2 thoughts on “Googler for a day

  1. Sriram Narayan

    Thanks for sharing this talk. You raise vital issues. I feel you’ve restrained yourself from stronger prescriptions to avoid antagonizing the majority tech-loving audience.

    Your use of ‘human-centered design’ is new to me. Generally, I have encountered it in the the context of ‘Don’t make the user think’ and making tech invisible. Based on your talk, I’d cast it as a call for agency-sensitive-design instead of productivity/efficiency centered design. For what you are arguing for is to preserve human agency in the face of automation (reminds me of Matt Crawford – Shopclass as Soulcraft).

    Economic forces are indeed a formidable force against agency-sensitive design. Engineers don’t get to decide the extent of automation – entrepreneurs do. Capital seeks to maximize returns by staying legal – it doesn’t care about loss of human agency or long-term atrophying of skills. When austerity is the new normal, any job creation is to be applauded, so goes the dominant refrain – even in the form of warehouse pickers and packers for e-commerce giants. To speak of jobs that respect human agency is to ask for unaffordable luxuries. Grim.

    You point out very well that fulfillment is found in work, not in delegating it to automation. One cannot enjoy leisure without experiencing work. This is true. However, workers who serve as sensors for automation do not obtain greater leisure as a result of automation. Their lot is to work longer in lower-paying, lower-skilled jobs in order to stay afloat. Monbiot has pointed out that since World War II, unlike some European countries, the U.S. has reacted to greater productivity with greater production and advertising-induced consumption, not by reducing work hours (expanding leisure). And the European model is now cast as non-competitive and business unfriendly.

    So in my view, the bigger picture is more ominous than a glass cage. That said, I haven’t read the book – perhaps you do address it.

  2. Andrew Francis

    @Nicholas Carr: In reference to the Googler’s question about the motivation for the title…. I have to admit when I first heard the title, I thought it was a play on two things: 1) Google Glass 2) Max Weber’s (via Talcott Parsons) ‘iron cage’ of means-ends rationality.

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