Thursday, May 28, 2015

Eat to live, but do not live to eat ... carried to the extreme!

Read the following sentences from the NY Times:
“I think engineers are ready to throw in the towel on the illusion that we’re having this family dinner,” he said. “Let’s do away with all the marketing facade and get the calories as quickly as we can.”
The time wasted by eating is, in Silicon Valley parlance, a “pain point” even for the highest echelon of techie. Elon Musk, Tesla’s founder, once said, “If there was a way that I couldn’t eat so I could work more, I would not eat. I wish there was a way to get nutrients without sitting down for a meal,” according to a new book on the entrepreneur, written by Ashlee Vance. 
When I blogged less than a year ago, worrying about Soylent and its philosophy, I didn't imagine that the Soylent industrial food would so quickly become a significant part of the tech-world.  Yet, that's what the NY Times is reporting:
Boom times in Silicon Valley call for hard work, and hard work — at least in technology land — means that coders, engineers and venture capitalists are turning to liquid meals with names like Schmoylent, Soylent, Schmilk and People Chow. The protein-packed products that come in powder form are inexpensive and quick and easy to make — just shake with water, or in the case of Schmilk, milk. While athletes and dieters have been drinking their dinner for years, Silicon Valley’s workers are now increasingly chugging their meals, too, so they can more quickly get back to their computer work.
So that they can quickly get back to their computer work?
Why this monomaniacal approach to work?
Why this reduction of life to work, work, and more work?
What the hell is going on?  

These workers, perhaps "slaves to work" is a better descriptor, do not seem to have any grasp--even the remotest understanding--of life and what it means to be human.  Ok, they do; at least Musk does:
Vance cites an anonymous Tesla employee who claims Musk upbraided him via email for missing a company event to attend his child’s birth. “That is no excuse,” Musk reportedly wrote. Musk has denied the claim, saying, “I would never do that.”
Maybe not. There is evidence in Vance’s book that Musk possesses at least some degree of sympathy for human frailty. For instance, a SpaceX engineer once vented to a colleague that he was nearing a breaking point after ruining both of his pairs of eyeglasses in an all-consuming work sprint that left him no time to see an optometrist. Musk overheard him, and within hours his assistant approached the employee with an appointment card for Lasik surgery, and Musk picked up the tab.
Oh well, it is his life and Musk can live it any which way he wants to.  Those techie engineers can drink their Soylent and bet at their computers 24x7.  I couldn't care about that kind of a life.  That's no life at all; I would rather not live if that were the only choice I have.

The other day, I walked by the river after work.

While walking, I spotted a pond turtle that was slowly crossing the path.  And stopped.  I worried that a bicyclist or a skateboarder coming at top speeds around the bend might not see the turtle and that will be the end of the critter.  So, I stood next to the turtle with my hands stretched to indicate a "stop" in either direction.  A bike came hurtling, saw me from afar and slowed down to a stop.  From the other side, a family on bikes immediately shushed at the chatty ones in the group and they came to a stop.  The turtle kept crawling at a turtle's pace and slowly meandered across.

Confident that I had passed along the watchman job to the group, I continued with the walk--in order to digest the dinner that I had, which included this salad that I made:

I tell ya, the countdown to 75 looks more and more appealing when I think about the likes of a Soylent-fueled future ;)


Ramesh said...

My comment would be entirely predictable. If there was a way of getting the nutrients in without even drinking Soylent, maybe through a pill, I am all for it !!

But to save time to work ??? That's the silliest idea I have ever heard. All those corporate types who are claiming to work incredibly hard are lying through their teeth. If they kept a time sheet of when they actually performed useful work or when they goofed around, attended useless meetings, stupid conference call, making inane power point charts, etc etc they wouldn't even be able to fill 5 hours in a day. The myth of the uber busy executive is one of the most false of myths - they are just uselessly inefficient and have nothing else in life :)

Sriram Khé said...

Oh, this is more than merely about corporate executives, Ramesh. Whether it is Elon Musk, or the venture capitalists in the Silicon Valley, or the software folks, they have become way more than the old-fashioned workaholics. They seem to want to work and do nothing else--or, as we might say in the normal world: get a life! This fanaticism means that they don't want to "waste" time eating! Compared to these slaves, your uber-busy corporate executives are having a jolly good life!

Ramesh said...

All I said to corporate types is equally applicable to venture capitalists, Silicon Valley types (Shachi excepted !!) and Elon Musk too. They like to believe that they are working hard. It would be rare to find them doing more than 4 hours of productive stuff every day.

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