That one cognition, that one perceptual take or snapshot that seeing the familiar rendered so unfamiliar set off in me, caused me to study for years after.
A recognition of homogenous, national-chain franchises maxed out with computerization, drawing on low-paid, dead-ended employees, usually young, old, or immigrant, gave me a gestalt of what was happening to my world-neighborhood. Looking into all facets of the situation I began to read about the technological revolution and the many reasons for applying automation to work.
Somehow the first awakening, which simply had me look and see, was leading to a more general awakening. I felt awake when I saw that automation was a process that we set in motion which had the potential to turn on us and destroy our well-being piece by piece and step by step.
When I presented my conclusions to friends, reporters, business leaders, union leaders, and others, no one recognized what I was saying or saw a threat when they understood.
Or else the subject had been talked about too often and wasn't new any longer. For whatever reason, no one in 1990-91 seemed moved to act on their knowledge. Zuboff was aware of it. Edgar Schein at MIT knew about and agreed with my conclusions. The most bizarre exchange was with a labor economist employed by the Canadian government who said in a phone call, "Oh yes, we know all about it. Yes, I agree with what you're saying. And I'm not allowed to talk about it."
It was not useful to talk about what was wrong with automation in 1991. I remember once feeling so driven that I stood up on a park bench on English Bay in Vancouver and began to ask people what they thought about the situation. I couldn't believe how energized I felt by speaking out and listening to others on the subject. But these were token gestures.
I remember once visiting a pulp-and-paper engineering firm halfway through the Nineties, a firm that I had once worked for as a corporate communications officer. I found them reduced to doing only modifications rather than entire mills, because the machine manufacturers could now do the additional computerized design without the help of high-paid consultants. The firm was left with no work, made obsolete by the computer.
And so it went, industry by industry, career by career.