Anthony Jay | Body Doubling | Factoids | Beware The Counter-Elite
Quote of the Moment
The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a very creative mind to spot wrong questions.
| Anthony Jay
The pandemic has led to a lot of people working from home, but for some, the lack of coworkers providing a human ambiance leads to problems. One thing that’s catching on is body doubling, working remotely in the shared virtual presence of others. Chloe Berger reports about this practice, starting with Nicole Onyia:
She usually starts work at 9 a.m. and goes live an hour later. Onyia’s TikTok live videos, which she calls “work alone together,” have earned her 100,000-plus followers. She has an aesthetic desk setup with ambient music, and she stops working from time to time to answer questions in her comments section from viewers who work alongside her.
Onyia is body doubling, or parallel working—a new term for an old strategy: doing work in the presence of others. Traditionally done in the same room, the trend is now taking over TikTok live and Zoom as remote work leaves many people struggling to concentrate or looking for community.
To some, watching someone work on a laptop might seem as boring as watching paint dry. And others might find it unsettling, considering the workers are strangers. But with more people struggling with ADHD and a loneliness epidemic, body doubling is seen as a way to assuage both conditions.
Working Out Loud is the idea of leaving an exhaust of your work, on a blog, or social media, and it leads to building a sense of community with others. But that is a very slow process and probably lacks some of the direct psychological support of real-time ambient body doubling.
One of the attractions of co-working is the sense of being in a place with others working to get things done, even if you aren’t in the same company. Body doubling is a sort of virtual co-working, an element of work community sharing.
At the core is accountability—when you have someone you’re sharing goals with, you’re more likely to achieve them, says Alicia Navarro, CEO of Flown, a company that hosts Zoom body doubling. A study from the University of East London on 101 Flown members found a majority indicated an above-average impact on focus (96%) and productivity (94%).
“If you observe a whole screen of people focusing and working, it’s much easier for your own nervous system to calm down and to almost subconsciously mirror those positive behaviors,” Navarro says.
Meanwhile, as individuals create new practices to alleviate loneliness and increase focus, back-to-the-office adherents continue to claim that the office is the only solution to these issues. Instead, they should learn from these no-cost, bottom-up practices, and institute them as a foundation of remote and hybrid work.
Why we can’t build enough housing:
As the economist Eli Dourado has documented, environmental-impact statements were initially very short—just 10 pages, in some instances. But now they average more than 600 pages, include more than 1,000 pages of appendices, and take four and a half years on average to complete.
Another reason: Metropolitan Houston has 30 parking spaces for each of its over six million residents, using a land area nearly 10 times the size of Paris. | Max Holleran
The human body is made up of about 40 trillion cells.
63% of 1,202 recruiters surveyed have had new hires leave in the first 90 days after starting a new job. | Worklife
Beware of the Counter-Elite
China is confronted with what may become a serious problem. The country has produced too many college graduates and too few white-collar jobs for them. Guangdong, a manufacturing area near Hong Kong, has offered work in villages for 300,000 of the 11 million jobless youth in China’s urban centers.
Laura He reports:
China’s youth are the most educated in decades, with record numbers of graduates from colleges and vocational schools. But they also face a growing mismatch between their expectations and opportunities as the economy slows significantly.
Frustrated by mounting uncertainties and a lack of social mobility, young people are increasingly losing hope that a college degree can bring the same returns it once did.
Kong Yiji, a famous literary figure from the early 20th century, has been one of the hottest memes on China’s social media since February. Kong was a highly educated man living in poverty because he was too proud to do manual labor.
Young college graduates joke that they have been trapped by their education and stuck between difficult choices: pursue a white-collar career and risk unemployment or “take off their scholar’s gown” and work a blue-collar job they had hoped to avoid through education.
Kong Yiji seems like an aftershock of the Chinese lying flat (tang ping) movement of recent years, where young workers adopted a low-to-the-ground, anti-ambition stance. However, this may be more of a threat. Laura He cites George Magnus of Oxford University’s China Center:
All governments should be concerned about disaffected youth principally because it’s a betrayal of social mobility, but also because young unemployed or those without hope can foment unrest. This would be especially sensitive in China, where it would also detract from the required compliance with Xi Jinping’s thought and social stability.
Many are driven by the desire to get away from China’s grueling, 996 (9am to 9pm six days a week) corporate culture:
Ms. Liu [who walked away from a job as a designer in various ‘high-flyer’ companies] is part of a phenomenon attracting growing attention in China: young people trading high-pressure, prestigious white-collar jobs for manual labor. The scale of the trend is hard to measure, but widely shared social media posts have documented a tech worker becoming a grocery store cashier; an accountant peddling street sausages; a content manager delivering takeout. On Xiaohongshu, an Instagram-like app, the hashtag “My first experience with physical labor” has more than 28 million views.
On reading about Kong Yiji, I was reminded of Peter Turchin’s historical modeling of various revolutions in the past as a means to predict future disasters, as profiled by Graeme Wood [emphasis mine]:
The year 2020 has been kind to Turchin, for many of the same reasons it has been hell for the rest of us. Cities on fire, elected leaders endorsing violence, homicides surging—to a normal American, these are apocalyptic signs. To Turchin, they indicate that his models, which incorporate thousands of years of data about human history, are working. (“Not all of human history,” he corrected me once. “Just the last 10,000 years.”) He has been warning for a decade that a few key social and political trends portend an “age of discord,” civil unrest and carnage worse than most Americans have experienced. In 2010, he predicted that the unrest would get serious around 2020, and that it wouldn’t let up until those social and political trends reversed. Havoc at the level of the late 1960s and early ’70s is the best-case scenario; all-out civil war is the worst.
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