Problems at Twitter, grease proof chairs, and the trouble with AI

The level of layoffs at several Big Tech firms has been the main source of news and comment over the past week or two. Around 11,000 people at Facebook and another 7,500 at Twitter are to be made redundant. Elon Musk then ensured the conversation moved on by forbidding remote work completely.

This is a blasphemous act in the era of wars for talent, great resignations and quiet quittings, and inevitably he has been roundly denounced for it. But one other part of his announcement caught my eye. In his memo, he declared that people should be in the office for a minimum of 40 hours a week.

Now, there’s always been an issue with the long hours working culture at tech and gaming firms. But that’s not the only problem I have with this. It’s another example of the retrograde obsession with determining exactly how much time people spend in an office.

This may get lost as a subplot in the current shitshow at Twitter, but it needs to stop. And that goes for the precisely three days in the office as much as it does for the minimum 40 hours. I am still baffled as to how, why and when we developed this fixation when we have always had the option to offer people flexibility and better management.

We also need to spend less time thinking about what happens at the apex of the workplace jungle and focus a bit more on the more numerous creatures at its base. And we need to question our motives for focussing on certain people and sectors, a point raised by Eaon Pritchard in this tweet about identifiable victims and saviours.


Elsewhere this week, another chance to find yourself in the superstate of dread and amusement at the combined potential and haplessness of AI. We’ve used AI to illustrate a couple of stories and are very impressed with the results. Then again, an apparently bot-generated Tweet from KFC urged Germans to mark the anniversary of Kristallnacht with some cheesy chicken. We have to take their word for it that this spectacularly tasteless Tweet came from a bot, but this is a sign of things to come. Blame the bot. The dog-ate-my-homework of social media gaffes.

Elsewhere in the world of fast food, McDonald’s have introduced a disgusting, grease-proof gaming chair for those people who only want to avert themselves from their screens for long enough to open the door to Deliveroo. The McCrispy Chair is made with “stain-proof leather” and includes a fry holster, hot box, drinks cup and slots for dip pots. WALL-E comparisons are inevitable.

Anyway. We’re getting to that time of year when people start making predictions about the world of work in 2023. Given just the events of the past week, I’d like to wish them all the very best of British with it.