Software Development In The Era Of Loneliness
No, returning to the office isn’t solving anything, fuck these moronic, do-nothing CEOs.
I watched a video by Second Thought discussing how capitalism made us a bit more lonely. It brought up a lot of topics about work, rugged individualism, and growing alienation from each other. These ideas are celebrated heavily too. How often do we hear “It’s lonely at the top” as a positive? Or how often are people rewarded individually for excellence? Does Employee of the Month sound familiar? Today’s world embraces loneliness for the sake of profit.
It's interesting for an inherently lonely job; software development suffers heavily from many concepts mentioned in the first paragraph. As the battle of remote work wages continues, I want to discuss this new world in which software is built.
I’ve noticed a lot of corporate work is focused on the individual. All meetings, tasks, and activities work towards a single goal to maximize profits. Beneath the single goal are a bunch of individual goals toward growing wealth.
Everything about work is surrounded by individual goals combined to achieve a collective goal for an individual. Evaluations aren’t team based or what was accomplished by an organization. It will always be about an individual's contribution to that project. The word “team” is a phrase of convenience to describe a bunch of individuals working towards completing something. It’s also why managers are essential for this system to work out. There are a few other reasons due to the employer vs. employee setup.
Now, we apply these ideas to software development plus remote work to end up with a lonely profession. In all fairness, software development lends itself to being lonely due to the stigma attached to sweaty nerds on computers, which is going away rapidly. However, software development requires periods of heads-down focus to solve a problem. I lean on the 3–4 hours needed to progress on a project or issue. Combining the lonely profession, remote work (or return to the office), and individualism, we have a pretty lonely field.
Contrary, software development has a large open-source community with many people willing to help answer questions. Many outstanding accomplishments have come from pair programming, debugging, and brainstorming sessions. The dot com bubble created this large and dedicated community as the field seemingly died off. Unfortunately, once the actual value of development was discovered, we ignored many of these positives in favor of proprietary software, way of doing things, etc. I call it the corporatization of software development. This spawned annoying things like waterfall, agile, project management software, task creation, and even more meetings. Platforms like JIRA are built to track progress on a project to point tasks to an individual. Note how many times I use the word individual in this blog.
You can even give yourself an excellent profile photo on it.
I could ramble on about all the tools, processes, and concepts coming up to track an individual, but I’m hoping I got my point across. Corporate software development is about the individual contribution to software, not building the software itself.
What ends up happening is the madness of heroic efforts to complete projects and confusion about project design/coding choices. Popular ideas like pair programming and open source are left behind because everyone believes they have the best shit. Sometimes this is a good idea. Other times, it harms the people responsible for it. And why would you work with other people? The second something becomes useful or popularized, the people in charge will throw you away if you cannot make yourself immediately useful again. This is the fear of AI being abused by the rich for personal gain by replacing workers and overworking those leftovers who cannot be returned. It’s not the fact it can be used relatively. Also, the lack of protections for social services doesn’t help either.
Pit people against each other makes them more lonely. Pit the software built makes them even more lonely. On top of a lonely type of profession with work from home, it’s a rugged landscape. However, the work from home isn’t the real issue with loneliness like these moronic CEOs have you believe.
Work From Home “Crisis”
My question to anyone is, are you less lonely at work? From a CEO's perspective, seeing people at an office working towards building wealth is an exciting prospect they secretly jerk off over. To the actual worker, it’s a place to earn a living. Do enough to avoid too much controversy and dip out. Are the conversations contributing to less loneliness as conversations surround work or weirdly tamed subjects without too much fuss? Interactions have to be guided to avoid an HR nightmare.
Once COVID hit, companies set all tech professionals home to do their jobs. The result? Nothing changed too much. Some VPN servers had to scale up or be added. A couple of awkward social gathering Zoom meetings also popped up on the calendar.
Was it that much different in the office? Besides other noises of lawns mowing or kids screaming, did anything change regarding loneliness? Did that need for office interactions destroy the entire population? People would have run back to the office if it did. That’s because the definition of loneliness isn’t “have people around.”
It’s the lack of friends or company.
Not having people around who bring the mood up is devastating. Work isn’t that for many of us who want a paycheck and a roof over our heads.
Sorry to break the news.
We’re lonely because everything keeps pushing to isolate us. The idea of “40-hour work weeks” translates into 50–60 hours, all said and done. Think about commuting, getting ready, food prepping, etc. The number of things in a personal schedule that gets moved around for work alone would shock you if you sat down to examine it.
I can’t stay late, I have an early meeting tomorrow.
Or, for techies,
I’m on-call, I can’t go camping this weekend
Those mini-sacrifices add up over time. Many people claim things will work out and that these sacrifices are necessary, but where did that get anyone? Did anyone ask if not doing something for work made them happier or less lonely? Rhetorical question.
Taking time to work remotely can remove the barriers to this. Still, no executive gives a flying fuck about that because their miserable life revolves around being a boss, making deals, and getting a bigger yacht. The capitalist mentality serves the few psychos who want it. Funny enough, the ruling ideology doesn’t resonate with most of the population.
All this results in loneliness, but at least it’s at home instead of the office—time to launch Counter-Strike, baby.
Future of Software
The gig economy is slowly taking over every single aspect of our lives. Taxi drivers are being replaced by Uber drivers, hotels by Airbnb, etc. The labor landscape is being molded by many companies that don’t own anything but provide a platform to allow people to earn money while they profit without having to employ them. It’s a hands-off type where they can cut you anytime, not provide basics like health insurance, and control the market.
I foresee a future where software development is done on a contract basis with some form of AI-determined paying system. Glorious future ahead of us.
We’re moving towards taking the workplace from work. Once jobs become simpler and aided by technological advancements, there is no need to have an organization. Everything is an individual role under some contract—the far far away future.
On a Brighter Note
I’m not the only asshole with these thoughts about work and life, from the disgruntled millennial to the misguided Zoomer. It seems people are fine being called a radical without fear of retaliation. Ideologies are making rounds again in large part due to the popularity o the internet. Many people initially have stupid takes that need to be refined as teenagers, but hey, it’s a start.
For anyone who does suffer from loneliness, please do reach out for help. These feelings aren’t forever.