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January and February are productivity graveyards

Kind of amazing to think about this:

We spend all this time in December thinking about supposed “goals” and “priorities” for the upcoming year, right?

“New Year, New Me” stuff?

But then we hit January, and, per new research? It’s our least productive month of the year.

And then February is basically our second-least productive.

So now we’re 2 months into 12 (1/6, or 16 percent-ish) and we haven’t really been productive at all.

Huh.

Now think about that and take these two quotes

First, from the same article linked above:

“The rhythms of life ebb and flow, and so also will productivity,” says Fukami. “A company’s business goes through cycles and this is commonly accepted. Perhaps companies should be accepting of employee cycles. If a company wants uniform productivity, it would be wise to invest in robotic process automation, which can perform routine operations 24/7/365.”

OK. Now this:

Speaking to Recode’s Kara Swisher and MSNBC’s Ari Melber, Pichai said AI is “one of the most important things that humanity is working on. It’s more profound than, I don’t know, electricity or fire,” adding that people learned to harness fire for the benefits of humanity, but also needed to overcome its downsides, too. Pichai also said that AI could be used to help solve climate change issues, or to cure cancer.

Hmmm.

So where are we headed?

Probably to a place where humans’ general lack of any idea how to be productive = jobs increasingly less and less going to humans. Despite how it seems from cooked-books job reports, we’re already headed this way. Companies want full-ass productivity. Humans can’t give them that. They get distracted. Stuff happens. They have, uh, lives.

Of course, not everything can be automated out — but it’s more than we think it is.

Look at this quote from the second article above:

“I get that shiny happy future, but, jobs,” Swisher said. “Look at a job like a radiologist. You might not need lawyers, which some people might celebrate… you might not need accountants.” Pichai acknowledged that people have a right to be concerned, but still need to embrace technological advances. “History shows that countries that pull back don’t do well with chance. So you have to embrace the change,” he responded.

This is why we’re kind of fucked on automation discussions: the people leading it (tech) have this belief that this is an absolute necessary because we need to “embrace the change.” So they’re gonna push it right on through.

“Embrace the change” is a good political slogan, sure. But what happens when 1 in 2 jobs disappear?

Would increased human productivity help?

Not really, because tech is tech, and it’s going to keep coming.

One thing I do wish, especially in light of January/February being such a productivity joke despite “NEW YEAR NEW ME!,” is that we understood productivity differently.

We always want it to be about “hacks” or shortcuts.

It’s not.

It’s about putting in the work on stuff you care about.

If people did that instead of fucking responding to every email with “ON IT,” maybe we wouldn’t be in this automation mess.

But I might be naive.

Ted Bauer

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