I'm Not A Productive Member of Society

All I do is tap on my keyboard.

Over the past few years, I noticed a common trend among software engineers — a strong belief that their app (which is essentially a facebook group with a new UI) is somehow going to change the way we work/eat/sleep/interact/commerce/etc.

Every time I hear why they're in [MANGA company], their tend to over justify why they're involved. And, consistently, their reasoning does not indicate its because:

  • It's a cushy job

  • Perks and facilities

  • High base and good stock options

But rather, most of the time, they point out that they're aligned with the mission (the work is interesting)! That this new Instagram feature they're shipping is going to help make shovelling paid courses down my throat easier. In short, it's empowering, its revolutionary, its impactful.

This over justification of equating working in a [MANGA COMPANY] with some moral high ground is such a common pattern. And I get that, its nice to act like you genuinely care about something and everyone loves feeling like they're a part of some big community, like the effective altruism community. Its feels good.

I have a confession to make I push numbers around a shared database for a living, and for a good amount of time I've never felt more useless. I was in denial, and adamant that what I was doing had a higher purpose, it was for the greater good! "We are establishing the future of DAOs/finance/decentralisation" I would say.

Meanwhile, my team and I were burning 5 figures a month on cloud computing just so we could be one step ahead of our competitors' in a zero sum game. We never expanded the pie, we merely consumed it. So useful, many impact, much wow. These days, I think I've come to peace with it. I don't need to some higher purpose to justify my contentment with my career.

There was a whole movie of Adam Sandler shovelling around really expensive and useless rocks around. And that movie really got me thinking: there are more jobs out there that are more useless than mine.

As it turns out, the 80/20 rule applies to a lot of things. 20% of the workforce is responsible for 80% of the outcome. Statistically speaking, I'm just an average member of society, and thats pretty... ok!

I'm not doing anything that harms other people, or anything that is a net negative to society. I'm simply doing what I love and enjoy, I don't need ulterior motives to justify that.

At the end of the day, you can polish a turd, but it'll still be a pile of turd. I've learnt to love my turd, as it is. I hope you can too.