Life 1.0 – The Competition

I’m a nerd.  Surprising revelation, I know.  I’d rather read a book than go to a bar.  I used to play Dungeons & Dragons in high school.  I still like video games.  And, I like science fiction.  Of course, Star Trek is near the top of the list.  As a scientist/nerd, I can watch Star Trek and think/dream that most of it may NOT be “fiction”, but a vision of the future.  From a technical and scientific aspect, I can almost believe it, if you remove some of the scientific impossibilities from a Star Trek script.

But from a social aspect?  I’m not buying it for a second.  Sure, there’s always the bad guy to fight in Star Trek, but society as a whole is peaceful.  War is the exception, not the rule. People have evolved to such a state that even money isn’t used any more, for god’s sake.  Listening to a Captain Kirk or Captain Picard speak (especially the latter) is sometimes like listening to a preacher, although it’s not religion they’re expressing, it’s the inherent “goodness” of man.

Like I said…I’m not buying it for a second. If we ever reach a Star Trek level of technology, you can be damned sure things won’t be peaceful.  You can be damned sure money, greed, and the hunger for power will be there.  The Star Trek utopia, where everyone works for the common good?  A nice pipe dream, but a pipe dream is all it will ever be.

Think about your typical day. You get ready and head for work, only to find yourself in a drag race with the guy on his cell phone who thinks 5 mph over the speed limit is an insult to his manhood. You get to work, and in theory, are working towards whatever common goal your employer (or yourself) has established.  In reality? It’s more often every man for him or herself, with individual achievement, power, and money driving workers more than the overall common good.

I pity “management”…to a point.  Imagine a work group of 20 individuals tasked to work together towards a common goal.  In that group, you have the “Invisible 4“, those that do as little as it takes to continue getting a paycheck every two weeks.  You have the “Backstabbing 5“, the aggressive bunch who is working with, or against, each other, to ensure THEY achieve the recognition, the reward, for the group’s work.  Bob in the corner?  He just doesn’t give a shit, and is cruising towards retirement.  You have the “Naive Numbskulls“, 2 or 3 inexperienced youngsters who will end up doing 70% of the work but will get buried by the group and get no recognition.  The “Blabbing Blowhards?”  That’s the pair of idiots that have no idea how to accomplish the group’s goal, but are gifted at 1) monopolizing 90% of all discussion time, and 2) trying to tell others how to do a job they themselves are incapable of doing.

Yes, the exact proportions may vary from setting to setting, and there are a few other categories of folks, but out of 20 people, it’s almost guaranteed that at least half will fall into one of the categories above.  In general, that will leave maybe 5 honest, hard-working individuals, folks who DO generally believe in the overall goal, and will do an honest day’s work to reach that goal.  That’s the group I feel sorry for, for they are the ones who end up suffering due to the actions (or inactions) of the others.  The best and the brightest too often end up being the ones who are trampled upon.  Over time, they become the ones who are the most disillusioned.

I said I feel sorry for management, to a point, given that it’s an impossible task to try to build a perfectly effective team from such a group of individuals.  “To a point” is an important distinction, though, because 80% of time, management themselves falls into one of those categories.  Those that do reach management are often the most aggressive of the original 20.  The “common goal” becomes a means to an end, with the “end” being a promotion or other reward for the manager.  The process? The end product? The workers themselves? Secondary to the personal achievement that’s to be gained.

What, I’m being a little too cynical here?   There are undoubtedly exceptions to this general characterization of the workplace.  I’d take my own personal team at work to hell and back, as I think the world of them.  But it’s disheartening as hell though to see how the backstabbing 5, or the babbling blowhards end up affecting the workplace in general, and negatively affecting the individual recognition and rewards that the standouts deserve.

Life 1.0 – The competition.  Will we ever reach the Star Trek utopia?  Will we ever reach Life 2.0 – The Evolved?  Hell no….we’ll never even get to Life 1.01.  We’re biological creatures, the same as any other on the planet.  We have the same drives, the same instincts to survive and thrive.  Competition is biologically ingrained, and no matter your place in life, you can be sure that competition and the desire to “one-up” your fellow-man is driving one hell of a lot more of society’s behavior than is striving for the common good.

Cheery thoughts!  But sadly typical as one reaches the end of the work week.  Enjoy your weekend, rest up, and get ready for Monday Morning and the next week’s worth of competition.

One Response to Life 1.0 – The Competition

  1. Kevin O'Keeffe

    You are correct, of course. No amount of technological advancement will ever free us from the limitations of human nature. The world of “Star Trek” occurred in an implicitly socialist Utopia that, while seemingly desirous, is about as likely as the Moon’s spontaneous transmogrification into a giant globe of green cheese.

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