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16 April 2010 @ 12:29 pm
No relation to anything else at all, really  
Pretend we're somewhere in the near future, AI still seems to be impossible (or at least perpetually "20 years away") but biotechnology is really taking off.

Suppose someone has developed a technique that will cause someone to become incredibly focused on specific tasks. Let's call this process "Focusing" someone (for no particular reason. ;) Once you're Focused you will obsess about your job to the exclusion of all else, it becomes the only thing of any interest to you. You don't care about friends or family or entertainment or anything else anymore. Needless to say while in this state you become highly productive. Also needless to say, most companies would love to have most of their employees Focused. (You do need some unFocused people for management, to direct the Focused people to Focus on the _right_ task, so it's not like you could have an entire company of Focused people.)

Let's further suppose that at least some companies are willing to hire people to be focused full time on a contract basis. They get a great salary, and the company provides room and board as well. After all, if you're Focused you don't care if you sleep in a barracks and eat cafeteria food every day, you're just interested in getting back to work. Also suppose that there are sufficient legal safeguards in place that you don't need to worry about abuse or perpetual slavery.

And finally let's assume the process is easily reversible, but let's not for the moment make any assumptions one way or the other about how quickly it can be turned on and off. (In part the poll is to see how quickly you'd have to be able to toggle it in order to make a "reasonable" number of people interested in the idea.)

Under what circumstances would you consider using that treatment?

I wouldn't, I don't believe in altering the brain/mind.
3(20.0%)
I'm okay with brain/mind alteration in general, but this doesn't sound like a good idea to me.
6(40.0%)
I'd be willing to use it to get ahead in my own personal projects.
2(13.3%)
I'd be willing to use it for work just so it wouldn't be boring.
0(0.0%)
I'd be willing to use it for work if my company was willing to pay me more.
0(0.0%)
I'd be willing to use it for work if my company was willing to pay me a _lot_ more.
0(0.0%)

How long would you be willing to use it (per session)

A couple hours a day, on some days.
3(37.5%)
A couple hours a day every workday.
3(37.5%)
A couple days a week.
1(12.5%)
A couple weeks a month.
1(12.5%)
A couple months a year.
0(0.0%)
A couple years a lifetime.
0(0.0%)

Would you be willing to enter into such a contract for at least a year or more if it would reasonably guarantee that, given proper investment, you'd be pretty much set for life after the contract expired?

No
8(57.1%)
Yes
1(7.1%)
Yes, but only if my SO were also entering into such a contract
1(7.1%)
Yes, but only if some other detail was dealt with
3(21.4%)

How long a contract would you be willing to consider?

1 Year
4(66.7%)
2 Years
0(0.0%)
3 Years
1(16.7%)
5 Years
0(0.0%)
10 Years
0(0.0%)
15 Years
0(0.0%)
20 Years
0(0.0%)
25 Years
0(0.0%)
More
0(0.0%)

When would you want to enter into such a contract, obviously presuming you had the chance to do your life over

20s/Right after college: Get it out of the way early and enjoy the rest of my life.
3(42.9%)
30s/After having a regular career for a little while: Live life while you're young!
1(14.3%)
40s: Getting on in years so you need an edge.
0(0.0%)
50s: Had a chance to have a relationship/raise a family/whatever. There's time to take a break now.
0(0.0%)
60s: it's just like retirement!
0(0.0%)
70s or more: old people ain't got no reason to live anyways!
0(0.0%)


Edit: If you guys _really_ want to delve into the technical details of how the process works or doesn't work, go read Vernor Vinge's "A Deepness in the Sky," because i suspect that trying to explain it all in comments is doomed to failure (though i may try that anyways =)
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Laura Parkinson: Pretty Wordsstormfeather on April 16th, 2010 07:37 pm (UTC)
And I'm sure this poll has absolutely nothing to do with you reading Vinge!

(I might take it later, I'm sleepy now though and not in a philosophical mood, especially for stuff I'd have to actually, y'know, think about.)
DonAithnen: Eye on youdonaithnen on April 16th, 2010 07:46 pm (UTC)
NOT AT ALL!!!

:)
Pava: TomoAtWorkjmpava on April 16th, 2010 07:48 pm (UTC)
I can see it for chores.

I can see if for hooking up to non-sentient creatures (cats or hamsters on a treadmill providing all the world's energy sources)?

Unless it's something you can switch on or off with no external force necessary, I don't see it beyond that. I don't see if extending beyond a work day (perhaps for menial/live at work type tasks like mining or, since we're in the future, space faring) but not for current day jobs. basically, if you're talking non-invasive point-specific caffeine replacement that you can turn off at any point, sure. Just about anything beyond that though....

Specifically, pretty much all of the 'long-term' ideas about this seem very fishy to me.

Edited at 2010-04-16 07:50 pm (UTC)
Steven DeFordwillworker on April 16th, 2010 09:20 pm (UTC)
Right-- some supreme version of "3 hour energy" might be tolerable, or even "6 hour energy," but something lasting more than "during the period of time you'd want to work on it" is a bit concerning, for the reasons jon_leonard points out.

Steve
Coraacoraa on April 16th, 2010 07:49 pm (UTC)
I would be willing to try it for chores and personal projects... although I am extremely dubious that fiction writing would be improved by monomanaiacal focus on writing, so I'd be afraid that I'd Focus for two hours and produce a ream of dreck for my trouble. Chores, though, could work.

I would be disinclined to do it for my job because I would be afraid that while I was Focused I would lose my moral/ethical sense (if doing the job is all I care about...?), and I would be even more afraid that employers would know that and take advantage of Focused employees to do their dirty work.
Coraacoraa on April 16th, 2010 08:14 pm (UTC)
Upon thinking about it more, I think I would not use it at all. Signing over my self-will skeeves me right the fuck out.
Beth Leonardbeth_leonard on April 17th, 2010 06:25 am (UTC)
Same here. This also would totally not go with having kids. Sometimes I need to be pulled away from something. I've taught Peter to say, "Mom, this is an emergency!" if something really dire (like Amber choking on something) is going on, otherwise I can tune the kids out when I'm on the phone enough (too much?) as it is.

--Beth
Chaos Never Blinkssithjawa on April 16th, 2010 07:54 pm (UTC)
I have a hard time seeing this as a non-scientific hypothetical about what you'd do to get ahead, because I know just enough about brains to start thinking about how it would actually work (though not enough to have any certainty).

People with ADHD are known for an unusual focus but can't easily be led to focus on the project their employer would prefer they focus on. It seems like the Focused employees might become Focused on problems that weren't the ones their employers desired unless a part of the Focusing were either a priority alteration (you find columns of numbers really fascinating) or a major increase in, er, leadability (you'll stop focusing on what you were focusing on and focus on what this supervisor directs your attention to). Otherwise you'd get things like Focused employees staring fixedly at the ingredients of their soda, trying to do whatever it took to get to a computer and find out what the molecular structure of aspartame is.

So I don't find the idea of Focus that alarming, but I find the idea of Guiding (as a required component of Focus in order to make it profitable) alarming.
Kirin: nebulakirinn on April 16th, 2010 08:09 pm (UTC)
My answers are not entirely internally consistent, partly because I'm having trouble suspending disbelief at the premise. I was going to babble something less coherent, but instead I'll just point to sithjawa's concerns above about guiding the focus, because I think that's what my objections boiled down to.

Trying to impose a particular "interest" seems kinda squicky on the mind-alteration spectrum.

All that said, anything that guaranteed being set for life after a year of generally non-life-threatening work is at least worth considering.
Ambermaggiedacatt on April 16th, 2010 08:25 pm (UTC)
You completely ignore the issue of kids. People with kids can't do this (except in its workday-only instantiation) without, like, enrolling their kids in boarding school.
Coraacoraa on April 16th, 2010 10:04 pm (UTC)
Yes. And to a lesser degree, people in relationships. If I was dating a guy who said, "Okay, honey, I'm going to cut off all contact with you while I Focus on working for a year or two! Don't try to get in touch with me, because I'll be totally uninterested in you for the duration!", I'd reply with, "Don't expect me to still be here when you get back."
jon_leonardjon_leonard on April 16th, 2010 08:34 pm (UTC)
For employment purposes, there's some major trust issues involved. Extra efficiency while working is a good thing, but employers' interests aren't aligned well enough to make mere "legal protections" sufficient.

As an aside, it might be worth looking at what sort of near-substitutes there are for focus. Apparently stimulants can provide something in that direction, and simple pay structure can do a lot: I was really quite effective when I was being a $120/hour contract sysadmin, though I wouldn't do that full-time.

But letting your employer alter your brain function seems like a really, really bad idea.
Steven DeFordwillworker on April 16th, 2010 09:18 pm (UTC)
Yeah, what he said about there not being a good way to oversee it.

Steve
Coraacoraa on April 16th, 2010 10:03 pm (UTC)
For employment purposes, there's some major trust issues involved. Extra efficiency while working is a good thing, but employers' interests aren't aligned well enough to make mere "legal protections" sufficient.

This is exactly what I was trying to say, only a lot more coherent. Doing this is effectively saying that I'll put my employer's priorities over my own for a period of time, and I don't trust that even a very good employer would be responsible with that authority over my brain.
Chaos Never Blinkssithjawa on April 16th, 2010 10:08 pm (UTC)
Some poll notes:

* I'd be willing to enter into a short-term contract (if the priority-changing ethics concerns could be dealt with somehow) with the ability to renew if satisfied.

* My willingness to do it relates strongly to how aligned I would otherwise be with the employer's priorities. For instance at my current job, I'm personally interested in the company's success, for reasons that have nothing to do with how much I am or am not paid. In situations where this is the case, I'm more inclined to do unorthodox things that might give me, my project, and my company an advantage. I would be very relucatnt to do them for any company whose interests I thought might not be coaligned with mine.

* None of the specifics of why one would do it at a specific age apply. I've never been 40, 60, or 80, but I find that today, there are many things "for" 5-, 10-, 15-, and 20- year olds that I would do at my current almost-30 age if they were socially accepted, mostly along the learning and development lines. Indeed I find that now, at almost 30, I gain new skills and knowledge in much the same way I did at 5. It's my hope that I can retain that through 40, 60, 80, and however long I live. I don't consider age to be a major factor in what is or isn't worth doing.
Steuardsteuard on April 16th, 2010 11:33 pm (UTC)
I like the idea of being able to focus intently on work in principle, but I'm not sure from the sound of it whether this would even be useful for the kind of creativity that I need in my work. I'm reasonably convinced that having my mind able to make unexpected connections and muse on seemingly unrelated ideas is a big part of doing science. Even more than that, though, those things have a lot to do with me being me, and I'm already extremely reluctant to interfere with my mind even with just run of the mill drugs (like alcohol). So count me out: I'll be one of the handful of folks who keeps society from completely collapsing when this happens.
Beth Leonardbeth_leonard on April 17th, 2010 06:23 am (UTC)
My family dislikes it enough as it is when I zone out and ignore them that I can't see doing anything more to enhance this.

-Beth
Cj: took the red oneporfinn on April 17th, 2010 03:15 pm (UTC)
What? I could focus on my OWN projects and wouldn't have the capacity to concern myself with family/s.o./friends? Where do I sign up! I could see this have been very handy in 1998! Sigh. I bet such technology wouldn't work on me anyway.