eternal magic numbers

Daniel A. Foss (U17043@UICVM.BITNET)
Sun, 11 Feb 1996 15:10:38 CST

ment to date in the tocsin-sounding genre comes from the crypto-leftist, Jeremy
Rifkin, whose tome, "The End Of Work, has perhaps been roasted ad nauseam on
this list; this is presumed to include the three days, Feb 5-8, when I'd left
town and, evidently, the Computing Center program REAPER harvested unread
e-mail in my mailbox, as it is employed for this purpose when, in its consider-
ed judgment, the accumulation of mail files has exceeded that quantity deemed
by itself reasonable and proper. Herewith is not a scricture on Rifkinism, as
the advent of REAPER permits me latitude in negligence regarding SET NOMAIL
once beyond even my delusional capacities. If the following should repeat any
cogent remarks coged by the cogerie whence these should by Nature get output,
profound dysregrets. (For "neologisms and overelaborate words," consult DSM-IV
for corresponding entry under symptomatology of schizophrenia. For symptomato-
logy Elsewise, do by all means pick up the CD, in New York City only, of Anton
Bruckner, Elevated Expressway For Vehicular Traffic and Orchestra, at the
Topless Towers of Records, Broadway and Lafayette St-ish, Lower Slobbovian

I would not say that Rifkin's The End Of Work is *incoherent*. No, I shall
do what I've just done a thousand times before perpetrating any tedious asser-
tion of that nature. Be assured that Topless Towers Records have been burnt
down only in their Ilion NY outlet. (And of course, one may bring a horse to
cassandra but this may discourage the creature's imbibement proclivities.

In summary, thus far, the first and most fundamental duty of the social
critic/social theorist (the latter must do substitute duty for the former
where the object of inquiry does not yet exist; and in my pre-degenerate days
I managed it twice) is, Figure Out What The Hell Is Going On; taking care to
never give the Thingie (never in so excellent focus as to merit the accolade
of "phenomenon") the benefit of the doubt. It doesn't, I assure you, do it for
you. My own father, with a sixth-grade education in Krakow ("we memorized the
names of Polish kings"), then in The Other Empire, ruled by the non-evil,
albeit harshly selfdisciplined Emperor, was plotting war against the Evil
Empire, ruled by "Nicholas The Bloody," an Evil Emperor notwithstanding efforts
at rehabilitation, over Bosnia. What else. All educated and sophisticated
people unanimously declared there wasn't a thing to worry about; and it'd last
six months if there were. My father fled The Other Empire, dodging thereby
compulsory military conscription two years prior to the earliest age of callup.
Had World War One, in context The End Of The World, not occurred, he'd have
been victim to Blind Panic. (Sighted panics are to this writer overcloudy
metaphors.) As there was World War One, indeed, my father became eo ipso a
species of social theorist, whose reliance upon heuristic inferential logics,
cultural climates, and "the vibe," in context proved infallible.

This is the Trouble with Rifkin's book saying Nothing, repetitively, in
some contradiction with itself, and threatening at one and the same time total
loss of institutional occupational connectedness (losing your job, minus the
moralistic implications, stigmas, and characterological inferences typical of
capitalism) and the loss of sufficient time to set up and commence work in
a mysteriously vanishing working day. Doomsday scenarios sell books; utopians
are Flake-o, so there's excellent reason for the World Of The Future to tend
to not be there in any tolerable fashion.

Out of the welter of undated, unsequenced factoids, there is, glory be,
found on page 147 the following diddlies, or so they appear, which, however,
possess Wider Implications; howbeit none of these are adduced in or implied
by the text:

"Each business day in the United States, 600 pages of computer printouts
are produced, 76 million letters are generated, and 45 sheets of paper are
filed per employee."

Why does the above omit the "240 million pages of photocopies"? Why is the
figure of "44.7 pages of documents" per office worker rounded off to 45 pages?
Am I telling you these Magic Numbers came from Somewhere? Yes, by golly.

The source wherefrom I lifted the Magic Numbers in question was an article
claimed authored by Alvin Toffler (no mention of Heidi in days of yore, much
less days of yaws) and published as the principal or perhaps only noncommercial
content in a special advertising supplement paid for by the organized Office
Equipment Industry, and stuck into the Sunday New York Times for Sunday, August
11, 1981.

In the "information industries" (a vague and dissatisfying concept, by the
way), this was a Long Time. That gaffe alone disqualifies many other factoids
by association.

This writer regrets that, among the tattered band quoting, at this late
date, Marx, Engels, and that great historian of the industrial labour process,
Harry Braverman, whose book Labour and Monopoly Capitalism, I assigned to
sociology classes in Ancient times, one of these should prove a charlatan.

Daniel A. Foss