Thinking aloud

At Work

7 thoughts
last posted July 19, 2014, 1:39 p.m.
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In the workplace, I might respect your skills while not respecting your talents. Different roles have different requirements, different balances of the two. But as you ascend the hierarchy you often find the balance tipping in favor of talent.

'I don't know any of this stuff; you're the expert,' the CEO tells the IT guy, as he waits for his printer to be set up. But there's an inversion of the Hegelian Knechtschaft, a righting of the traditional dynamic: there's the message, It is not worth my time or talents to know this stuff; better I should pay you to know it for me. The slave secretly pities his master for his master's ignorance and dependency; the master pities his slave for his skill—for the degree to which his life energy has been transformed into technical ability, the crude stuff of labor.

Talent, like art, always tends to uselessness. The more of a capacity for idleness, philosophy, reflection—the more of a capacity in the aristocrat or his modern reflex, the CEO, for uselessness, the more brilliant and worthy of his station he may consider himself.

The most perfect leader is the one who has perfectly abstracted himself, until he stops being a leader and becomes a philosopher.


Not every contribution to a discussion demands or merits a response, even opposing ones. This should be understood by a speaker and by their critics.


Putting on a uniform and Sartre's bad faith are, so to speak, examples of each other. The agent adopts some subset of their own humanity as the totality, if only for a time, of their existence. There is no essential difference here between these modes of refusing total agency; indeed the willingness to adopt the constrained mode of one's office, whatever it is, can be seen as the highest luxury there is.

Everywhere we find ourselves swaddled like babies in legalism; the CEO's sole directive is to render profit to his shareholders. So he becomes gloriously bound to his duty, and unaffected by the yawning, ever-stretching plain of choice and moral repercussions that seems to follow actual freedom like a shadow.


It's in the interests of bosses everywhere to believe that their workers are happy.


It seems like there are two main approaches to systems design: the one where, when composing separate features, you abstract them all until you derive a conceptual lowest common denominator, and then define a single unified hierarchy where every feature is an example of one of the elements of a generalized mechanism; and the one where each feature (or a given new feature) is developed independently and in a manner that requires the least overhead, conceptual or otherwise.


It seems like most people have a bias towards one approach or the other. And that skill in systems design (as opposed to talent) is largely a matter of knowing when a given situation demands one or the other approach.


Finally it seems (maybe somewhat fancifully) that these two approaches have analogues or at least namesakes in the linguistic world. We might call the former synthetic and the latter analytic.

Child Streams

The eternal problem of time management

So it occurs to me that one of the interesting problems in personal productivity and to-do lists and the like is the problem of programmatically determining free time. I will tell you my thought process here:

9 thoughts
updated Nov. 14, 2012, 10:38 p.m.