The Unconscious Life - your not employed your unconscious mind is.

I recently did some reasonable amount of labouring at home. I was doing it for an hour or two every night for a couple of weeks. What was interesting about it was that I was working seriously hard but I had my brain all to myself. I could think. I could day-dream. Time seemed to go on forever. I would labour for an hour and check the time it had barely moved yet compared to my normal experience time clock. Much more happened than usual work at this time. With all this spare brain capacity I had the chance to contemplate life, analyse problems and attempt to see the perspectives of others. I managed in a very short amount of time to made decisions, find new perspectives, challenge and argued with myself. I felt alive and stimulated and it felt like it went on forever. Even more amazing, I had ideas. This essay is one of those ideas. An idea that has troubled me ever since it appeared.

During my studies I greatly admired Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a Hungarian psychologist popularised the concept of Flow, a highly focused mental state. He describes it as "being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz." For a long time considered this perhaps ultimate idea as a manager and as an employee. It was a state I tried very hard to enter. It seemed to work I was very productive and work seemed to go fast. Perhaps I was having the "best moments of your life" at work as FastCompany saw it. I see a perfect theory for employers as they have a new way to get the "get the best out" of their workers and a go-to rationalisation that its the workers fault if they don't enjoy work. They are unhappy because they can't get into Flow because they just aren't good enough at it or focused enough. Despite a good decade being a disciple of Mihaly's theory, I am starting to wonder if its a bad deal. Get into Flow and miss out of life. Perhaps the only benefit is that your office wage slavery is quick and forgettable.

An active body with a free mind is the opposite of office work. In the office my body simply exists to support my brain and provide the inputs (eyes, ears) and outputs (fingers) to a stationary machine (computer). In terms of a lived experience, I found that work travels fast, apart from a few pivotal moments day-to-day there wasn't much I could remember. I couldn't remember a thing from a month ago and I couldn't tell possibly a thing that happened in any random month in past decade as I Flowed out.

So as I was busy using my body digging, I had a troubling thought. I was not selling my time for money but my brain as an analog computer. If it was only my time for sale then I would still be free to have my own thoughts and unique experiences. Instead, my brain was running 100% computing to solve my employer's problems. I was just another node in an analog cloud computing platform.

Elon Musk likes to think we just computers. Perhaps that's what we are, portable analog computers. The office is designed to help you disconnect from your body with a nice even temperature, comfortable chair, and ergonomic desk. No wind, sun or scent. Your workstation should be oblivious as you plugin you massive parallel machine (brain). Coupled with digital devices and software the office really is a hybrid computational platform. No wonder employers don't like their remote work, the conditions are unlikely to cultivate the matrix like experience total emersion into a productive worker node.

At least the analog computers get some downtime, unlike the digital side. For workers it is a significant part of our lives, a 24 hour period breakdown of a typical office worker is:
  • 8 Hours Sleep
  • 2 Hours Commute (out of body experience - typical mindless iPhone screen-time)
  • 8 Hours Work
  • 4 Hours TV (not much time here for thinking)

Leaving two hours of physical and time for thought. No wonder people complain that as they get older time goes quicker. As we age we end spending more time on mindless activities. Either by selling our analog neural network or by distracting ourselves with gadgets. Yet a laborer is usually thought of one of the lowest status work but when you consider that they actually get to experience and live an additional eight hours a day. They actually get to live longer. Isn't that what everyone wants? To live and experience life as long as possible. Perhaps that's the cost, those who get to experience life have to pay a price for lower status and pay.

Maybe I would eventually tire of thinking and which to plug myself in. Or my body would eventually fall apart from all the work. Yet it still doesn't change that when I go to work I am not only simply selling my time I am renting my neural network that is very good at pattern recognition, language and creative problem-solving. I do the non-linear work while the binary computers do the step-by-step basic procedures. Ultimately it isn't surprising that the office is trying to tap the non-conscious mind as is a vastly more powerful than your conscious mind.

Ultimately (productive) office work is a highly evolved system to extract your time and your life. Now I am aware that when I'm in the office I am conscious of the time I have started thinking how I can experience most of the time that is given to me.