By the Numbers

     What do you do with all the unqualified people?
     I’ll get back to that question in a moment. First, I want to reflect on the late Isaac Asimov.
     One of the premises of his Foundation series was that you can predict the future by using mathematics (of some kind – there were no equations in the books). But you can only do this if no one else does.
     If you can predict the future, you need to keep it to yourself because other people would spoil it and throw off the math.
     Spoiler.
     That was what I thought (therefore spoiling the future) when I read the cover story of the December issue of The Atlantic. It’s called “The Future of Work.” Basically, it says that companies now can gather detailed information about employees and job applicants by observing their every move, examining their social media posts and assessing how they play games.
     The author, putting what he must have thought was a cheerful twist on this story, tells us that this intense employee analysis and scrutiny will be good for workers.
     Badly dressed people who might otherwise be overlooked will get hired and promoted. And workers will be able to focus on careers that the numbers say they’ll be happy to have.
     You know what’s going to happen.
     There will be an eruption of best-sellers and seminars training people to appeal to the mathematical formulas that guarantee success.
     Every nonqualified yahoo out there will be able to post just the right sort of Facebook messages and purchasing histories that corporate recruiters want.
     The future is spoiled and it’s all The Atlantic’s fault.
     But even if all this number crunching works, what about my first question?
     What about all the unqualified people those numbers will expose? Will they be fired because their numbers don’t qualify?
     Will they sue?
     And what if unqualified people vastly outnumber the qualified people?
     Perhaps it’s best not to think about these things.
     Stop Thinking
     Which brings me to a new set of rules proposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses.”
     OSHA wants to collect electronically detailed data about every workplace injury and illness.
     “This proposed rule would be among the first in the federal government without a paper submission option.”
     Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
     The government and computers: What could possibly go wrong?
     We can count on businesses to report accurately all those injuries and mysterious illnesses.
     Perhaps I should stop thinking about these things.
     Start Worrying
     If you’re feeling cheerful, I have something new for you to worry about: Link Rot.
     It’s as horrible as it sounds.
     Here’s a comment from a reader responding to an article on link rot on the ABA Journal website: “What happens when the grand virus (or other calamity) causes it all to simply go away? We are increasing the likelihood of a mass ‘book burning’ leading to a new dark age.”
     Yikes!
     Link rot is the phenomenon of hyperlinks in legal documents and journal articles that don’t lead anywhere. The web pages they’re pointing to no longer exist.
     Apparently this happens a lot, thereby rendering citations less meaningful, and certainly less impressive.
     There may be a future for books in libraries after all.
     And, yes, there’s already at least one company out there offering to store everything you link to.
     There’s money to be made in every calamity.

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