without a sense of unity and high morale among the creators.

I call this treadmilling, which does not seem to have much to do with curiosity, excellence, or quality instead of quantity and scaling before you even have traction.