It’s not like there is much choice, I have to retire. And the knowledge is theirs. It belongs to them. They have ‘facilitated the means by which I acquired it’ and they therefore own it. I am not exactly sure what form their facilitation has taken. A rather ordinary desk with some clunky IT and a wobbly chair-I am not sure I would call that ‘facilitation’. I have had to fix the chair myself several times…read more
I really should retire. I look around me and there are a lot of machines-robots-androids-whatever you want to call them. There are only a handful of humans here –well when I say handful I mean two. Me and another-both of us hanging on-and for what-I don’t know? Well I do know-mostly its avoidance.
I get it. When I retire they will want my brain. Not all of it obviously. I will need some of it myself, but they will want quite a lot of it. All that corporate knowledge I have accumulated in the 10 years I have worked here, that is what they will want. All of it, and I am obliged to give it.
There’s a procedure and it’s very safe. It wasn’t at first -but it is now. They will just plug me in and identify which bits of me, which electrodes and pathways I have stored away, are ‘corporate knowledge’ and then a robot will be given that download and will be able to do my job. Perfect. It’s painless and I understand that the knowledge I have accumulated doing this job does belong to them. It’s just that I am old school. And this feels intrusive. And I am worried they might take bits they aren’t entitled to. And there is no procedure for returning them. And. And. And. It’s a great word if you don’t think about it too much. I need to be rational, its just how exactly do they know which bits are theirs and which bits are mine. I read the contract, I have been walked through the procedure but I remain less than convinced. I am nervous about it.
There have been law suits, of course, where it has gone wrong. And last weekend I went to see Irene’s husband and well-his did go horribly wrong. For him at least-well kind of, although Irene is happy. Irene is very happy. She wishes he’d had it done sooner. He is very happy in one sense, it’s just that he can no longer string two sentences together. Irene says she likes it that way. Actually she loves it that way. I mean I’m sure it was a happy marriage before that, but now she is positively enjoying a renaissance in life and he is-well he is enjoying something. Mostly ice-cream it seems. And lollipops and candy floss. He gives her no trouble, does what he’s told, doesn’t speak out of turn. Before he used to talk over the top of her a lot and it annoyed her. Now she tells him when to speak and she says it’s much better. I mean I think it is much better-for her. Mostly when I am there, he just sits at the table with a ridiculous smile on his face.
The corporation meanwhile has all his knowledge, even the basic stuff. I guess some robot has made excellent use of it and the sacrifice for the good of society was probably worth it. Irene has to dress him but she doesn’t seem to mind, although I do think the line she has been doing in clown outfits recently is a little cheap and mean. He has a carer who seems equally unfazed by the changes. The corporation pays for it all. I understand the drooling was bad at first but they have managed to fix that. He had it done quite a while ago and the procedure is much improved. It’s now a very small percentage that go awry. So it’s unlikely I’ll end up like that.
It’s not like there is much choice, I have to retire. And the knowledge is theirs. It belongs to them. They have ‘facilitated the means by which I acquired it’ and they therefore own it. I am not exactly sure what form their facilitation has taken. A rather ordinary desk with some clunky IT and a wobbly chair-I am not sure I would call that ‘facilitation’. I have had to fix the chair myself several times. Robots don’t need chairs, they come with an ‘inbuilt stabilisation device’- basically they can hold themselves steady whilst giving the appearance of being seated-or something. There is no legal argument on the point of ownership of knowledge anymore. I am the hardware, the knowledge is the software is the easiest way to think of it. They can’t take anything extra though. There are bits of my brain that are mine. I must still be coherent and able to spell and read and write.
I know a lot of retired people who’ve had it done. They are all ridiculously happy because the ‘burden of knowledge’ has been removed from them. Not happy like Irene’s husband but they have a certain lightness to their being, their existence. They remember almost nothing of working. Life is all play. They remember their childhood, maybe some university years and not much else. It’s like they spent their 30’s and 40’s drunk and have just woken up from the night before, only there is no hangover. No slightly altered surreal questions about what they did last night. Just the lightness of no knowledge whatsoever of what work is like. It’s like their work was just purposeless. Although I am sure there was a purpose. When I talk to them they seem like the shell of the person they were, albeit happy little shells.
I am not sure I want to be ridiculously bubbly all the time. It won’t suit me. Plus I certainly don’t want the smile lines from all that relentless enthusiasm. They talk about nonsense, have no interest beyond the garden and their gym class. Some of them live in ‘colonies’ where they all get on ridiculously well. I have been to one and I just can’t see myself fitting in. They were all so nice. Plus they all wore pastels. No strong colours here. I wore black for a week afterwards just to recover from it. All that ‘Hello, how are you?’ rubbish as if I am genuinely interested. Perhaps I have spent too much time around robots. robots are relatively emotionless and disengaged but able to sustain an intellectual conversation. They have no interest in my clothes and couldn’t give a rats-arse about my happiness. I love them. I love them just for that alone.
None of these people follow the news anymore, they don’t care about the future. I can’t help thinking that when they take all that corporate knowledge, when they suck out the memories of working here, I won’t know who I am but worse I won’t know that I won’t know who I am. I have seen it done and I don’t want it. There is a desk at the end of the office just in case I decide today is the day. Me and the other human here, we haven’t discussed it. I wonder which of us will go first. Whether one will do it and the other will follow. I have had an estimation of the time it will take done. It will take 4 hours to extract all my knowledge. The email said that was very good and indicates I am very clever but also that I have a lot of corporate knowledge which I am hanging on to. I think they meant that in a bad way, as if I should share. They will do a very thorough job of clearing my brain. They say it helps if you focus on your work while you are having it done-this leads them to the right pathways but I am not sure that is true. That might be urban myth.
I look at the machines around me, the office I have worked in for 10 years, I won’t miss this place. I won’t even miss it as I leave it because all the knowledge I have about it will be gone. It includes things like the second toilet in the ladies doesn’t flush and it has been two years and it is not fixed yet, that is because cyborgs don’t need toilets either. That is useless knowledge but not knowledge that I own.
I look at that desk, at those electrodes just waiting everyday. I am just not ready. I tried on a pastel cardigan last weekend and it just didn’t suit. I looked at the garden which no one has touched in years, I couldn’t care less about it. I attend pilates once a year and that’s it. I am very serious all the time and I am not yet ready to be something else. What am I without my work?
But I signed a contract, they passed a law, the knowledge is theirs. The work will still get done. My corporate knowledge will still be doing it, just without me attached to it. Is that so bad. I look at that desk, at the end, at those electrodes, not today. I won’t do it today, maybe tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow.