Wednesday 17 September 2014

On selling out to Microsoft

At moments like these – moving house – I realise that the real division between rulers and ruled isn’t left or right, public versus private, or any of the other issues that the political class appear to think should motivate us.

It is systematised versus human.  Small scale versus big scale.  Community versus hierarchy.  Rationalised versus personal.

That is the story of people’s real lives, these days, whether those organisations are nominally public, private or voluntary sector.

This came home from me forcibly as I opened my post yesterday.  

Three identical letters from Southern Water in identical envelopes all informed me that the address I had moved into doesn’t exist (though it was actually built in 1957 and Southern Water and their predecessors have been providing it with water ever since).

They told me they are therefore sending an inspector to view the ‘new property’.

It doesn’t bother me except of course for the boneheaded waste, which I will presumably pay for at some point, and extreme lack of common sense.  Looking it up on the internet would have helped them find their own records.  But it reminds me why we mourn when enterprises with energy and intimacy are taken over by great lumbering systems and processes.

Like when the energetic online game Minecraft, which my children adore, was bought by Microsoft this week.

And we know that this spells the end for imagination, flair and intimacy – not because Microsoft are inherently bad or employ bad people, but because they are too big to provide it.

Ironically, it is also partly a side effect of IT which makes this so.  A generation ago, when I started work, I was uncontactable outside the office.  I had to use my initiative to make things happen.  

Now the big bosses can make every decision by mobile phone or by imposing IT systems which regulate their staff and render them incompetent – so that they can’t identify addresses which have been there for half a century.

This is what I wrote about this dismal sell-off in the Guardian yesterday.

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