Thursday, 25 July 2019

The way humans deal with their planned obsolescence

The 7am podcast ran an episode discussing how it was Australia’s elderly that determined the outcome of the recent federal elections in favour of the Liberals. It’s not the first time the world has seen such phenomena; Brexit is probably the best example for how the elderly voted to block a world of opportunities from the younger generations. Australia’s case was different in the sense that it wasn't the fear of the immigrant but rather selfish greed, or - to be exact - generally unfounded selfish greed that settled the elections.
The matter of the elderly baby boomers screwing the world for followup generations is often brought up in various contexts, from global warming to housing affordability. In this post I wanted to share some thoughts I have on the subject, thoughts that came out of left field: software development.
Bear with me.

During June’s WWDC, Apple’s yearly developer convention, the company presented its application software developers with a whole slew of new technologies with which to develop their apps. Indeed, 2019’s WWDC is seen as the most bombastic of WWDCs since Apple had announced the Swift language, at least in terms of the number of innovations on display.
One such innovation is SwiftUI, a new framework for the declarative creation of user interfaces. Up to this point in time, imperative user interfaces were the rulers of Apple Land. Which begs the question, which of the two approaches will be ruling the world of tomorrow?
On one hand, it is obvious Apple is positioning SwiftUI as its new king. On the other, the App Store is filled with millions of apps built using older technologies, and these are not about to disappear nor rebuild themselves using SwiftUI. At least not within a couple of years, give or take.
Anyone watching the WWDC SwiftUI presentations  could not help but be impressed with the new technology. At the same time, there is much anxiety in the world of Apple Developers: which technology should one invest oneself in? Should they go with existing technology, which would allow them to dive right in to existing app development, or should they focus on SwiftUI to improve their future stake? Specialising in both at the same time is not a trivial affair. Further, which way should a new developer go? The answer might be obvious in a couple of years time, but the firm advice for today is to stick with the tried and tested. For now.
Consider, for a moment, what’s at stake for veteran Apple developers. Within a year or two, a whole lot of the experience they had gathered over the years would evaporate; a junior developer that just graduated could hold the advantage over them by being well versed in the newer technologies through their school of choice. What are the veterans to do? What can they do to avoid a potential crisis in income, status, and job stability?

It is obvious the camps of the Apple developers are but a tiny fraction of the workforce. However, it is just as obvious that this phenomenon - that of the rug being pulled under the worker as the rules of the game change and they are found to be out of date and out of touch - is far from a rarity. Not in this world as it is going through unprecedented rates of change.
The question is, how can the veteran secure themselves a future in such a world? There is only that much effort one can do when it comes to keeping up.
One way to achieve such security is through promotion. If we stick with software development, our experienced developer can become a lead or a manager. She will be doing less, if any, hands on development herself, but instead focus on making sure the ship is steering in the right direction. No intimate familiarity with SwiftUI is required in order to achieve that, but the wisdom that comes with experience certainly is.
Promotion is not enough, though. One cannot rely on being promoted when one’s future is at stake. There is the matter of the pyramid’s math, with its crowded base and the lonelier upper echelons; there is not enough room at the top for everyone.
Some other method has to be found to guarantee security for the “elderly” in the face of the threat coming from the younger quarters.

My point is simple. It seems to me as if society, more or less as a whole, chose to screw the younger generations in order to guarantee the older ones that they won’t suffer severe status depreciation.
This is why the rules are rigged in favour of the old. That is why they have made it harder and harder to get into the housing market. That is why they made sure entitlements they benefited from would no longer apply to others. Consider the formerly free tertiary studies, as well as various superannuation boosting schemes that seem to be disappearing over time. I would leave you be with the exercise of coming up with further examples; I doubt you would find much difficulty in coming up with plenty more.
The catch, in my opinion, is that I do not think this is going to be a one off. I do not think this particular illness in human to human relationships would be cured once baby boomers’ time under the sun is over. I suspect that, instead, it would be the gen X folk that take over and continue with the tradition of screwing those that followed them. Eventually, today’s victims, the millennials, would find themselves on the other side of the boot as they kick around whatever bizarrely titled generations come after them.
It would be simple. It would be the way of the world: when a problem presents itself, we tend to drift towards the simplest, the tried and tested, solution.
If it is breaking out of this vicious circle that we seek, I cannot see that happening without the restructuring of society’s core foundations. In other words, I cannot see that happening. Unless… Well, there might be some positive aspects to the climate catastrophe that is falling on us (and not so gradually).

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