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May 2005

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I was talking with Louie the other day and he observed that, due to huge rises in productivity, a good chunk of the population does virtually no "work" - they are effectively employed solely to be consumers.

When speaking of the United States, we have plenty to cover the "basic" needs of everybody. Food, shelter, clothing... we have no lack of resources or manpower to create these things. There are of course people slipping through the cracks, but it's not for a lack of resources (instead it's due to a societary misallocation of them).

As capitalism chugs on, the things we actually need to live become more and more trivial to produce, and there are fewer jobs involved in their production. Of course, the rest of us have to do something...

I find myself asking just what exactly it is that I do. At its most basic level, I lend support to help a business operate.

But let's follow through on that chain. What does my company do? They aid in software and hardware UI design and usability research for larger clients.

But what do the larger clients do? They take that research and create gizmos and gadgets and sell them to people.

What do the gizmos and gadgets do? They (in some cases) help people work more efficiently. In other cases they provide diversions, comfort, or entertainment.

There are essentially two potential outcomes, if you follow the chain:

- I lend support to a process that ultimately creates products that lend support to other processes
- I lend support to a process that ultimately creates products that results in trinkets and diversions for entertainment value

Of those two outcomes, I find the first especially interesting. It's so incredibly cyclical - the products we create may shave seconds off of a person's workload, and that person in turn may be working on products that shave seconds off of another person's workload.

It seems that a good chunk of the population works only to make other people's work easier. When you follow that line of thinking to the natural conclusion and "close the loop," it starts to seem pretty ridiculous - my job is to make Bob's job easier, and Bob's job is to make my job easier.

So how much of the economy is really smoke and mirrors, and why are the people actually producing tangible results (the guy down at Burger King making you a sandwich, for example) valued so much less than those of us who are shuffling work back and forth between each other?

I can't help but think at some point it's all going to collapse.

I did 3 things at once, some combination of which appears to have stabalized this system (knock on wood, I guess): downgraded to Testing, installed Debian's generic i386 kernel instead of the Athlon optimized one, and disabled the second NIC in the system.

Generally when troubleshooting you want to minimize the number of factors that change at any given step of the process so that you can isolate the failure point. However, given the potentially long timeframe between me taking an action and being able to verify whether it had the desired result, and given that I really need the system to be working, I just took the "shotgun" approach - eliminate as many failure points as possible in an effort to restore minimal functionality.

Something is really messed up with this system. Debian Sarge is frozen, and ever since the last update I've been locking up like crazy.

It could be Debian, it could be hardware (this stuff is cheapo, who knows?) I'm trying to DOWNgrade to Testing from Unstable (done by pinning Testing to a priority over 1k, if you're interested) so god only knows what'll happen next.

The blog is backed up, so is my email and such, so... well... we'll see. I may disappear for a while, though.