The Rise of Bullshit Jobs

Should you squeeze the toothpaste tube in the middle or from the end?
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bryan
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Re: The Rise of Bullshit Jobs

Post by bryan » Fri Jul 13, 2018 2:51 am

https://elaineou.com/2018/07/09/univers ... shit-jobs/
I wasn’t a huge fan of David Graeber’s Debt, but just had to pick up Bullshit Jobs because it’s always refreshing to read an author writing from firsthand experience.
A great blog I would recommend following, by the way (heavy on the bitcoin, but plenty of other stuff).

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Re: The Rise of Bullshit Jobs

Post by shade-tree » Fri Jul 13, 2018 12:29 pm

@clarice yes, very good choice of topic, this does touch a nerve!

The industry I work in is highly regulated and has a lot of safety and education requirements (safety is a good thing!). But sadly, I see that the education is mainly box-checking and not really meaningful, so it doesn't have the impact it could. Also, we are dealing with a lot of duct-taping in my division because leadership opted out of purchasing a useful feature (to save money) that would save work, so now you have well-compensated people with Masters' degrees wasting a lot of time creating parallel tracking systems and doing data entry to compensate for not having it in our training system. So where's the savings now, eh?

But of course, my example is more peering too deep into the weeds. The rise of bullshit jobs is a symptom of our collective mindset toward mindless productivity. Graeber has a great couple of sentences later in his book that asks something like, "What if we all were to just stop doing Capitalism?" In other words, what if most of us just stopped participating in these systems? Clearly a lot of you ERE people who have dropped out of "cubicle work" have already done that, so it's hopeful to me that change could happen.

@Augustus you mention small companies being more efficient. That's true, but I would also propose that there are small companies that are 100% bullshit from top to bottom. I realize that bullshit is a judgement call, so for example, I don't smoke, but some people find value in the roll-your own tobacco shop next door, and they seems to be having fun, so maybe they're fulfilling an important need? But in the realm of 100% bullshit I'm thinking of companies that add a profit-making middle layer between the consumer and product, MLMs or for example these curation companies that will assemble clothing in your size, send 10 things to your house in a fancy box to try on and then you keep what you want and send what you don't want back. This makes you buy more of the product and takes a fee off the top too!
Graber says the financial industry has a lot of not-strictly necessary extra layers too. When I compare fees ranging from .08% to 2% on the fund options of my 401K, I can see that this is too true.

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Re: The Rise of Bullshit Jobs

Post by prognastat » Fri Jul 13, 2018 12:35 pm

shade-tree wrote:
Fri Jul 13, 2018 12:29 pm
But of course, my example is more peering too deep into the weeds. The rise of bullshit jobs is a symptom of our collective mindset toward mindless productivity. Graeber has a great couple of sentences later in his book that asks something like, "What if we all were to just stop doing Capitalism?" In other words, what if most of us just stopped participating in these systems? Clearly a lot of you ERE people who have dropped out of "cubicle work" have already done that, so it's hopeful to me that change could happen.
I don't quite think we have stopped participating. We are just participating in a way that advantages us. If you have any money invested either in real estate or the stock market you are still participating in Capatalism. You are literally providing the capital.

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7Wannabe5
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Re: The Rise of Bullshit Jobs

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Fri Jul 13, 2018 1:09 pm

prognastat wrote:I don't quite think we have stopped participating. We are just participating in a way that advantages us. If you have any money invested either in real estate or the stock market you are still participating in Capatalism. You are literally providing the capital.
True, but if you are also exhibiting a high degree of frugality, you are likely engaged in a high degree of home production and conservation of resources, both of which act somewhat in opposition to large scale capitalist production.

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Re: The Rise of Bullshit Jobs

Post by Augustus » Fri Jul 13, 2018 9:27 pm

shade-tree wrote:
Fri Jul 13, 2018 12:29 pm
@Augustus you mention small companies being more efficient. That's true, but I would also propose that there are small companies that are 100% bullshit from top to bottom. I realize that bullshit is a judgement call, so for example, I don't smoke, but some people find value in the roll-your own tobacco shop next door, and they seems to be having fun, so maybe they're fulfilling an important need? But in the realm of 100% bullshit I'm thinking of companies that add a profit-making middle layer between the consumer and product, MLMs or for example these curation companies that will assemble clothing in your size, send 10 things to your house in a fancy box to try on and then you keep what you want and send what you don't want back. This makes you buy more of the product and takes a fee off the top too!
If someone is willing to pay for it, it means it's not bull shit to the consumer otherwise they would not pay... If you're going to classify things people spend money on as bull shit, then it's not just bull shit jobs, we have an entire bull shit economy! Because I wont pay for most of that bull shit.

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Re: The Rise of Bullshit Jobs

Post by Clarice » Fri Jul 13, 2018 11:32 pm

Augustus wrote:
Fri Jul 13, 2018 9:27 pm
If someone is willing to pay for it, it means it's not bull shit to the consumer otherwise they would not pay... If you're going to classify things people spend money on as bull shit, then it's not just bull shit jobs, we have an entire bull shit economy! Because I wont pay for most of that bull shit.
@Augustus:

Actually, this train of thought is offensive to the bulls. :lol: Consider the chain: Jerome Powell pulls money out of his rear end. This money is sent to China. In return China sends back ceramic Halloween pumpkins, artificial flowers, and plastic American flags. In short order, these things become garbage and go back to China. Jerome Powell produces some more money to pay for the "recycling" of the garbage. Unlike bull's stuff these items can not be used as manure. :roll:

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Re: The Rise of Bullshit Jobs

Post by Hobbes » Sat Jul 14, 2018 1:00 am

I gotta agree with Augustus here; if the consumers weren't getting some sort of reward\value (likely a short term emotional one in this case), they wouldn't pay for the stuff.
How are you defining bullshit here? I'm reading it as 'something which shouldn't happen at all,' or perhaps something that has no reason for existing. While I'd agree that endless buying consumer products isn't a rewarding long term strategy, it does at least have some short term value to the individual (I know I feel way too excited when I get a new computer toy, despite having no objectively good reason for getting a new toy most of the time)

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Re: The Rise of Bullshit Jobs

Post by Mister Imperceptible » Sat Jul 14, 2018 8:55 am

+1 Clarice

Is it fair to say that if society wastes enough of its energy on bullshit work, buying bullshit things, that its long-term affects on society/civilization are deleterious?

If we burn an irrevocable hole in the ozone layer with excessive use of fossil fuels, is it right to say that the purchase of gas-guzzling SUVs is justified because that is what individual participants in the market wanted? Most of the individual participants are not taking the 50,000 foot view.

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Re: The Rise of Bullshit Jobs

Post by Hobbes » Sat Jul 14, 2018 12:56 pm

Where bullshit = actions which provide some value in the short run, but discount the long term (along with long-term damages caused by such activities)?

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Re: The Rise of Bullshit Jobs

Post by jacob » Sat Jul 14, 2018 4:15 pm

@MI - Kinda depends on what your standard is.
Peter Thiel wrote: You have as much computing power in your iPhone as was available at the time of the Apollo missions. But what is it being used for? It’s being used to throw angry birds at pigs; it’s being used to send pictures of your cat to people halfway around the world; it’s being used to check in as the virtual mayor of a virtual nowhere while you’re riding a subway from the nineteenth century.
Is it deleterious to civilization that it focuses a lot (a lot!) of resources on developing the computing power that makes movies about spaceflight look real as opposed to dedicating those resources to making actual spaceflight real?

Civilization is a complex system and unfortunately complex systems are path dependent. Since we're where we are now ... we might be stuck in wasting resources on maximizing entertainment (I include bullshit jobs in this category) value for a good while.

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Re: The Rise of Bullshit Jobs

Post by Mister Imperceptible » Sat Jul 14, 2018 4:54 pm

@JLF

Paraphrasing Saint Augustine: We Romans are getting ourselves a good laugh. We are laughing ourselves to death.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amusing ... s_to_Death

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Lemur
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Re: The Rise of Bullshit Jobs

Post by Lemur » Mon Jul 30, 2018 7:41 pm

On a scale of 1-10, my job is pretty much a 7 on the bullshit scale. The problem is that these bullshit white collar jobs like I have pay more. More money....quicker financial independence. The ends justify the means I guess.

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Re: The Rise of Bullshit Jobs

Post by trfie » Sat Sep 01, 2018 1:00 am

BlueNote wrote:
Wed Jul 04, 2018 7:59 pm
In the case of my employer they're an American company trading on the NYSE. This requires a governance team that will ensure the executives stay out of jail, the owners get all their required reports and the stock stays listed on the exchange. Nobody wants to poke the corporate governance bear these days(SOX , whistle blower paydays etc.). A privatization would render almost all of our jobs unnecessary and they'd likely package me and 95% of my team out if that happened. The upshot is that the stock market valuations are at such high levels that I don't think anyone is thinking much about buying out publicly traded companies right now.
BlueNote wrote: Accounting is rife with BS jobs that only exist to serve convoluted and in many cases unnecessary rules.
Clarice wrote:
Wed Jul 04, 2018 7:57 am
@Hobbes:
Ha-ha! I feel compelled to go ahead and try to disabuse you from the notion that "these jobs don't contribute anything of value". :twisted: I can speak for healthcare only. In healthcare, these jobs are conduits, through which taxpayers' money funneled via Medicare to people performing unnecessary chemo therapies, unnecessary surgeries such as gastric tube insertions, and unnecessary physical therapy sessions. You can have a nursing assistant help a person to make it to the bathroom - net expense to a nursing home. Or... you can have a certified and board-licensed physical therapist (entry level to the profession - doctor of physical therapy) to do the same and charge Medicare for doing so. In healthcare, the remedy of choice is always the most profitable to the institution providing it. :idea:
I think many of these jobs are government jobs, or related to unnecessary regulations/rules made by the government. Several examples above.

Look at healthcare. The billing rules are so complex that hospitals need masses of administrators that would not be necessary if compensation/insurance was determined by a private sector. The article mentions corporate lawyers, which is a result of the legal system. There are a lot of administrators in public education.

Several examples given in the article and in prior posts relate to corporations, but not to small businesses. Large corporations have a number of advantages over small businesses, which means that they have more money to waste. They receive big tax breaks. They get special rules passed for them due to their influence over Congress. When corporations get too big, the government does not allow them to fail. If corporations experienced all the consequences of their actions, there would be fewer bullshit jobs.

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Re: The Rise of Bullshit Jobs

Post by Hobbes » Sun Sep 02, 2018 1:57 pm

trfie wrote:
Sat Sep 01, 2018 1:00 am
Look at healthcare. The billing rules are so complex that hospitals need masses of administrators that would not be necessary if compensation/insurance was determined by a private sector.
My understanding is most of the complexity in hospital billing is because of conflicting requirements\different sets of info required by different, private insurers, not a government (or regulatory) issue. Indeed, the administrative costs in government-run health care systems (see the rest of the developed world) are far less than American costs, generally because there is only one institution (and one set of rules) for institutions to abide by.

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Re: The Rise of Bullshit Jobs

Post by DutchGirl » Mon Sep 03, 2018 12:56 am

trfie wrote:
Sat Sep 01, 2018 1:00 am
Look at healthcare. The billing rules are so complex that hospitals need masses of administrators that would not be necessary if compensation/insurance was determined by a private sector.
That wouldn't help. Say that every patient would have to pay for their own treatments. In that case you would still need administrative personnel to create the bill, discuss the bill with the patient, discuss the bill with the doctors, chase the patients for their payments, talk to lawyers or debt collection agencies about the bills that the patients aren't paying. Etc.

In my country, there are like 20 different health insurance companies (a couple of big ones and a lot of small ones). Dealing with them causes a LOT of paperwork for the healthcare providers. Plus still a lot of conversations between insurance companies and health care providers and patients about why certain care was or wasn't necessary, why a certain treatment should or shouldn't be covered by the insurance plan, why a co-pay is needed, etc.

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Re: The Rise of Bullshit Jobs

Post by trfie » Thu Sep 06, 2018 2:40 pm

Hobbes wrote:
Sun Sep 02, 2018 1:57 pm
My understanding is most of the complexity in hospital billing is because of conflicting requirements\different sets of info required by different, private insurers, not a government (or regulatory) issue. Indeed, the administrative costs in government-run health care systems (see the rest of the developed world) are far less than American costs, generally because there is only one institution (and one set of rules) for institutions to abide by.
No, this is not the reason in the United States. Inpatient vs. observation status is due to Medicare. ICD-9 and 10 coding requirements are due to Medicare/Medicaid. The cost of these coding requirements is estimated in the high billions. The cost of HIPAA compliance is estimated at a trillion dollars.

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Re: The Rise of Bullshit Jobs

Post by trfie » Thu Sep 06, 2018 2:56 pm

DutchGirl wrote:
Mon Sep 03, 2018 12:56 am
That wouldn't help. Say that every patient would have to pay for their own treatments. In that case you would still need administrative personnel to create the bill, discuss the bill with the patient, discuss the bill with the doctors, chase the patients for their payments, talk to lawyers or debt collection agencies about the bills that the patients aren't paying. Etc.

In my country, there are like 20 different health insurance companies (a couple of big ones and a lot of small ones). Dealing with them causes a LOT of paperwork for the healthcare providers. Plus still a lot of conversations between insurance companies and health care providers and patients about why certain care was or wasn't necessary, why a certain treatment should or shouldn't be covered by the insurance plan, why a co-pay is needed, etc.
I have paid a lot of bills, both in healthcare and outside of healthcare, and where I am, the complexity and number of calls to different parties is much more in healthcare, as well as the complexity. There are totally cash medical practices that don't have all the administrative burden of dealing with insurance companies, which avoids all of the issues you mention.

A healthcare provider dealing with a lot of insurers should be able to be streamlined with technology. Do they have the choice of using whatever electronic record system they want to use, or is there some limitation? I am not familiar with the Netherlands, but I would wonder if there are billing restrictions imposed by the government. From the wikipedia page, it seems like there is a lot of government intervention in healthcare:
Waiting lists in the Netherlands increased since the 1980s due to global budgets imposed on the hospital sector although waits remained low compared to many countries. Several changes contributed to waiting times reduction. One was the replacement in 2001 of fixed hospital budgets with introduction of (probably capped) activity-based payment for hospitals,..

In 2005, as part of health care reforms, a per-case payment system for hospital care was introduced. Over time, the percent of cases where hospitals and insurers could negotiate the volume and price of each type of case increased.
Mixing the public and private sector is bound to increase costs.

In the US at least, it's interesting that technology has revolutionized basically every industry except healthcare, where they are still using antiquated systems. It's easy to see how technology would decrease cost and improve care, but the way that incentives are set up, I don't believe there is an economic incentive to implementing technology. In fact, it would probably be an increased cost, because the billing system is not set up to reward efficiency or quality of care provided.

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Re: The Rise of Bullshit Jobs

Post by DutchGirl » Fri Sep 07, 2018 3:17 am

trfie wrote:
Thu Sep 06, 2018 2:56 pm
In the US at least, it's interesting that technology has revolutionized basically every industry except healthcare
And except banking. Banking is also ridiculously old-fashioned in the US. We stopped using checks in the 1980s for example.

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Re: The Rise of Bullshit Jobs

Post by trfie » Fri Sep 07, 2018 4:19 pm

DutchGirl wrote:
Fri Sep 07, 2018 3:17 am
And except banking. Banking is also ridiculously old-fashioned in the US. We stopped using checks in the 1980s for example.
That's a good example, but also banks in the US are heavily regulated by the government and money is controlled by the government as well. Now there is a lot of discussion by banks about using blockchain technology and making changes, also the crypto-enthusiasts say that the banks are going to become obsolete, so the private sector is going to force improvements there.

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Re: The Rise of Bullshit Jobs

Post by DutchGirl » Sat Sep 08, 2018 1:09 am

Banks in the EU are also heavily regulated by the government and controlled by the government. Yet, consumers still have more rights, more protections and easier & cheaper access to their own money. I think that historically the customer has had more influence on how banks operate in the EU than in the US.

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