Some holidays, like Christmas, can require much debate about their true meaning.
But, luckily for Labor Day, no one has to go quite that deep. Thank goodness, we have a government department that can answer that question for us; fittingly enough, it is the Department of Labor, which, on its website, offers the following as the “meaning of Labor Day:”
Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.
OK, so maybe there are not a lot of amateur poets working in the Department of Labor, but you can’t really argue with the sentiment. Most of us are American workers of some stripe or, at least, have been for some part of our lives. With the plethora of days out there to celebrate the exceptional among us who have done extraordinary things, it’s both fitting and fair to acknowledge that the vast majority of us do something important every day by doing something very ordinary — going to work, keeping the economy up and running and enjoying the personal pride associated with a job well done.
And while we fully support paying homage to all the people doing their jobs well this holiday — thinking about labor and working and how very much we’re gong to enjoy celebrating both of those things by taking Monday off — we couldn’t help but wonder about all of the great people — and technologies — who went the extra mile to avoid doing any labor at all.
Take for instance…
The Self-Stirring Coffee Mug
Imagine for a minute this scenario: A busy professional on the go manages to find the time to grind the beans, brew their own coffee, add all the fixings to it but just can’t go that extra mile to stir it. But there are, apparently, people in the world who are fine with the whole coffee preparation process but who just really, really don’t want to expend the extra labor to stir it. And for those people, there is the self-stirring coffee cup — on sale now at many major retailers. This is a product that many people have purchased, and some have even liked. The rest, however, complain that, for its brilliance of concept, the device just doesn’t work. Or it works for a week or two before shorting out and becoming a regular mug with a propeller on the bottom. Some users have discussed its superior design on comment threads; others, like this gentleman on a now-defunct ad for the self-stirring coffee mug, simply explained the fundamental design issues that meant a self-stirring coffee mug is always and everywhere going to be more work than just stirring your own coffee:
Like the rest of us who bought this piece of crap, it didn’t last longer than three to five uses, all with cold drinks only. I didn’t get the outside of the mug wet. I handwashed it, only swirling the inside clean without spilling any liquids, as per instructions. Then, it stopped working. However, I figured out what was wrong with it and repaired it after taking it apart without destroying it. Whomever invented this didn’t think it through: It has to be taken apart and cleaned periodically with alcohol, otherwise the residue from the coffee, etc., will clog the motor. Just swirling water around inside to clean it is insufficient. What did he expect if it’s going to be used with liquids that are likely to get sticky? Duh!
Imagine all of the labor spent trying to avoid having to expend the two seconds it takes to get a spoon and stir the coffee.
Then, there’s the concept of outsourcing, taken to a whole new level.
Developer Outsources His Job (To Free Up Time To Watch YouTube Videos)
While everyone spends some amount of their day scanning through internet clickbait, most people have the good sense to not let it overtake their actual work. But for one developer at Verizon, working for a living was really, really cutting into his time watching cat videos on the internet. For him, that was a huge problem.
But he couldn’t just quit his job.
So, he did what any reasonable person would do when his work and his passion ran counter to each other: He outsourced his work to China. Yes, folks, for a fraction of his $50,000 salary, he found offshore labor to do his job so that he could more fully dedicate himself to watching cat videos at work.
This is a true story.
He got away with it for a while — until security noticed large packets of data being exchanged between Verizon’s servers and that Chinese IP address. And Verizon jumped to the conclusion that any reasonable multibillion-dollar global enterprise would jump to: It thought it was being hacked.
Which it kinda was. The developer took his coded security fob for remote access to the company’s network and shipped it to a high-tech Chinese sweatshop, who then had unrestricted access to those systems, while they were doing all of that cat video enthusiast’s work for him.
And that isn’t even the best part of this story.
Apparently, during the time period this was going on, said developer watching cat videos and outsourcing his job to the Chinese was known as “the best developer in the building.”
Thankfully, for him, now, without a job, he has so much more time free for those cats.
The Rapid Ramen Cooker
As we learned last week, ramen noodles are basically an engineering marvel, designed to turn into an edible meal in under two minutes with the addition of only hot (or really lukewarm) water and a flavor pack with only slightly fewer chemicals than an atomic bomb.
And yet still, there is a product on the market today that offers itself as a “rapid ramen cooker.”
Weirdly, this device does not seem to advertise cooking ramen faster than doing it on a stove top or in a microwave with a bowl that you already own.
So, insofar as the Rapid Ramen Cooker does not cook ramen any more rapidly than anything else on Earth that cooks ramen, we would have to say it is not quite living up to its potential as a labor saver.
It did seem to have some future as nutrition booster, since the product advertises its ability to reduce the sodium in ramen noodles by half, but it seems that claim is based on using only half the spice packet.
So, what did we learn from this? You have to stir your own coffee, you can’t outsource your job and still keep your job — sort of defeats the same purpose — and ramen is intrinsically a labor saver so it’s hard to top its unique labor-saving goodness.
And, of course, none of this really matters since, in a matter of years, robots — like the LoweBot — will likely be doing all of our jobs anyway. Or, at least, most of them — someone has to maintain the robots, we suppose.
Happy Labor(less — we hope) Day.