Note — Jun 16, 2019

Not Relevant for Fantasy Purposes

More of a thought experiment than a solid analogy, this one is still quite an interesting read. The author makes a parallel between the ever more precise stats in sports (with the resulting obfuscation of collaboration, the more precise valuation of individual metrics, and a form of surveillance) and the way freelancers often have various fetishes for habits and productivity metrics, come up with ways to measure their performance independently of actual colleagues or even, sometimes, any measurable “wins.” (Largely based on his reading of Melissa Gregg’s book Counterproductive.)

Productivity fetishism suits a society of free agents who must continually renegotiate the terms of their value, their viability, their irreplaceable contributions; it not only provides a rationale for employers to sort contract workers, but it provides those workers a way to frame their achievement in the absence of a stable association to a particular job or a particular set of co-workers. […]

[Personal productivity is] a treadmill masquerading as a set of goals. […]

This strikes me like a production-side equivalent of the consumer-side subjectivity posited by algorithmic recommendation, where one’s desire for things is anticipated to the point of pre-emption, and the actual interior experience of desire becomes superfluous. You don’t have to actually want what is already being directed at you based on an analysis of your behavior. You can have it without the sin of wanting it. […]

Algorithmic governance saves my whole mind for contemplating nothingness. The elimination of interiority pursued by surveillance-drive algorithmic systems is coupled with an aspirational ideal of purposelessness (i.e., productivity as an end in itself) configured as higher consciousness, mindless mindfulness.