5 Ways Working In Silicon Valley Is A F**king Nightmare
These days we work to live rather than live to work, but Silicon Valley thinks the '80s never ended and Star Trek's Borg are a team-building exercise. The reason they don't fit interns with tracking collars is probably that the cops would use them to find their corpses once they drop dead from exhaustion. But that hasn't stopped them from trying some other things that make Silicon Valley look like a dystopian future driven by computers that pretend to understand humanity but get it horrifyingly wrong.
36-Hour Office Fasts
In the Mad Men era, office workers would take long, liquid lunches. These days you are lucky to grab a sandwich at your desk. But at least it's still food of some kind. Brain-supplement company Nootrobox has taken it even further by instituting 36-hour fasts. Weekly 36-hour fasts. Co-founder George Woo calls it "biohacking," which we can only assume means they've reversed the polarity of their brain supplements, because not eating is the exact opposite of what the body evolved to do. And I say "reversed the polarity" because it sounds sciency but is actually complete bullshit, just like almost all "biohacking."
Starving yourself just to keep a full-time job is quite literally like locking the horse to the cart until it dies of hunger. Tricking your body into thinking it is dying every week would be excessive even if you were curing cancer, never mind flogging $15 chewable coffee cubes. Did digestive systems kill George Woo's parents? Did Jabba The Hutt toss them into a Sarlacc pit?
Woo descends the Starvepole to the Starvecave -- the Greengrocer has returned to Gotham!
Thirty-six hours is a lot longer than an average workday, even in Silicon Valley, so staff are encouraged to not give in to the hunger pangs even after they go home. They get around this monstrous illegality by breezily declaring they "adopted it as part of the company culture" and that sound you heard was every worker-compensation lawyer in the world's ears pricking up. Workplace politics shouldn't include measures that would get a prison warden arrested. When the mold in your ventilation shafts is eating more than your staff on a workday, it's time to seriously rethink your company culture.
The next generation of interns disrupts survival mechanisms by self-starting photosynthesis.
Why, exactly, is it so important for all these people to eat only five and a half days per week? So they can make more money for their corporate overlords, of course. Woo reports that there is boosted productivity on days his staff are very slightly working themselves to death. We can only hope it's because they bathe in donuts every evening and are laughing their elevated blood-sugar levels off at their starving boss. And even that would be too light a response. If our bosses tried to starve us so they could get a slightly bigger bonus, the only thing we'd produce would be a cannibal cookout garnished with a nylon tie.
The last time we talked about Bulletproof they were selling buttered coffee as super-soldier serum. Now they're fitting staff with heart monitors, which you'd assume was a direct consequence of chugging caffeinated fat as a health food. Instead it's to train executives out of going into fight-or-flight mode before meetings. Are they having a meeting with a Tyrannosaurus rex? Specifically, a Jurassic Park T. rex, the kind that can't see you if you hold still two feet from its face? Because that bullshit is more biologically sound than strapping yourself to an EKG machine before a conference call.
Still more convincing than a Bulletproof pitch.
The heart-rate sensors alert the wearer if they're not sufficiently relaxed, which we're sure really helps. This is the final step in extreme micromanagement. You should be allowed to have your own body function in peace. A manager should be able to criticize your heart rate only if you work in Gattaca. But Bulletproof founder Dave Asprey wants to take it further: He's asked neuroscientists to fit his staff with brain-monitoring electrodes, which is the most extreme point in applying technology to people. Maybe if they shove them right through the skull they might at least electrify the pleasure center. Silicon Valley is about a year from deciding they need to shock your nuts as employee motivation.
Future Bulletproof employee reviews will actually let them SEE staff thinking, "Fuck this shit."
This is a worse invasion of employee privacy than a team-building weekend of group colonoscopies. Tracking your staff is a great way to tell them they're only here because they're still cheaper than robots. And all these bio-monitors will make it even easier for Bulletproof to detect human infiltrators when they merge with Cyberdyne.
Incredibly Expensive Nap Pods
Every now and then you'll see gushing articles about Silicon Valley's introduction of things like "nap pods," showing how considerate they are for workers. I'm not saying they're built to be almost impossible to use, but Samsung arrange theirs behind glass along a connecting hallway. Which we presume is called "THE ALLEY OF EXPENDABLE EMPLOYEES." And they're not the only ones. Even the pod manufacturer's own client gallery shows the pods installed in maximum visibility zones like employee ejector seats.
Bask in the relaxing glares of everyone else in the entire company.
The only time co-workers should see you asleep is after company tequila night or a badly thought out office romance. These pods are the same psychological trap for employees as companies that claim to give unlimited vacation time. Technically you can use them as long as you want, but if you do, well, what'll happen the next time they have to cut staff? Or promote someone? And because there's no longer an established minimum time, people take even less than they normally would. These perks are designed to keep employees in the building as long as possible.
Not being able to nap without an electrical socket is some cyber-dystopia shit.
They're called EnergyPods, presumably to make it seem more natural to connect directly once you've earned employee loyalty electrodes in at least three vertebrae. The "Privacy Visor" has a unique spin on that first word, by making sure you can't see out but everyone else in the entire company can see in, which is about as relaxing as a blanket made of spiders. They really hope you can sleep sitting up in one position and don't try to do anything crazy like lie down, roll over, or not wear full business attire while napping.
Well, actually, they don't care, because by the time you're stuck trying one of these they've already been paid for. They cost $13,000 each. Which didn't stop Arianna Huffington from installing several in the combined AOL/Huffington Post New York headquarters. We're sure that waste of money makes all the people remotely writing the site's content for free sleep more easily too.
Camp And Bunk Beds
The sheer number of people clustering in Silicon Valley to revolutionize the world with internet apps proves that they're all lying. If the internet worked one-tenth as well as they claim they wouldn't need to pay thousands of dollars to live in neighboring cupboards. The vast influx of workers has done things to the housing market normally found only in astrophysics. They've created an anti-black hole, a hugely deformed region into which nobody can move. And it's mostly white.
But this feeds into the Valley's true mission of extracting cash from credulous geeks. "Gig economy" means "profiteers don't even have to build the workhouse," and now PodShare is only too happy to provide it. They offer day-to-day housing for "nomadic freelancers," aka people permanently one trending topic away from homelessness. PodShare crams a warehouse full of people into beds that turn into desks by day, eliminates those pesky walls and privacy people hate, and calls it "co-living" instead of "the apocalyptic endpoint of intern exploitation."
Even in their own ad there's a dude mere seconds from committing acoustic guitar.
Their site is flypaper for every hipster office buzzword. They advertise a complete lack of barriers between your unconscious body and total strangers as a positive. They call themselves "a social network with a physical address." Just writing that sentence shows they don't understand any of the terrifying problems of the internet or cities. Even their own advert shows an incredibly extroverted person leaping into other people's spaces, using their toothbrushes, stealing their food, and just never, ever stopping talking. They become more tone-deaf than a donkey raised in a jet-engine factory by parodying charity ads with an "Ending World Loneliness" campaign. They're actively mocking the lack of choice suffered by people paying to stay in Not-Being-Arrested-For-Vagrancy Zone #1 because they can't even afford a motel with walls.
A number of self-described "Podestrians" have made things even more tragic than calling themselves "Podestrians" by getting tattoos. Tattoos can be amazing expressions of your unique identity, and the idea that Nat, Podestrian #366892's most definitive experience is being forced to work from a glorified hostel makes me want to cry until future Human Co-Living Authority decides it's an unacceptable waste of Intern Commune #453's water perk.
I am not a number, I am a TEMPORARILY PROFITABLE number!
Assuming you're straight, white, cis, male, at least partially bulletproof, have no sense of smell, and at least four other things you'd need for constantly changing stranger roommates to be a nice-sounding idea, well, it still sucks. Because PodShare's bold vision for a co-living future without loneliness aims for the extinction of the human race. They've enforced a strict "no sex" rule. "We built the pods facing each other so the community polices itself," says co-founder Elvina Beck. The humans won't even realize what we've done until they're too weak and outnumbered, she didn't add but clearly implied.
Which means nobody of our generation ever gets to mock hippies ever again. At least their Utopian version of society still included getting laid.
Employee IDs That Track Your Conversation Energy Level
OK, here we go. This is next-level creepy shit. The Hitachi Business Microscope is an ID card that doesn't just know your exact location, it tracks your movements and your volume during conversations to see if you're "engaged" enough with your co-workers. But don't worry about the invasion-of-privacy aspect. Seriously, don't worry about it, because this thing will be able to fucking tell and is clearly aimed at work environments where contributing fewer than 10 voluntary unpaid hours a week gets you recycled into printer paper. Gaze in horror at this press release from Hitachi.
Remember when the evil machines pretended to be human? Good times.
Whoever issued that needs to have the synthetic flesh ripped from their mechanized endoskeleton before they find human resistance, which at this point is anyone who doesn't nod appreciatively enough during five-hour corporate profit synergization seminars. "Organization activation level" is something Hunk Beefsteak has to prevent from reaching 100 percent by activating the EMP.
These have already been used by a Michigan office furniture company and a Silicon Valley telecom company. We're no longer surprised by Silicon Valley, because if there's anything dehumanizing with an LED light they'll spend an entire round of venture funding on it instead of parental leave. But an office furniture company? Why do they need beeping emotion monitors? Is "office furniture" a cover for entombing interns in Dalek shells in the name of ergonomic productivity?
SYN-ER-GISE! SYN-ER-GISE! YOU DO NOT HAVE INSURANCE TO SEE THE DOC-TOR!
LCDs show real-time readouts and benchmark targets. Your own badge will tell you whether you are properly interacting with other flesh units -- sorry, "humans" -- in compliance with corporate-mandated regulations. The goal is a work environment where people are less important than their own ID cards, which have been given the power to judge them. A world where every human interaction has the glossy desperation of a bank receptionist grinning hard enough to compress their cheek muscles to diamond fibers while even their soul hides in the back of their skull so that their desperation doesn't leak out their glassy eyes and get them fired.
Hitachi isn't even the only company doing this. Humanyze is at the same shit, and "Humanyze" even sounds like a dystopian SyFy series about humans fighting incredibly shitty computerized enemies. The only reason these companies aren't surgically converting staff into Cybermen is because that would count as providing medical care. Instead they'll make you wear monitoring gear on your rotting body and charge you if you lose it.
Learn more appalling workplace practices with 7 WTF Ways Seemingly Innocent Companies Screw Their Workers and 5 Dark Sides Of The Tech Industry No One Ever Talks About.
Luke writes about 5 Scientific Facts Which Sound Like Shitty Fantasy Writing and 5 Scientific Ideas Which Will Melt Your Brain.
Luke writes ZERO POINT COMEDY science humor, has a mailing list, and responds to every single tweet.
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