John P. Carlin is on track to become the Justice Department’s top national security lawyer, and assume responsibility for approving the thousands of domestic surveillance requests sent to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court every year. If Attorney General Eric Holder had his way, Carlin never would have been nominated.
As Shane Harris reported at Foreign Policy yesterday, Holder “strenuously” objected to Carlin, who was instead the favored choice of White House officials “Kathryn Ruemmler, the White House counsel, and Lisa Monaco, the president’s homeland security and counterterrorism adviser.” Carlin had been Monaco’s chief of staff when she held the position, Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division, prior to moving to the White House, and he now holds the office in an Acting capacity. Holder reportedly had his own list of candidates, including his own former national security counsel, Amy Jeffress.
Carlin’s anonymous critics quoted in the FP piece level two primary charges against him. First, while he is nominally qualified for the position, “several career prosecutors who know and have worked with Carlin say he does not have a firm enough grasp of national security and surveillance law, which is particularly important when approving applications for surveillance warrants in terrorism and espionage cases.” Second, and seemingly more to the core of the issue, “Former officials said they are concerned that Carlin … doesn’t speak as an independent voice for the department, but rather is aligning his positions first with the White House, and particularly with Monaco, thus undermining Holder’s authority.” Two went so far as to draw “comparisons to John Yoo, the controversial Justice Department attorney in the George W. Bush administration, who was known to have his own relationships with White House officials and was seen as operating outside channels meant to guard against political influence.” John Yoo was most famously the author of the Bush Administration “torture memos”.
At a time when more attention than ever before is being paid to the legal and extra-legal acrobatics the executive branch has performed to expand its surveillance powers, Carlin’s appointment should already be facing special scrutiny from the Senate Judiciary Committee. According to Slate, “The government has an astonishing success rate before the FISA court. Between 2010 and 2012, the court approved all of the 5,180 applications for surveillance and physical searches except for one that the government unilaterally withdrew.” That near-automatic approval makes the independence of the Justice Department all the more important. As one anti-Carlin former official quoted by Harris says, “There should be some walls between the Justice Department and the White House. The White House should not have a direct feed.”
Much of the resistance to Carlin quoted in the Foreign Policy piece appears to be a turf war between Holder and other Obama Administration officials. But the position and its responsibilities are far too important to pass without severe scrutiny in the post-Snowden era.
As the New York Times reported yesterday,
More than two dozen of the nation’s biggest corporations, including the five major oil companies, are planning their future growth on the expectation that the government will force them to pay a price for carbon pollution as a way to control global warming.
This information comes from a recent report issued by the Carbon Disclosure Project, a nonprofit that specializes in organizing environmental information. The CDP report finds major oil companies, Wells Fargo, Wal-Mart, Walt Disney Company, automotive supplier Delphi, General Electric, energy companies like Duke, and even technology companies such as Google and Microsoft all including a future carbon price in their planning. The internal company projections range across industries, but generally it appears that the oil companies are forecasting the highest carbon prices in their internal planning, with BP pricing $40 per ton of carbon dioxide, Exxon Mobil $60, and Royal Dutch Shell $40.
At least three companies, Disney, Microsoft, and Shell, already implement their own internal carbon taxes. According to the Guardian, these companies have been enforcing the price within their own organizations in order to drive down their carbon footprint and increase efficiency. Shell has the highest price of the three, and so only uses the price for planning purposes; no money actually moves around. Nevertheless, Shell officials told the Guardian that they have declined pursuing carbon-intensive projects that a $40 per ton price makes unattractive. Disney, on the other hand, prices and taxes themselves. The funds raised from the tax deposited in their “climate solutions fund.” Currently, they price approximately $10-20 per ton, and have raised $35 million. Microsoft has the most aggressive goal, of seeking zero net emissions this year, and has the correspondingly lowest price, approximately $6-7 per ton.
While there are a variety of motivations for aggressive carbon pricing, the oil companies, such as Shell, are seeking to be prepared for increasing concern in industrial countries about the effect of carbon emissions on global climate change. As there are a variety of proposals circulating the globe, they are seeking a predictable program that will let them stay in business.
In the September/October issue of The American Conservative, R Street’s Andrew Moylan laid out the conservative case for a carbon tax. He looked at the manner in which conservatives consistently denied any problems in the health care industry, leaving the ball entirely in the Democratic court and allowing Obamacare to be passed in the first place. Moylan then laid out a plan for getting conservatives out ahead of the curve. By making the tax revenue neutral, he proposed being able to pursue other conservative policy goals, such as a more growth-friendly tax code, in exchange for addressing climate change.
Such a strategy learns the best lessons on practicing opposition politics from the Viscount Bolingbroke. By addressing a danger widely acknowledged by those of good faith, but in a manner consistent with their principles, conservatives have the chance to wrong-foot their opponents by pursuing positive policies, rather than political stunts.
The test scores are in, and the U.S. is lagging far behind. That’s the headline rippling across America’s newspapers this week as the Programme for International Student Assessment has released its 2012 evaluations of schoolchildren across the world, and Americans are once again finding out that they are far from being #1.
The New York Times noted that “The United States’ underperformance was particularly striking in math, where 29 countries or education systems had higher test scores. In science, students in 22 countries did better than Americans, and in reading, 19 countries.” NBC News anchor Brian Williams opened his PISA segment by describing “the big and sobering news tonight about the state of American education and just how quickly the rest of the world is passing us by.”
The thing is, we’ve always flunked these tests. Since international comparative testing programs began in the 1960s, education reform advocate Diane Ravitch notes “U.S. students have never been top performers on the international tests. We are doing about the same now on PISA as we have done for the past half century.” And for the past half-century, the periodic release of these results have sent American politicians and journalists into a tizzy about the declining competitiveness of the American classroom, a dark phenomenon heralding national decline.
Despite those mediocre test scores, however, one would have to say that the United States has done rather well for itself. We have had our troubles in the intervening years to be sure, but it’s not like the French have overtaken us and are now running away with the world thanks to their superior education. Some scholarly experts warn that even so, we’re in a new era now and decline is once again just around the street corner. The Times quoted Stanford professor Eric A. Hanushek as saying,
Our economy has still been strong because we have a very good economic system that is able to overcome the deficiencies of our education system … But increasingly, we have to rely on the skills of our work force, and if we don’t improve that, we’re going to be slipping.
With due deference to Dr. Hanushek, I rather suspect things may be the other way around. More rigorously organized cultures like Germany, China, South Korea, France, etc. have crafted their educational systems around the primacy of the test, and have driven their students to excel in it. They also often use these tests to sort their students into the tracks determining what further education they will receive. Do well on your eighth grade exams, go to university. Score differently, and get an apprenticeship. The United States has a much more free-wheeling system that industrial employers lament is failing to sufficiently supply them with diesel engine experts.
What we do have, though (and regular readers brace yourselves), is Silicon Valley. The entrepreneur may be overrated in the GOP at the moment, but a creative culture that fosters innovative risks shouldn’t be taken for granted. Moreover, having even the remnant of a liberal arts education circulating in our educational drinking water provides an essential enriching service to our culture. Diesel engine builders may not need to read To Kill a Mockingbird, or Joseph Conrad, or to stare hopelessly at whatever seemingly nonsensical Shakespeare sits in front of them. But we offer every kid the chance to be captured by beauty, and to remember a high school reading when they grow up and realize what Kafkaesque really means.
Ravitch quotes from Keith Baker’s essay “Are International Tests Worth Anything?”: “What has mattered most for the economic, cultural, and technological success of the U.S., he says, is a certain “spirit,” which he defines as “ambition, inquisitiveness, independence, and perhaps most important, the absence of a fixation on testing and test scores.”
That sounds about right.
Haven’t you heard? Amazon is debuting its very own delivery-by-drone. So Jeff Bezos revealed to Charlie Rose in last night’s
Cyber Monday infomercial ”60 Minutes” report. In the ensuing commentary on Twitter, though, McKay Coppins of Buzzfeed noted that
Lots of these Amazon drone tweets remind me of this 1995 Newsweek essay on how the whole internet thing is hype: http://t.co/IpelTyr2r8
— McKay Coppins (@mckaycoppins) December 2, 2013
Clifford Stoll’s 1995 essay quickly circulated as the epitome of myopic grouching, with Scott Winship of the Manhattan Institute musing
Seriously, this ’95 Newsweek column on internet-boosting hucksters may be least prescient thing ever written http://t.co/QJw94jIgau
— Scott Winship (@swinshi) December 2, 2013
Yet not all of Stoll’s criticisms are wholly wrongheaded, and pulling apart what he got (very) wrong from what still stands can teach us about technology’s ability to live up to the hype. Back in February 1995, Michael Jordan was a baseball player, the Dow Jones was hitting 4,000 for the very first time, and Pamela Anderson was joined in holy matrimony with Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee. Stoll looked around himself, and wrote that
Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries and multimedia classrooms. They speak of electronic town meetings and virtual communities. Commerce and business will shift from offices and malls to networks and modems. And the freedom of digital networks will make government more democratic.
The funny thing is, that’s exactly what many futurists of today are still heralding, nearly 20 years later. Given the pace of digital advancements and the rapid development of internet technology, you would hope they’d have a new future to sell us on, once the old one was thoroughly obtained. Then Stoll got himself in his first sticky situation, saying “The truth in [sic] no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works.” As Jeff Bezos himself can attest, the daily newspaper is not faring well compared to its online competition. Yet Stoll’s second two points are sound. For all the MOOC hype, teaching really is a fundamentally human activity, born of interaction and guidance, response and customization. Information may be able to be transmitted and tested online, but an education will only be obtained from a teacher. And as much as the digital age has changed parts of our politics, the tasks of governance and compromise have remained stubbornly resistant to solution by algorithm. If anything, the internet has given the government new things to fail at.
Driving from Washington, D.C., to Atlanta this Thanksgiving weekend, I had the opportunity to read Burkhard Bilger’s great New Yorker article on the development of self-driving cars. It’s a long, involved story melding technical accomplishments with personal storytelling, and throws in a healthy dash of historical context. I was able to take the time to work through the full thing because I was in the back seat, freed from driving responsibilities by my absence from the rental car agreement my parents had signed up in York, PA. From time to time I booted up my laptop, and started surfing the web using a Verizon wireless hotspot, at full 4G LTE speeds. My sister used this same arrangement to watch movies streaming from Netflix, one more way to pass the tedium. We are just old enough (mid-twenties) to still be able to occasionally gasp at the seeming absurdity of streaming high quality video and maintaining instantaneous communication with the wider world while hurtling down the highway at 70 miles an hour. The road trip entertainment of our childhood was strictly restricted to the print and personal variety.
We now have ever more activities to occupy our time, and a worldwide connection that can follow us nearly anywhere we go. We don’t need to lose connection when we take off or land in a plane. Why shouldn’t the driver be able to get in on the fun?
From the consumer’s point of view, this is the great appeal of self-driving vehicles: liberation from the monotony of hurtling down empty expanses of highway, or inching along in the gridlock of the commute. Bilger cites an earlier advertisement for the long prophesied self-driving cars as depicting a family turned toward the each other, playing checkers as they move. But as Bilger describes Google’s motivations in pouring its resources into developing this technology, the men of Mountain View have more on their mind than consumer convenience. Relief from tedium through automation was the promise of the last century, the pitch that sold a thousand washing machines.
Instead, Sergey Brin, one of Google’s co-founders, wants nothing more than to (wait for it) “fundamentally change the world with this.” He looks out on the expanse of America’s urban landscape and sees wide swaths of wasted land as cars are used for a couple hours a day at most, then occupy prime real estate unproductively the rest of the day. His self-driving cars can become a fleet, providing personal car service to commuters at a far higher efficiency than today’s taxies, yet more flexible than metro, bus, or light-rail systems. As Brin said, “We’re not trying to fit into an existing business model … We are just on such a different planet.” At least so far, though, that different planet doesn’t let free the driver from his responsibility behind the wheel. Attentive human beings are required to be at the ready in case the car needs to hand off responsibility, having become confused. Even assuming as we surely should that Google makes enormous strides in ironing out what few errors remain, it already takes measurable seconds for a human in the driver’s seat to reorient to the situation after being distracted. Imagine if that person first had to be spun around from their checkers match with the kids. Read More…
Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo of the AP revealed yesterday the existence of a previously unknown secret CIA facility at Guantanamo Bay, tasked with turning captured terrorists into double agents. Set up along with the makeshift prison facility as prisoners flowed into the American base in Cuba, the secret CIA outpost was best known by the Beatles-inspired name “Penny Lane.”
Candidates were ushered from the confines of prison to Penny Lane’s relative hominess, officials said. The cottages had private kitchens, showers and televisions. Each had a small patio.
Some prisoners asked for and received pornography. One official said the biggest luxury in each cottage was the bed, not a military-issued cot but a real bed with a mattress.
The cottages were designed to feel more like hotel rooms than prison cells, and some CIA officials jokingly referred to them collectively as the Marriott.
In contrast with the prison conditions, Penny Lane appears to have been practically a luxury resort. Indeed, cottages in the Caribbean are a hotly sought after commodity. The great, cruel irony of the Penny Lane program’s perks, however, is that they were obviously unavailable to prisoners without any actual terrorist connections. As Goldman and Apuzzo note, Bush administration officials at the time characterized Guantanamo detainees as the “worst of a very bad lot,” in Vice President Cheney’s words, or “among the most dangerous, best trained, vicious killers on the face of the Earth,” as Donald Rumsfeld described them.
In reality, many were held on flimsy evidence and were of little use to the CIA.
While the agency looked for viable candidates, those with no terrorism ties sat in limbo. It would take years before the majority of detainees were set free, having never been charged. Of the 779 people who were taken to Guantanamo Bay, more than three-fourths have been released, mostly during the Bush administration.
Those swept up in the heat of battle and spirited across the globe remained in their cells as some of the true terrorists were wined and dined by a CIA seeking their cooperation. The AP notes that “infiltrating al-Qaida has been one of the CIA’s most sought-after but difficult goals, something that other foreign intelligence services have only occasionally accomplished,” increasing their eagerness to set up shop and obtain what sources they could. They did have some successes, as “some of the men who passed through Penny Lane helped the CIA find and kill many top al-Qaida operatives, current and former U.S. officials said,” though “others stopped providing useful information and the CIA lost touch with them.”
As the years dragged on, however, and the detainee’s contacts faded in freshness, the program dried up, closing altogether by 2006. So today, the Guantanamo Bay prisons still stand, with what prisoners remain. Five years after Barack Obama took office pledging to close the prison, it stays open. And Penny Lane’s cottages, though empty, still stand.
When Amazon rolled out its plan to offer same-day delivery, Farhad Manjoo (now of the WSJ) heralded the moment as the death of local retail. Who, after all, would take the time and effort to track down a purchase in the physical aisles of a superstore when “the everything store” would send it to your doorstep courtesy of FedEx? As the New York Times reported yesterday, there appears to be a third way.
Amazon has spent the past couple years laying out hundreds of millions of dollars to build distribution centers across the country to facilitate its expedited delivery program. As Manjoo described last year,
Amazon is investing $130 million in new facilities in New Jersey that will bring it into the backyard of New York City; another $135 million to build two centers in Virginia that will allow it to service much of the mid-Atlantic; $200 million in Texas; and more than $150 million in Tennessee and $150 million in Indiana to serve the middle of the country. … In total, Amazon will spend $500 million and hire 10,000 people at its new California warehouses.
All told, that’s $1.2 billion and change to establish warehouses coast-to-coast. It is also a dramatic shift in Amazon’s business model, as there is no way to get out of collecting sales tax when you have enormous business operations in a state, neutralizing one of its long-standing advantages over brick and mortar retailers. The “immediate gratification” push is thus more than an incremental step in services offered; it’s a bet on the future of the company.
Yet as Amazon starts to set up shop by concentrating stores of purchaseables in the proximity of major cities, others, including online auction giant eBay, are realizing that local concentrations of salable items already exist: namely, in stores. According to the logistics VP of same-day delivery start-up Deliv, “Organizations like Sears and Walmart have inventory within five miles of 95 percent of the American population via their brick and mortar stores.”
The NYT tells the story of Karen Horowitz, a Manhattan mother in need of fresh diapers and a new changing table pad while watching her 5-week-old baby sleep. Rather than waking her newborn up, dressing her, and dragging her downtown to buy the needed supplies, Ms. Horowitz logged onto eBay Now. For a $5 fee, eBay dispatched to Babies “R” Us a young courier who bought the supplies with a company card and biked them up to Ms. Horowitz’s apartment. All within one hour.
This business model has been tried once before, and it failed in spectacular fashion. Every story about this rising trend will reference Kozmo, the online delivery service (actually partly Amazon-funded) that rose in 1999 promising a new revolution in online shopping, and fell apart as one of the most prominent failures of the dot-com bubble. Kozmo could not find a workable business model in time, as it required no minimum purchase and charged no delivery fee, instead skimming a bit off the sale. Even with its $25 minimum purchase and (soon to be waived for the holidays) $5 fee, it is hard to imagine eBay is making any money off of the enterprise.
What’s more, even as Amazon’s sales tax dodging advantage disappears, it maintains a price advantage from a business model that doesn’t require profits. For the brick and mortar businesses of the retail sector, however, any hope of competing with the Bezos buzz saw makes for a welcome change of pace.
Science fiction has always been one of the leading ways for our culture to process and project the changes that science and technology will introduce into our lives, going back to Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis, perhaps the first work of sci-fi from one of modern science’s founding fathers. Fox took up the Baconian baton this week when it launched its new show “Almost Human” about a broken down cop returning to the field alongside his administratively imposed, but likewise retrieved from the scrap heap, android partner.
In her initial recap, Christine Rosen, a senior editor at The New Atlantis (the magazine) and fellow at the New America Foundation, notes that “Fear and loathing of robots is a trope of long standing in science fiction,” but that “fear and loathing might be giving way to grudging acceptance.” Robots after all, are creeping ever further into every facet of our everyday life, whether deploying in the place of citizen soldiers in the distribution of lethal force, or offering comfort to the lonely and aged in Japan’s great greying. Machines have replaced men in factories for doing the heavy labor, and are being adapted to supplement the remaining human workforce elsewhere. Even cars, the symbol of American liberation from constricting locality, are seen to have an automated future when it might very well be unethical or illegal for an unreliable and precious member of our species to be wielding the wheel unaided.
Rosen notes previous cop-machine pairings in popular culture, like KITT and Michael in Knight Rider:
KITT the computerized talking car was a reliable and sympathetic friend to Michael (played by David Hasselhoff). But although the Hoff was always thankful for KITT, he rarely ended an episode of Knight Rider without securing a new girlfriend. The ineffable pleasure that relationships with other human beings bring was something earlier shows took for granted.
Rosen sees “Almost Human” to suggest, in line with techno-utopian tendencies currently lurking in some prominent corners of Silicon Valley, that robots can replace or substitute for human intimacy, emotional or otherwise. After all Dorian, the outdated android partner, is programmed with an empathetic circuitry that seems to exceed the wetware of his grizzled human companion, John Kennex. And the second episode centered around breakthroughs in “sex-bot” technology that replace significant chunks of demand for human prostitutes by offering attractive and attentive androids for rent. To Rosen, “Almost Human” ”is normalizing the notion that we can create technologies that can teach us how to be better human beings.”
From my first watching, of the first two episodes that have so far aired, however, “Almost Human” may be susceptible to a more generous reading. Read More…
Ripley had argued, with nuance and evidence and thorough argument to be sure, that the overriding emphasis that many American school systems place on high school athletics detracts from the educational mission of our educative institutions. She brought particular attention to the tremendous cost of maintaining teams, especially once travel, and cheerleaders, and substitute teachers come into play. Her primary case study, the Premont Independent School District, axed its sports programs in the midst of extreme financial stress, realizing that “football at Premont cost about $1,300 a player. Math, by contrast, cost just $618 a student.”
Green brought to print a debate Ripley had under the auspices of the New America Foundation on this very topic. At the debate, Grantland contributor and New America fellow Louisa Thomas brought Tocqueville onto the field:
We’re a nation of joiners—this is like Tocqueville’s original insight,” Thomas said. “This is a country in which people are drawn to teams; communities build themselves. In other countries, there’s a great sense of inherited identity. One of the functions that sports plays is social cohesion, and it’s a mistake to understate how important that can be.
Green continued to note that “For some students and their families, other after-school activities might satisfy this urge to form and join groups. But for many, Friday-night football and Saturday games of soccer are part of a broader spirit of sharing a common goal and being part of a community.” She quotes Tocqueville himself in his famous description: “Americans of all ages, all conditions, and all dispositions constantly form associations. They have not only commercial and manufacturing companies, in which all take part, but associations of a thousand other kinds, religious, moral, serious, futile, general or restricted, enormous or diminutive.”
It should be noted that voluntary associations apart from school play a large part in youth athletics already. Pop Warner football and Little League baseball are the quintessential examples of community-supported competition, where the local hardware store sponsors a team that squares off against the grocer’s boys. At higher levels of non-football sports, the outside organizations have even started to eclipse high schools, as AAU basketball circuits have surpassed the high school in collegiate talent evaluation, and travel soccer and softball teams fill their weekends with tournaments.
For football though, high school is still king. It is the most expensive sport to run, with the largest rosters, and often has, for the sake of pure preservation, the fewest games. They bring the cheerleading squads to the field, and the geeks get in on the action with their precisely choreographed marching band routines. They bring a town together, as students from one side of the county meet and mix with other schools, often drawn from very different populations.
Taking the whole ensemble on the road is expensive to be sure, and firing up the Friday Night Lights over a state-of-the-art field smacks of classic American commercial excess. The concussion crisis can’t be discounted, nor the risks of educational distraction. But there’s more to school than test scores. There’s an education in self-governance, and an orientation towards community during the time when we can feel most alienated.
A wealthy Manhattanite couple feared that their 5-year-old child, Erela, was not receiving a sufficiently refined palate from her hired nanny, who, being “from Wisconsin, does not always know the difference between quinoa and couscous.” So they hired a new service that trains nannies of the well-to-do in the shopping and food preparation that their employers would prefer. Organic? Locally sourced? Bringing styles in from South Asia and Portland alike? marc&mark will walk your nanny through the Whole Foods aisles and whip the less cultured into shape. In this instance, the mother “wanted her daughter to adopt a more refined and global palate, whether it’s a gluten-free kale salad or falafel made from organic chickpeas.”
In a certain corner of the Internet, near-Marxist rage and resentment at the TriBeCa couple and their perhaps even more distastefully disconnected profiler seethed forth. Yet Matt Yglesias of Slate swung into action with the seeming ultimate #SlatePitch: defending the system of hiring professional chefs to train the nannies you pay to take care of your children so you don’t have to bother. Though he did fear the mob enough to hedge himself: “Like every sensible denizen of the Internet, I find myself appalled by Caroline Tell’s article about how Dan Yashiv and Stephanie Johnson hired a consulting firm to instruct their nanny in how to cook fancier food.”
Yglesias argued that “But beyond cringing, we really ought to think a bit about the future of work and the future of the economy.” With a manufacturing sector that increasingly could be occupied by automated machines instead of unionized workers, and income inequality at peak levels that show no signs of peaking, chefs training nannies looks an awful lot like the future of the workforce:
[I]f you compare rich people in developed countries to middle class people in developed countries, the rich people don’t consume vastly larger quantities of manufactured goods than the middle class people do. Instead the rich people consume more and fancier services [emphasis original].
Indeed, Yglesias sees a silver lining to the Times story, that the parents are actually investing in the skills of their workforce, giving their Wisconsin nanny a chance to command a higher wage once she moves on from their TriBeCa digs. We can’t see that silver lining because we see personal service as essentially servile, and uncomfortably undemocratic.
Walter Russell Mead weighed in over the weekend, pointing out that “People Thought the Industrial Revolution Was Servile Too.” Mead says, “At the beginning of the industrial age, both the left and sentimentalists denounced factory work as servile and destructive, compared to the honest independence of the family farmer,” the same work being held up as today’s good, honest labor from a time quickly slipping by. It is worth remembering that the original Luddites were artisans feeling threatened by dehumanizing machinery, and when Henry Ford introduced the modern assembly line, his long-time factory workers simply walked out at the prospect of such degrading and monotonous work. Matt Crawford’s Shop Class as Soulcraft is essential reading for those interested in these issues.
Yglesias and Mead are right to dispel us of any overly sentimental attachments to assembly-line work. In fact, as the 20th century was marked by unparalleled human scientific, material, and medicinal progress, which we shouldn’t dispute, it was also a century driven by an impoverished theory of work. Frederick Taylor’s theories of “scientific management” pervaded, motivated by a vision of a few expert managers who could move human laborers around in the most optimal fashion, sucking as much intellectual work up the chain of command as possible and hollowing out the conception of the laborer to a machine that had to eat. Similar ideas infected more white-collar work as well, as the idea of a “manager” was invented and tasked with turning the product of human endeavors into spreadsheet results.
With all the disruption technologies have brought to our economy, we may have a chance to build the 21st century along more humane understandings of labor and productivity. If we do, it will be based on an a conception of people that accounts for human potentiality and organizes us to pursue common endeavors, not just play our part in the machine.
The service sector will very likely be a bigger part of our workforce going forward, but it shouldn’t be one based on a Style piece. As Hayes noted, for an article ostensibly about nannies, there was one person’s voice very conspicuously missing.