What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. AFGE Local 1904. Here we are 15 weeks past the “end of max telework” and the union, such as it is, still hasn’t come through on delivering the new and improved telework agreement. So, we’re still grinding along with only two days a week like pre-COVID barbarians… as if 30 months of operating nearly exclusively through telework didn’t prove that working from home works. All this is ongoing while hearing stories of other organizations tucked in next door that are offering their people four or five day a week work from home options. It’s truly a delight working for the sick man of the enterprise. There’s probably plenty of blame to go around, but since the updated and perfectly acceptable policy for supervisors was published 15 weeks ago, I’m going to continue to go ahead and put every bit of blame on Local 1904 for failing their members (and those of us who they “represent” against our will) for not getting this shit done.

2. Eggs. You can’t swing a dead chicken without reading or hearing a story about the price of eggs. People like eggs, you see. The current period of inflation has coincided with a months-long bird flu outbreak that has hit domestic chicken flocks particularly hard. Even if we assume that demand for eggs has been stable, there are fewer chickens laying them and therefore fewer eggs coming to market. With the product in shortage, the price has increased markedly. It’s not a plot. It’s not surprising. It’s literally the fundamental free market elements of supply and demand doing their thing to find equilibrium. One more story about the sky falling really, truly, isn’t going to make a difference.

3. Humanity. I read a lot. No shock there. This week I’ve been served up several articles about computers or AI “eclipsing” humanity. To that, I mostly offer a shrug. Look around at the masterful job we’ve done running the place as the apex species. We’re collectively like the kid that was sent to school and eats his textbook. Why not let AI run the show for a while? Do we really think it’ll make a worse hash of things or are we terrified it would do better?

On not messing around with what works…

For a long time now I’ve been a holdout in the world that seems determined that all music should stream through services like Spotify or Pandora. It’s something I really got thinking about this weekend while sitting through an excruciatingly slow series of traffic light changes – and I think I know why I’m so resistant to a change that should theoretically be more or less painless. 

There are a couple of things at play here, in my estimation. First, I’ve lived through the change from cassette tapes to compact disks to MP3s. In some cases that means there’s music I’ve now purchased in three different formats… and now the streamers want me to pay rent for them on top of it. There’s a bit of adding insult to injury there and is definitely part of why I hold on grimly to the way we use to do things. 

But there’s another, probably more important factor.

As I flicked from song to song in my heavily curated iTunes playlist, waiting for the light to change so I could pull a few car lengths closer to being able to turn, each song that came up spurred a very specific memory of time and place. Some of them from high school, some from college. Some late nights with good friends. Some bitter, heartbroken mornings. Every single one of the thousands of possible songs I have teed up evokes thoughts and feelings otherwise lost to memory.

Creedence, Queen, Tom Petty, Aerosmith, Genesis, Waylon Jennings, Good Charlotte, Lou Reed, Louis Armstrong, Mayday Parade, Steve Miller, and an absolute shit ton of others are all jammed into my phone. They sing the songs I want to hear… and I didn’t need any artificial intelligence to pick them out for me. Maybe that’s old fashioned of me, but I’m ok with that.

I’m not one of these people who thinks all new music is awful. New stuff finds its way onto my lists when it speaks to me. Having the internet serve up what it thinks I might like after running me through an algorithm just doesn’t hit the same way as organically finding the songs “in the wild.” It’s been my experience so far that music by algorithm is about as useful as Facebook trying to decide what random articles and information I want to see on its platform. Sometimes it gets close, but it never quite gets it right.

Right, wrong, or indifferent, I’ll keep on with my own way of doing things until I’m absolutely forced into making a change. It feels a lot like messing with something that’s working for me to achieve very little gain in function. I’ll take a pass. 

Robots…

They say robots and artificial intelligence are coming to take all the jobs. Apparently this time it’s not just manufacturing that’s going to feel the pinch of automation, but professional services will be absorbed into the collective too.

On days when I’ve sent 87 emails and received about twice as many, all I can really wonder is what the hell out robot overlords are waiting for? Why on earth would I resist or even object to an AI system taking over the heavy lifting so I can focus in on the 5-10% of those emails that should have really gotten some academic rigor rather than just the stock answer.

As far as robots taking over the place, personally I welcome it. Let them do the drudgery and free up some good old fashioned human brainpower to deal with the stuff that actually matters.

Then again, at the end of a day like this one I’d also probably be equally welcoming of Skynet come to eradicate the species, so my judgement could be somewhat compromised at the moment.