Twofish's Blog

August 20, 2006

Time off

Filed under: academia, massachusetts institute of technology, Uncategorized — twofish @ 8:45 am

Most software companies I’ve worked at have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy when it comes to this.  They don’t care what time you get in, and you can easily get your supervisor to quietly not object to taking long lunch breaks (since they are doing the same thing).

The trouble comes in where the time that you want is more than can be swept under the rug.  Curiously, this also makes it useless when you actually come up with something that is useful to your employer.  Since you are theoretically not doing outside research, then if you come up with something that would be a breakthrough development for your employer, this theoretically does not exist.

The point that I was making to my employer (i.e. that I’d be spending a week each month on either Wall Street and MIT, and I’d bound to run into something or someone that was good for the company) just flew over their heads.

The other argument that I was making was that the reason I’m working on this is so that I can help develop Chinese capital markets thereby helping to maintain world economic stability, thereby helping to prevent a victory by bin-Ladenist forces in the Long War.   However, helping to prevent the collapse of civilization and the start of a terrible new Dark Age is apparently much less important than to get the next software release out on time.  You help save the world on your own time, we have a business to run.

(The depressing thing is that everyone involved has at least a bachelors and most have masters.  You’d think that people with this much education would at least try to think instead of just reacting.)

That makes no sense if the real goal was to maximize corporate profits.  It makes a lot of sense if the real goal was to preserve existing power relationships.  The problem is that if I fly to Wall Street and MIT and make contacts then I no longer become controllable.  I *would* use my contacts for the good of the company, but then the corporate management would have to (gasp) trust me rather than be able to order me around.

This actually has a lot of implications for the overall political and social structure of the United States.  If people routinely got a week a month off from work, they might do something silly like go to Washington DC and watch Congress, and lobby their congressmen for legislation.  After a few trips, they might understand how the political and economic system work, and of course we couldn’t have that.

One of the things that I’ve noticed is that 1) there is a power elite in the United States and 2) that their meetings and conferences tend to be very open.  The problem is that most people have jobs that do not let them participate in the power elite.

The argument that we have to keep the kooks out ignores the fact that kooks, by an large, do not have full time jobs and hence have a lot of spare time.

As far as why employers don’t like to give time off….

Someone ought to do a paper as to why this happens.  Economic reasons don’t work, because if they were operating, employers would have no problem with fewer hours, less pay.  There is something else going on.

There is another study to be written on the “death of the 40 hour work week.”   There are two reasons that I can think of, neither of which are pleasant….

1) uncapped hours lets your employer get unpaid overtime
2) uncapped hours lets your employer not let other workers know how bad their situation is.  salaries can be kept secret whereas time off can’t

The consequence of this however, is that the system keeps people stupid and powerless.  There is no evil master that does this, but somehow it happens, and I’m trying to figure out how and why.

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