Author Topic: Bullshit Jobs (Article)  (Read 1989 times)

blackomen

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Bullshit Jobs (Article)
« on: November 30, 2018, 10:50:58 PM »
Is this bullshit or does this guy have a legitimate point?

https://strikemag.org/bullshit-jobs/

StetsTerhune

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Re: Bullshit Jobs (Article)
« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2018, 02:58:48 AM »
I remember reading this a few years ago. It's not whether it's legitimate, it's whether it's relevant. What he's talking about may be possible and practical if a society we're magically there, but I don't think it's possible or practical to actually get there. Basically society is at a different Nash Equilibrium, and there's no easy way to change between states.

That said, I think we're attempting to live our lives as close to what he's describing as possible in the current world. Instead of working 15 hour weeks, we're attempting to only work 15 years (or whatever). I might prefer 15 hours a week, but generally speaking that's not an option.

blackomen

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Re: Bullshit Jobs (Article)
« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2018, 07:10:31 AM »
I remember reading this a few years ago. It's not whether it's legitimate, it's whether it's relevant. What he's talking about may be possible and practical if a society we're magically there, but I don't think it's possible or practical to actually get there. Basically society is at a different Nash Equilibrium, and there's no easy way to change between states.

That said, I think we're attempting to live our lives as close to what he's describing as possible in the current world. Instead of working 15 hour weeks, we're attempting to only work 15 years (or whatever). I might prefer 15 hours a week, but generally speaking that's not an option.

As a programmer, as much as I'd love to work 15 hour weeks, I know it's not gonna be possible at all due to the nature of the work.  8 hours a day is barely enough time to get your brain into the state to write code (which takes a hour or two to get started) and weather a few interruptions before having to repeat the process of getting back into state again.  Working 2 days a week 7.5 per day might be an option though.

soccerluvof4

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Re: Bullshit Jobs (Article)
« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2018, 07:16:30 AM »
I'm sure there are exceptions to the rule but for the most part i think it be tough. I could see doing it in sales with big ticket items for one example.

big_slacker

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Re: Bullshit Jobs (Article)
« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2018, 08:37:37 AM »
I probably only do 15 hours of real work a week. The rest is meetings and other bullshit. I do like to think my work is meaningful (keeping cars off the roads, keeping data safe, enabling work flexibility) but OTOH if you eliminated bullshit jobs would mine need to exist? F it, I'll build tables, that's satisfying and useful. :)

Bucksandreds

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Re: Bullshit Jobs (Article)
« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2018, 10:50:21 AM »
I’m a dentist who works “40 hours” per week with maybe half of it actually fixing people’s oral health situations. The other half is notes, paperwork and administration largely necessary due to threat of lawsuit which the vast majority being mostly frivolous. I’m even one of the higher paid people that actually “does something productive.” The undiscussed truth as to why people who don’t make anything end up with the most money is that the cleverest and least scrupulous amongst us use their guile to manipulate others into aquiring their money.

DaMa

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Re: Bullshit Jobs (Article)
« Reply #6 on: December 03, 2018, 10:59:15 AM »
I started as a actuarial analyst at a health insurance company fresh out of college.  Within 2 years I recognized I did a bullshit job.  Within 4 years I knew that actuary was a bullshit job.  Within 6 years I knew health insurance was bullshit (i.e. 8000 bullshit jobs at my company).  I then tried to make as much of a useful contribution as I could, while being a proponent of single payer healthcare.

I was happy to see actuary specifically mentioned in the article.

Schaefer Light

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Re: Bullshit Jobs (Article)
« Reply #7 on: December 03, 2018, 11:06:02 AM »
In the technology world, I think a lot of people are being paid to come in to the office just in case something comes up that requires their knowledge or expertise.  People sit around and do nothing (or at least, nothing productive) until something breaks and needs to be fixed.  Unfortunately, these people are forced to sit in an office or cubicle and must give the appearance of being busy for 8 hours a day.

merula

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Re: Bullshit Jobs (Article)
« Reply #8 on: December 03, 2018, 11:47:15 AM »
I started as a actuarial analyst at a health insurance company fresh out of college.  Within 2 years I recognized I did a bullshit job.  Within 4 years I knew that actuary was a bullshit job.  Within 6 years I knew health insurance was bullshit (i.e. 8000 bullshit jobs at my company).  I then tried to make as much of a useful contribution as I could, while being a proponent of single payer healthcare.

I was happy to see actuary specifically mentioned in the article.

Property & Casualty insurance here. I'd say about 90% of my company is BS jobs. The non-BS piece is property and auto insurance rating, underwriting and claims.

Liability insurance (excluding Auto) is a vicious cycle with the litigiousness of society, which is promoted by the insurance industry because there's profit to be made on taking a cut. Huge profit.

Why do you think you need a $1,000,000 umbrella personally? Because we're a litigious society and courts will award $500,000 in damages easily, so you need a higher limit to protect yourself. Why do courts award those kinds of damages? Because the insurance companies are the deep pockets who can pay $1,000,000, and then turn around and make bank telling everyone they NEED $2,000,000 in coverage because of all these $1,000,000 awards.

My recommendation, as an insurance professional, is to never buy any coverage where the combined ratio (claims paid plus expenses divided by premiums) is less than 100%. Auto insurance meets this, especially today. The insurance industry as a whole hasn't turned a profit on auto coverage since 2006. Property insurance also typically meets this, outside of flood/wind/hail coverage.

On the whole, umbrella coverage is around a 70-80% combined ratio, meaning that it's 20-30% pure profit from day one, PLUS all the money insurance companies make by investing the premiums paid before they have to pay out claims.

Oh and everything connected to Workers Compensation is BS. A much more efficient system would be socialized healthcare and disability insurance not tied to whether or not something happened on the job. Would solve a whole lot of problems, starting with a whole bunch of sleazy lawyers losing their sleazy incomes.

wageslave23

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Re: Bullshit Jobs (Article)
« Reply #9 on: December 03, 2018, 11:52:53 AM »
I think what the author is misunderstanding is that it is not society (directly) that benefits from technological advances, it is the inventors and the people that own the capital producing businesses.  If I work for someone making widgets, and then the owner of the company buys a machine that allows me to make 10x more widgets per hour, he is not going to say, hey only come in one of every 10 days.  He is going to have me work just as much as before and pay me the same as before, maybe less because labor will be less in demand.  He will in turn reap the benefits of more profit. 

The argument about bullshit jobs is a separate issue, and no there is no conspiracy among the owner class to keep workers busy.  They are out to make a profit.  It is very hard to be perfectly efficient.  Efficiency requires economies of scale and the bigger an organization the more levels of management are needed and the more potential for waste is introduced.  No stockholder is going to want to needlessly employee people just to keep them from being idle.  However, it is easier to find a good quality full time person than it is a part time person who is willing to work for less.  So they pay a little more for competency and have the full time person sit around for half the time.  I own a rental house, the most efficient way to manage it would be for me to manage it myself.  But if I want to leverage my time, I can hire someone to do manage it but they will have to fill out paperwork and give me monthly reports so that I know its being managed correctly.  They would in turn hire subcontractors to do the work they are not willing to do, who then spend time billing and collecting invoices, etc. 

Luck12

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Re: Bullshit Jobs (Article)
« Reply #10 on: December 03, 2018, 01:07:14 PM »
I started as a actuarial analyst at a health insurance company fresh out of college.  Within 2 years I recognized I did a bullshit job.  Within 4 years I knew that actuary was a bullshit job.  Within 6 years I knew health insurance was bullshit (i.e. 8000 bullshit jobs at my company).  I then tried to make as much of a useful contribution as I could, while being a proponent of single payer healthcare.

I was happy to see actuary specifically mentioned in the article.

I am also an actuary.  I would add a bunch of life insurance jobs that have to do with bullshit products like variable annuities and variable universal life.  All they do is rip off consumers and reward commissions to unctuous salesmen.    Lot of jobs that are extracting value from society.  Bullshit. 

marty998

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Re: Bullshit Jobs (Article)
« Reply #11 on: December 03, 2018, 01:17:20 PM »
The argument about bullshit jobs is a separate issue, and no there is no conspiracy among the owner class to keep workers busy.  They are out to make a profit.  It is very hard to be perfectly efficient.  Efficiency requires economies of scale and the bigger an organization the more levels of management are needed and the more potential for waste is introduced.  No stockholder is going to want to needlessly employee people just to keep them from being idle.  However, it is easier to find a good quality full time person than it is a part time person who is willing to work for less.  So they pay a little more for competency and have the full time person sit around for half the time.  I own a rental house, the most efficient way to manage it would be for me to manage it myself.  But if I want to leverage my time, I can hire someone to do manage it but they will have to fill out paperwork and give me monthly reports so that I know its being managed correctly.  They would in turn hire subcontractors to do the work they are not willing to do, who then spend time billing and collecting invoices, etc.

This didn't go where I thought it would. To use the rental as a different example - it is easier to rent it out to a long term tenant for a little less, than to AirBnB it for short term stays and deal with the constant turnover.

Similarly for organisations, sometimes its simply easier to have a full time workforce, than to pay more for consultants and contractors for rolling short term projects.

Although, the consultants and labor hire firms have done a great job at convincing organisations otherwise....


Spoonsor

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Re: Bullshit Jobs (Article)
« Reply #12 on: December 03, 2018, 01:58:00 PM »
This article's first sentence picks out and focuses on a tiny piece of a fantastic essay. If you want an interesting read, read the essay. If you enjoy MMM, you won't regret it.

http://www.econ.yale.edu/smith/econ116a/keynes1.pdf

As for this article, sure there are some bullshit jobs out there, but this comes off really conspiratorially.

"...technology has been marshaled, if anything, to figure out ways to make us all work more."
By whom, though?

"It's as if someone were out there making up pointless jobs just for the sake of keeping us all working."
Spooky.

"The ruling class has figured out that a happy and productive population with free time on their hands is a mortal danger."

This comes off more like a guy who's upset with his job. Except he's a writer, so here he is - writing about it. He drops this gem:

"...what does it say about our society that it seems to generate an extremely limited demand for talented poet-musicians, but an apparently infinite demand for specialists in corporate law?"

It sounds like a thinly veiled complaint that he thinks his job (anthropologist/writer) and hobbies (perhaps poet-musician?) should be more highly valued. Perhaps I'm overly cynical, though.

Bill Watterson's commencement speech tackles the issue of navigating bullshit jobs. He's a lot less angry and a lot more coherent. It's a good read: http://www.graduationwisdom.com/speeches/0025-watterson.htm

effigy98

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Re: Bullshit Jobs (Article)
« Reply #13 on: December 03, 2018, 03:48:48 PM »
In the technology world, I think a lot of people are being paid to come in to the office just in case something comes up that requires their knowledge or expertise.  People sit around and do nothing (or at least, nothing productive) until something breaks and needs to be fixed.  Unfortunately, these people are forced to sit in an office or cubicle and must give the appearance of being busy for 8 hours a day.

You describe my job most days. I HATE having to be at work when I do not have to do any work just for perception, but that is the reality and the pay is worth it of course. I tend to do my tasks very fast compared to peers and then I am idle the rest of the day. Taking more work is not rewarded at all, in fact it can hurt you if you screw something up so it is less risky to just focus on the tasks the manager wants you to complete.
« Last Edit: December 03, 2018, 03:50:20 PM by effigy98 »

Capt j-rod

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Re: Bullshit Jobs (Article)
« Reply #14 on: December 03, 2018, 07:22:16 PM »
My last job was teaching mechanical engineering at a college. After your first semester your lesson plans, lectures, power points, assignments and tests are all made. Fromm there on it was wash, rinse, repeat... Endless meetings with nothing accomplished. It was really sad. My wife worked in a hospital where it was meeting after meeting after meeting. Hilarious. Nothing ever got done or resolved. I had to leave just to break the curse of monotony. I just Framed and built an addition on one of my properties... No permit, no drawings, no loans, no appraisals, nothing. Just fired up the backhoe, dug footers, poured concrete, laid block, and framed it up. No plumbing inspection, no electrical inspection, nothing. It took me and two buddies 10 days to go from grass to sided and dried in with a roof. Had we done it the "regular way" we'd still be begging the bank to approve the money and begging the city to approve the permits. Needless to say, there is a ton of bullshit that you can completely avoid by paying cash and avoiding the games.  Am I afraid of getting caught? Nope. They are too busy having meetings down town to drive out into the city that they govern to notice a change.

effigy98

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Re: Bullshit Jobs (Article)
« Reply #15 on: December 04, 2018, 03:43:10 PM »
Am I afraid of getting caught? Nope. They are too busy having meetings down town to drive out into the city that they govern to notice a change.

You would think this, but it is REALLY easy to have a little program scan google earth images and see what has changed. My grandfather got caught this way with an unpermitted workshop and it was super expensive then if he just got the permits.

mathlete

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Re: Bullshit Jobs (Article)
« Reply #16 on: December 04, 2018, 03:46:19 PM »
Read this 5 years ago. Bullshit jobs = jobs David Graeber doesn't understand.

mathlete

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Re: Bullshit Jobs (Article)
« Reply #17 on: December 04, 2018, 04:16:11 PM »
Everyone in here likes dutifully watching their 401(k)s go up right? While it's in vogue to whinge about paper pushers, do you sleep better or worse at night since Sarbanes-Oxley and all the regulators, compliance officers, and auditors it created are creating a system to check up on whether public companies are fucking around with your money?

If you die unexpectedly, do you want a lump sum payout from a life insurer? Or do you want to hope your kids have a powerful enough social media presence for an effective GoFundMe?

If you have a DB plan, do you want an appointed actuary looking at it and giving their input? Or do you just want senior management to mark down whatever they want for liabilities in order to appease the BoDs and get their bonus?

So on and so on.

peeps_be_peeping

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Re: Bullshit Jobs (Article)
« Reply #18 on: December 04, 2018, 04:56:48 PM »
My last job was teaching mechanical engineering at a college. After your first semester your lesson plans, lectures, power points, assignments and tests are all made. Fromm there on it was wash, rinse, repeat... Endless meetings with nothing accomplished. It was really sad. My wife worked in a hospital where it was meeting after meeting after meeting. Hilarious. Nothing ever got done or resolved. I had to leave just to break the curse of monotony. I just Framed and built an addition on one of my properties... No permit, no drawings, no loans, no appraisals, nothing. Just fired up the backhoe, dug footers, poured concrete, laid block, and framed it up. No plumbing inspection, no electrical inspection, nothing. It took me and two buddies 10 days to go from grass to sided and dried in with a roof. Had we done it the "regular way" we'd still be begging the bank to approve the money and begging the city to approve the permits. Needless to say, there is a ton of bullshit that you can completely avoid by paying cash and avoiding the games.  Am I afraid of getting caught? Nope. They are too busy having meetings down town to drive out into the city that they govern to notice a change.

At some of these meetings people are adopting building codes based on advice from engineers who took your classes and then when there is a 7.0M earthquake at 8:29 am on 11/30/18 in the middle of an area inhabited by 300k people none of the structures built to code fall down and nobody is killed. I hate meetings too but I'll begrudgingly admit that some are useful...
« Last Edit: December 04, 2018, 04:58:21 PM by peeps_be_peeping »

merula

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Re: Bullshit Jobs (Article)
« Reply #19 on: December 04, 2018, 05:08:26 PM »
I get what you're saying, mathlete, and you're right that I feel better about my investments with higher levels of regulation.

However, as someone who works in the financial services industry and is involved in SOX compliance activities, I can differentiate those actions from BS jobs very easily. I would suspect that most similarly situated US folks can, because SOX compliance work is painfully obvious as such. (It appears you're not in the US based on "whinge" and "appointed actuary", so I can understand how that might not be clear.)

As an example, I'm currently involved in a compliance issue involving not just SOX but state departments of insurance, which are FAR more willing to level fines than the SEC will ever be. To boil it down for lay readers, my group is required to track X, but we're not responsible for actually doing X, so we put in place a rule for the people who do that says "hey, if you do X, you must report it to us", so that we can take those reports and make the correct and compliant disclosures to all relevant regulatory bodies.

One of the people who do X decided that the requirement to report X didn't apply to them because Y. (This premise was always wrong.) They did not report X for several years. This came to light because of a compliance action, and we need to take remedial steps, all of which are more involved and time consuming than initially reporting X would be.

WHY would that person make that decision? Why not ask "hey, does Y have any bearing on reporting X"? Because that person has a 90% BS job, and at some level knows it. All of her actions based on the assumption that nothing she does actually matters. Which is fine for the 90% that doesn't, but not so good for the 10% that does?

So why does she have a job? Because humans are not rational economic actors. There is prestige in "headcount", so direct managers are loathe to eliminate jobs that report to them, particularly when that job would mean more work on their plate. As you go up the ladder, there's more incentive to eliminate wasted cost, but also less understanding of who is and is not adding value to the organization.

Which brings me to my final point. Adding value to a company is not the same as adding value to society. I believe that liability insurance, as one example, is overall a drain on society and as an industry should be greatly reduced. However, I am an expert in liability insurance, which provides value to my company, so they pay me.

If you have a DB plan, do you want an appointed actuary looking at it and giving their input? Or do you just want senior management to mark down whatever they want for liabilities in order to appease the BoDs and get their bonus?

If you believe that the actuarial tables are solely based on math and have no management influence at all, I have a bridge to sell you. The math just has to be defensible, and as a mathlete I would imagine you're familiar with how numbers can be manipulated to show a variety of different things. Actuarial analysis is as much an art as a science.