Victor Rozek's award-winning and thought-provoking "Out of the Blue" column was consistently one of the best things to read in any IT publication on the market. We are pleased to add his voice and thoughts about the computer industry and the world at large in this column, which runs once a month in The Four Hundred. That's Victor above with his other half, Kassy Daggett.
November 11, 2019 Victor Rozek
When Guttenberg first started cranking out Bibles, the religious authorities who dominated life and discourse in the 15th century were cautiously optimistic. Not only could it save monks years of lugubrious work copying and illustrating the volume, but they assumed this new technology would be used solely to propagate a Medieval version of approved speech.
But of course that didn’t last long.
Since its Feudal inception, communication technology and free speech have always had a turbulent and tenuous relationship. The easier it became to disseminate information, the more efficient the spread of heretical, seditious, and unpopular ideas. And the more …Read more
October 28, 2019 Victor Rozek
Unlike relationships based on mutual regard, if you have issues with your job, your job doesn’t care. It’s just there, waiting to get done, by you or someone else. Nothing personal, just business.
It’s more of a one-way relationship, with all of the emotional highs and lows experienced by the employee. And while managers have three options for dealing with undesirable workers: fix, move, or fire; employees have but one option for dealing with undesirable jobs: quit.
But even when the workplace becomes intolerable, people often contrive to get themselves fired because they don’t have the courage to stand up …Read more
September 30, 2019 Victor Rozek
I don’t recall high school being a particularly joyous experience, but it wasn’t debilitating either. It was mostly leaden, with an occasional splash of color, spiced with alternating doses of bravado, awkwardness, and frustration. It wasn’t optimal, but it seems remarkably benign compared to today’s reality. A recent study of kids in an affluent Silicon Valley high school “found that 54 percent of students displayed moderate to severe symptoms of depression and 80 percent displayed moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety.”
Beyond the very real anxiety-inducing possibility of getting shot in the classroom, Daniel Markovits has another explanation for the …Read more
September 23, 2019 Victor Rozek
The more entangled I become with technology the more restless I feel when I’m away from it. The nervous system gets accustomed to the stimulation, the steady drip of dopamine from the little validations, the comforting illusion of wide-ranging intimacy, the ease of attachment without exertion. The Internet is fast food for lazy, twitchy synapses. And I’ve become conditioned to crave it.
Like an alcoholic past due for a drink, I look around for my digital bottle.
It’s on the coffee table. A swipe of a finger and I have access to a distorted world of dramatic headlines, lurid images, …Read more
July 8, 2019 Victor Rozek
Technology managers often grapple with a thorny employment dilemma: Do they hire for specialization or suppleness; specific or general knowledge; narrow but deep, or broad but shallow. It’s the quandary of expert versus generalist, and it’s like deciding whether you want to buy a hot car with no utility, or a utility vehicle with no hot.
Some of the ambivalence arises from the fact that both are contextually useful and necessary. A handyman by definition must be a generalist; but you probably don’t want a handyman performing your bypass surgery.
Yet according to Jerry Useem, things are shifting noticeably in …Read more
June 3, 2019 Victor Rozek
I can’t remember precisely what was worrying my manager that day. But as we walked down a long hallway, she expounded on some issue having to do with one of the employees under my supervision. Whatever the specific problem, she seemed more troubled than was common, and in an attempt to reassure her, I put my arm around her shoulders and said: “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.”
That was it. The whole incident took no more than three seconds and I thought no more about it. But months later, over a quiet cup of coffee, she shared the …Read more
May 6, 2019 Victor Rozek
A few weeks ago, millions of us took a deep, resentment-laden breath before signing our name to a check and sending it off to the federal government. Taxes, the eternal pebble in the workingperson’s shoe, are as unpopular as they are necessary, and remain the subject of endless debate over who should pay and how much.
In a system rigged to favor those with money-wielding lobbyists, IT professionals are part of that vast pool of middle-class dupes who neither make so little as to be exempt from taxes, nor so much as to be able to avoid paying them altogether. …Read more
April 8, 2019 Victor Rozek
For an increasing number of Americans, the elusive search for happiness starts and ends each day with screen time. Smartphones, symbolic of a larger attachment to, and dependence on technology, have become the fifth appendage, glued to their owners like fake fingernails. They amplify and simplify, offering seemingly endless relationships without the need for relating, and limitless connection without the bother of bonding.
To keep the voracious social media beast fed, most of us have become both content providers and consumers. Everyone, it seems, is flogging their own reality show. Each day we post our next episode and anxiously await …Read more
March 18, 2019 Victor Rozek
My father-in-law recently had a cancerous lobe removed from his lung. As surgeries go, it was relatively serious, but also relatively common. In an age of organ transplants, a lobe removal is no longer particularly noteworthy. What is notable, however, is that the procedure was performed by a robot.
Robotics is part of the so-called fourth industrial revolution that includes companionable fields such as AI and biotech. In aggregate, they are poised to radically transform the economy. But although the word “transformation” has become a new-age descriptor for optimistic change, its consequences are purely contextual. For every automated medical procedure, …Read more
March 11, 2019 Victor Rozek
Ever do the corporate perp walk? No, not the one with the handcuffs and the coat thrown over the wrists. That’s reserved for guys with lawyers who think the coat will distract us from the reality that their client is getting arrested. I mean the one reserved for the little guys where they give you a cardboard box for your stuff, 10 minutes to pack it, take your badge, and have security escort you in a walk of shame through the building while your colleagues pretend not to notice. Then they dump you at the curb like yesterday’s garbage, left …Read more