Phoning it in

Last night I had a conference call that ran on until midnight, so I was sluggish this morning. Late to bed and late to rise doesn’t really make a man healthy and wealthy and wise, it makes him confused and easily distracted by the world around him. At least this could be seen as a way to develop more empathy for my daughter, similarly incapable of parsing the world right now.

Sometimes I think teleconferencing is a wonderful invention, whereby we can avoid the pain of commuting and still achieve something. Sometimes I think it’s a rubbish idea, an excuse for somebody to be swinging the lead from home while every gullible fool is trapped in the office, slaving away. Strange how this attitude fluctuates, depending on whether I’m the one working from home or not.

The great advantage of my job is that it isn’t tied to a desk; with a decent internet connection, a supply of hot drinks and a lack of loud banging noises, I could do it from anywhere in the world. The downside is that this means I always seem to be doing my job from the same place, regardless of my ability to do it from a Fijian hammock, on the top floor of a Bangkok skyscraper or floating at sea on a German minesweeper. (Of course, because I could do it anywhere, at any time, there’s also the possibility that I would never stop working, but an iron will, and remembering what it was like to have work-induced sciatica, and a constantly distracting child help to mitigate that risk.)

Still, you need to talk to people sometimes. Even if our phone calls were crystal clear and the video never shattered into a dozen blocky pixels, there would still be gaps there, the inability of technology to replace human contact. Or I’m too old to realise I’m outdated.

But it’s a cycle. Email was going to replace phone calls, until it turned out that with a thousand emails in your inbox, a phone call would be more effective. Parcels in the post, wrapped up in string are still better than random tweets. And despite Paypal et al, it’s still more satisfactory to buy somebody a drink in person rather than from the other side of a continent, your transaction mediates by a minimum wage call centre somewhere that’s nowhere in between.

Then again, technology means I can work all day in my underpants and nobody has to know. But I get the feeling if I was working from my underpants all day, things would chafe.

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