BYOT and the jobs revolution

Do you know the latest trend in the office IT world? It’s called BYOT, short for Bring Your Own Technology. New young recruits into large multinationals are shocked by how awful the corporate IT systems are. This is a generation brought up on facebook, twitter, tablets  and smart phones; personal devices on which you can do a lot of cool stuff. Their first encounter with a corporate IT system makes them recoil in horror. It’s so slow, so clunky and so user unfriendly.

In most other industries, there is professional grade equipment for serious business use and then a cut down, ‘less good’ version for the home hobbyist. But in the IT world this has been inverted. All the cool stuff is at the consumer end of the market. This is catataxis. The level 1 ‘home’ gear runs faster and is more powerful than the level 2 ‘corporate’ gear.  Hence BYOT. You bring in your own laptop or iPad to use at work. You are responsible for maintaining it. You are happy because you get to use the cool gadgets that you like. The company is happy because the cost of equipment and maintenance goes down. Productivity is up and costs are down (by 22% in some pilot schemes). Everybody wins.

Well, not quite everybody. No-one in the IT department likes this trend at all, because having so many different devices gives them a big headache. BYOT is cynically known by IT staff as “the CEO bought an iPad” syndrome. Nirvana for IT staff is an organisation that uses exactly the same equipment everywhere, all under the centralised control of the IT Dept. Under their watchful eye, individualism is stamped out “for security and efficiency purposes”.

This drama is not new. Take a look at the Apple Mac advert from the dawn of the PC era. A female athlete runs through the hall of a political rally and hurls a hammer at a huge screen with the face of Big Brother on it. The final tagline says:

On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce the Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 will not be like “1984”. 

Shot by Ridley Scott, this advert is almost 30 years old but it is still as powerful as ever and encapsulates the whole spirit of BYOT: the catataxic challenge of the individual against the corporate system one level higher. Steve Jobs’ revolution really is a revolution in jobs. And how satisfying that he finally got to see it happen before he died.

Is the EU too democratic?

Burma cancels dam

Burma cancels damYesterday the Slovaks voted “No” to the Greek bailout. Quite reasonably, the poorest country in the Eurozone could not see why it should bailout a country where the average wage and pension provisions are far higher than their own. The result is continuing financial turmoil and uncertainty as the markets get frustrated by the lack of visible action. The meeting between Merkel and Sarkozy over the weekend ended with a statement along these lines: we have a plan to save the Eurozone but we can’t tell you what it is yet. There is a growing sense of impatience amongst the pundits and commentators whose general consensus runs something like this “European leaders are behind the curve. We need fast, decisive action. Why can’t these things be done more swiftly? Why is there not more leadership?” Notice that this line of argument is only a short step from a complaint that the EU is too democratic. After all, Napoleon or Hitler could have sorted this mess out in a trice. Is this laborious process of asking everyone what they think and getting a consensus a waste of time?

Consider this interesting counter example from the other side of the world. The military rulers in Burma have decided that they will cancel the construction of the Irrawaddy Dam. This is a slap in the face for China who was funding this 3.6bn hydroelectric project. Campaigners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, have been protesting against the dam for months, since it would inundate dozens of villages, displace at least 10,000 people and irreversibly damage one of the world’s most biodiverse areas. Why did the Burmese military junta change their mind? It was “against the will of the people”.

A dictatorship responding to the will of the people? This is democracy without voting. We could call it  “non-suffrage democracy”. Yes, I know that sounds as stupid as “bubble free champagne” or a “water free ocean” but it does suggest an interesting catataxic twist. We can call the people Level 1 and the government Level 2.  Clearly the normal way to transmute from one level to the other is through voting. That may be one way but it is not the only way, and in the case of the Eurozone crisis it may not even be the best way.

People power

Power of the peopleA Greek friend was explaining to me the mood amongst the Athenian citizens these days. Their frustration and anger is best expressed like this “The Government borrowed all that money and now they want the people to pay”. Notice that there is no identification between the people and the government. Despite Athens being the birthplace of democracy there is no sense of this being a government “by the people, of the people, for the people”. The government is some other entity, separate from the people, licensed to play their political games somewhere else. This is a catataxic split . The government is on level two, arising from the citizens on level one but separate from them. The slogan of the anarchists puts it best : no matter who you vote for, it’s always The Government who gets into power.

The second strand of frustration is with the Germans, because somehow it’s all their fault. The popular belief amongst the Athenians is that the Germans are trying to destroy them, just like World War 2 all over again. But the Germans have their own problems. In Germany, there is another illustration of the catataxic spilt between the will of the people and the government. Chancellor Merkel won the backing for a Greek bailout by a huge majority in Bundestag this week. But at the same time, a German opinion poll shows 75% of the people oppose it. The elected representatives of the people (in all parties) do not seem to be reflecting the people’s will. That is Catataxis.