The risk of thinking of your job as a higher calling

In a memo announcing that Tesla will lay off 3,000 workers, or 7% of its employees, CEO Elon Musk outlined his reasoning, explaining the mounting …

In a memo announcing that Tesla will lay off 3,000 workers, or 7% of its employees, CEO Elon Musk outlined his reasoning, explaining the mounting financial pressures the company faces in its quest to build an affordable electric car.

The memo also included a noteworthy emotional appeal. Musk essentially asked employees— those who have already survived a brutal work schedule and will stay on to survive more of the same—to remember Tesla’s mission. Segueing from details about the company’s financial picture to the news of the layoffs, Musk writes:

There are many companies that can offer a better work-life balance, because they are larger and more mature or in industries that are not so voraciously competitive. Attempting to build affordable clean energy products at scale necessarily requires extreme effort and relentless creativity, but succeeding in our mission is essential to ensure that the future is good, so we must do everything we can to advance the cause.

Musk often references his ambitious plans to save humanity, whether via Tesla or his space-faring SpaceX. Still, as CEO messaging goes, this attempt to rally the remaining troops and push them to their limits work-wise is suspect. And management research shows it could easily backfire.

A career “calling” and the risk of exploitation

Dawna Ballard, a scholar of chronemics—the study of time and our relationship to it—says she wasn’t surprised to learn that Musk was pointing to “the cause” as an implied explanation for the impossibility of creating a strong work-life balance.

A professor in the communication studies department at the University of Texas at Austin, Ballard already uses articles about Musk’s famously intense work habits in classes, because, as she explains, he repeatedly disparages the idea that excellent, competitive work and a humane schedule can co-exist. Everything is “subjugated to work’s demands,” Ballard says, making Musk the archetype subscriber to a cultural norm she wants her students to dissect. His appeal to “the cause” fits well within his ethos, she adds, but it also reads to her like a mash-up of a known phenomenon in social-sector jobs and private-sector expectations.

People who work in social-sector jobs that serve a moral purpose, such as protecting children from abuse or serving the elderly, are typically under-resourced and overworked, mainly, Ballard says, because of the myth that people who heed a higher calling—including teaching or nursing—can somehow be satisfied with the knowledge that they’re improving the world. This idealized view that connects our noblest work to poverty “comes from the priesthood,” she says, “and can be used as a way to get people to downplay practical needs and concerns,” like sleeping and eating.

But, no matter what we want to believe, “there are just physiological barriers,” says Ballard. “There’s only so many hours in a day, and there are only so many hours a person can work and still function.”

In her recent research, she found that social workers who were forced to work overtime made mistakes in their reporting and were more prone to transgressions like faking check-in visits to the homes of at-risk children.

Convincing governments to improve budgets for such employees is a challenge, not only because of our cultural assumptions around “calling” professions, but because spending the money to give social workers the time and tools they need to work properly may not show immediate payoffs. The combination creates the conditions for exploitation, Ballard argues.

That focus on immediate benefits is even more intense at a publicly traded company, she points out, which is why she sees hazards ahead for Musk and Tesla employees. Making the future “good”—to use Musk’s term—is not a quarterly project, as a slim minority of private-sector companies have come to appreciate.

If Ballard’s comparison is apt, Tesla’s overworked employees may also be more likely to make mistakes or worse, because advancing a cause can’t protect people from the dangers that come from not respecting the body’s need for time to recuperate. Choosing to sacrifice work-life balance, instead of revenue, is bad math.

Meaningfulness can’t be enforced

Musk is not alone in emphasizing mission and meaningfulness. His rhetoric in today’s note can also be read as part of a fashionable management trend: the interest in harnessing the human need to feel fulfilled on a spiritual level to better motivate employees.

If that sounds like a dark ploy, that’s because it often is. In a 2017 paper titled “The mismanaged soul: Existential labor and the erosion of meaningful work,” a team of UK organizational behavior scholars picked apart the research on this tactic, and found “the active management of meaningful work can be used cynically as a means of enhancing motivation, performance and commitment” and that some companies have used ”the rhetoric of service to a higher ideal to mislead members about the nature of their work, what the organization can offer employees, and about the societal value of the organization, in pursuit of the profit motive.”

The authors, led by management professor Catherine Bailey (then of the University of Sussex, now of King’s College London), also note that meaning doesn’t have to come from saving the world. Inviting employees to align themselves with the greater cause of an entire organization, as Musk has done, is one option, but employees also have been successfully nudged to find meaning in their individual tasks, their particular role, and in the sense of belonging to something like a family at work.

Good things can come from companies tapping into the common need for a higher calling—productivity levels go up and people feel better about themselves, the paper concludes. So leveraging this form of employee loyalty or pride—through rhetoric, for example—is not dodgy in and of itself, when the work holds authentic meaning, but it becomes fraught when the cause is manufactured or misleading.

When that happens, and research has also found that employees easily detect such cases, employee trust and engagement is eroded and the staff becomes less committed. Some individuals may perform a type of “emotional labor,” performing the act of buying into the company’s narrative, which is exhausting. Yet another possibility is that rather than leave a job, an employee will unconsciously recalibrate behaviors and feelings to better align with the company’s definition of meaning, even when it counters their own.

For instance, believing that it’s okay for a fabulously wealthy CEO to lay off thousands of people and put extra time pressures on those left behind—because that’s the way capitalism works, or because the still-expanding company has had a rocky year, or because the health of the planet is at stake—could be a short-term form of self-preservation, one that might ultimately lead to long-term burnout.

But while Tesla’s mission is indisputably connected to a noble goal to protect the environment and maybe even save humanity, there’s also a case to be made for answering that calling without burdening employees any more than you already have.

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Elon Musk wants to ‘save the human race’ by wiring the internet to your brain to make you a GENIUS

ELON Musk wants to hook your brain up to the internet to create a race of super intelligent humans. The billionaire’s latest harebrained scheme will …

ELON Musk wants to hook your brain up to the internet to create a race of super intelligent humans.

The billionaire’s latest harebrained scheme will see computer chips wired into our minds to merge us with artificial intelligence.

 Eccentric billionaire Elon Musk thinks he can save the human race by putting computer chips in our brains

AFP or licensors
Eccentric billionaire Elon Musk thinks he can save the human race by putting computer chips in our brains

The project – known as Neuralink – is going to “save the human race” by helping us outwit super-intelligent machines of the future when they try to take over Earth, according to Musk.

“The long-term aspiration with neural networks would be to achieve a symbiosis with artificial intelligence,” he said in an interview last year.

“If we have billions of people with the high-bandwidth link to the A.I. extension of themselves, it would actually make everyone hyper smart.”

Musk founded Neuralink in July 2016 but details on the eccentric scheme are scarce.

 Neuralink's website is a single page (pictured) with a string of job openings

Neuralink
Neuralink’s website is a single page (pictured) with a string of job openings

On its website, the company boasts it is developing “ultra high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers”.

Musk says Neuralink will first focus on medical applications, taking on the effects of brain diseases like epilepsy.

After this, the sci-fi firm will upgrade its brain chips to develop a “symbiotic relationship” between AI and humanity.

In future, hyper intelligent robots will dominate our lives, and Musk argues we’ll need think like machines to avoid being destroyed by them.

 The tech will first take on brain diseases like Alzheimer's

Alamy
The tech will first take on brain diseases like Alzheimer’s

Our super smart robots will eventually become so advanced that they attempt to overthrow their makers.

Without a computer chipped brain, we’ll be restricted – if we survive at all – to a few “protected zones”, like chimpanzees or gorillas today.

Neuralink is still in its early stages, and is currently hiring for a number of positions on its bare bones website.

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We should pay for Elon’s tunnel…if he fights Clive Palmer

Last night, Elon Musk promised the NSW Greens that he’ll build a tunnel under the Blue Mountains. We should pay him what he wants…with one …

Last night, Elon Musk promised the NSW Greens that he’ll build a tunnel under the Blue Mountains. We should pay him what he wants…with one condition.

Damn. You know what that smell is? It’s fear. Fear that our tiny country will be crushed as a result of two mega combatants duking it out for our love/investment dollars. Last night, the NSW Greens chose their warrior, drawing Elon Musk out of his Twitter lair, baiting him with the odour of his favourite foodstuff – heavily publicised investment.

Source: Twitter

Jeremy Buckingham braved the trek, begging Musk to save Sydney from itself. We were suffocated by exhaust smoke, we need space(x) to breathe again. Help us, Elon, won’t you? You’re our only hope.

About $15M/km for a two way high speed transit, so probably around $750M plus maybe $50M/station

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) 16 January 2019

Now, while it might be a question of congestion, I fear that might just be a cover story. Something we can cling to, instead of the awkward truth. You see, this week, a great giant evil resurfaced in this land. Our own uncontrollable local trilobite of dinosaur parks, dim sequels and potential wage fuckery, Clive Palmersauras. He returned to our collective shores, threatening to harm us with incessant text messaging.

We need Elon in the same way that the Tokyoians needed Gojira. He’s a necessary evil we need to fight an unnecessary evil. All we need to do is signal him.

We might need a tunnel, but not as much as we need Clive Palmer to leave us alone. Whether Elon can make ends meet (or whether he’s just making up these figures), is irrelevant. We just need to get him on a plane. Get him to witness firsthand the awful damage these powerful unchecked billionaires are doing to our humble fishing village.

Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!

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Elon Musk Tells Lawmaker The Boring Company Can Dig Via Mountain for Cheap

Elon Musk Tells Lawmaker The Boring Company Can Dig Via Mountain for Cheap … See more: Elon Musk Shows Off an Incredible Boring Company …

Elon Musk wants to solve city traffic woes one tunnel at a time. The Boring Company founder, responding to an Australian state lawmaker via Twitter on Wednesday, stated the firm could build a two-way high-speed transit route through the Blue Mountains to connect Sydney and the west for a surprisingly low price.

Musk has been gradually providing more details about his tunnel-digging venture, founded two years ago with the aim of resolving Los Angeles traffic, which hosted a press event in December 2018 to unveil its 1.14-mile initial test tunnel in Hawthorne, California. Jeremy Buckingham, a member of the New South Wales parliament’s upper house, asked Musk how much it would cost to build a 31-mile tunnel through the mountains to stop Sydney “choking with traffic.” Musk responded that it would cost around $15 million per kilometer for a bi-directional high-speed tunnel, equating to $750 million for the whole route. Musk also stated that stations to enter and exit the tunnel would cost around $50 million each.

Potential route. pic.twitter.com/AjH1O4QAby

— Jeremy Buckingham 🌏 (@greensjeremy) January 16, 2019

See more: Elon Musk Shows Off an Incredible Boring Company “Breakthrough” on Twitter

A key goal of The Boring Company is to reduce the cost of tunneling, which it estimates costs around $1 billion per mile on average. The firm’s Hawthorne tunnel cost $10 million, excluding research and development but including the stations. The tunnels, which measure 14 feet wide, are designed for electric autonomous cars fitted with guide wheels to whizz through at speeds of up to 150 mph. Musk claims that pedestrians and cyclists will be able to call on cars to pick them up.

The Sydney project could be the firm’s first tunnel outside of the United States. It’s already outlined plans for a “dugout loop” to connect the Los Angeles Dodgers stadium to the nearby metro, and it’s working with the city of Chicago to build a connection between the airport and downtown area. Musk is no stranger to the Australian public sector, though: Mike Cannon-Brookes, an entrepreneur that Buckingham tagged in his post, previously convinced Musk to come and build the world’s largest lithium-ion battery in South Australia, a project that received support from the state government.

Buckingham stated that he would speak with state premier Gladys Berejiklian about the plan. With New South Wales scheduled to hold an election on March 23, though, Musk may find an entirely new team in charge relatively soon.

Related video: Elon Musk Says Self-Driving Cars Will Whizz Through Boring Co. Wormholes

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A Future with Elon Musk’s Neuralink

Neuralink is one of the companies founded by Elon Musk. His plan for the company is to ‘save the human race’. The idea behind saving humanity is to …

Read the latest blog on iTMunch titled, "A Future with Elon Musk's Neuralink"

There was an announcement made last year that a Chinese scientist called Dr He Jiankui had used the gene-editing technique Crispr and managed to the world’s first genetically modified babies. At the same time, Elon Musk announced the true purpose of Neuralink.

Read on to find out what his vision of Neuralink holds for us.

What is Neuralink?

Neuralink is one of the companies founded by Elon Musk. His plan for the company is to ‘save the human race’. The idea behind saving humanity is to build a hard drive that can be implanted in the brain.

What is Elon Musk’s goal?

Elon Musk’s main goal, he explains, is to wire a chip into your skull. This chip would give you the digital intelligence needed to progress beyond the limits of our biological intelligence. This would mean a full incorporation of artificial intelligence into our bodies and minds.

He argues that without taking this drastic measure, humanity is doomed. There are a lot of ethical questions raised on the topic of what humanity according to Elon Musk exactly is, but he seems undeterred.

“My faith in humanity has been a little shaken this year,” Musk continues, “but I’m still pro-humanity.”

No doubt, Elon Musk is a remarkable visionary. He claims Neuralink, his neuroscience company has the ability to cure afflictions and ailments such as dementia and paralysis. Neuralink has its proposed “electrode-to-neuron interface at a micro level”, which is what will be used to do so.

But the gap between implanting electrodes in the brain to cure spinal cord injuries and implanting a chip that will enhance human intelligence beyond our imagination is very huge. This is what Neuralink aims to do.

Elon Musk’s Argument for Neuralink

The seamless conjunction of humans and computers gives us humans a shot at becoming completely “symbiotic” with artificial intelligence, according to Elon Musk.

He argues that humans as a species are all already practically attached to our phones. In a way, this makes us almost cyborg-like. The only difference is that we haven’t managed to expand our intelligence to that level. This means that we are not as smart as we could be. The data link that currently exists between the information that we get from our phones or computers is not as fast as it could be.

“It will enable anyone who wants to have superhuman cognition,” Musk said. “Anyone who wants.”

How Much Smarter Will These Enhanced Humans Be?

Elon Musk said the following in the podcast, when asked about the difference in intelligence between us regular humans and the ones that will have the chip implanted in them.

“How much smarter are you with a phone or computer or without? You’re vastly smarter, actually,” Musk said. “You can answer any question pretty much instantly. You can remember flawlessly. Your phone can remember videos (and) pictures perfectly. Your phone is already an extension of you. You’re already a cyborg. Most people don’t realize you’re already a cyborg. It’s just that the data rate … it’s slow, very slow. It’s like a tiny straw of information flow between your biological self and your digital self. We need to make that tiny straw like a giant river, a huge, high-bandwidth interface.”

SEE ALSO: Intel and Facebook to Collaborate on Developing New AI Chip

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