May 25, 2009

Job satisfaction depends on how you use your hands

Come to think about it, that I first thing I enjoyed about computers was the power that came with pressing so many buttons - it sort of makes sense. As we all become 'knowledge workers', our focus is shifting to our internal mental processes. We may seek the cure to our stress in alternate mental states, where instead it is probably just doing something physical that reconnects us with reality.

An article from a Ph.D. knowledge worker turned motorcycle mechanic:

High-school shop-class programs were widely dismantled in the 1990s as educators prepared students to become “knowledge workers.” The imperative of the last 20 years to round up every warm body and send it to college, then to the cubicle, was tied to a vision of the future in which we somehow take leave of material reality and glide about in a pure information economy. This has not come to pass. To begin with, such work often feels more enervating than gliding. More fundamentally, now as ever, somebody has to actually do things: fix our cars, unclog our toilets, build our houses.


I once accidentally dropped a feeler gauge down into the crankcase of a Kawasaki Ninja that was practically brand new, while performing its first scheduled valve adjustment. I escaped a complete tear-down of the motor only through an operation that involved the use of a stethoscope, another pair of trusted hands and the sort of concentration we associate with a bomb squad. When finally I laid my fingers on that feeler gauge, I felt as if I had cheated death. I don’t remember ever feeling so alive as in the hours that followed.

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