Say Also a Word of Thanks to the Technologists

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

People have been speaking recently about the importance of workers in the seemingly unglamorous jobs, e.g.:

[W]ho now is more important than the trucker who drives 12-hours straight to deliver toilet paper to Costco? Or the mid-level manager of Target who calibrates supply and demand and is on the phone all day juggling deliveries before his store opens? Or the checker at the local supermarket who knows that the hundreds of customers inches away from her pose risks of infection, and yet she ensures that people walk out with food in their carts? The farmworker who is on the tractor all night to ensure that millions of carrots and lettuce don't rot? The muddy frackers in West Texas who make it possible that natural gas reaches the home of the quarantined broker in Houston? The ER nurse on her fifth coronavirus of the day who matter-of-factly saves lives?

It is right to praise their work, and to understand how, as "essential" workers, they are exposed to the world while the rest of us self-quarantine (whether working from home or becoming unemployed).

But say thanks also to the people who created Zoom and Skype and Google Hangouts, which allow at least a good deal of work and studying to keep happening despite the lockdown. Thank those who made it possible to keep your business's data online and access it from home. Thank those who created the apps and web sites that we use for quicker and more reliable home delivery.

Thank those who built the Internet itself; those who built the high-speed communications infrastructure that makes it possible; those who maintain it. Thank the people who funded all the businesses that underlie all this, and run and grown those businesses. Thank them today, whatever disputes you might have had with Silicon Valley yesterday or will have again tomorrow. Remember that, alongside those who create and ship and distribute our tangible goods, those who helped us transmit our intangibles have been just as indispensable. Remember that it is their care, too, that eases the buffet and cushions the shock.

NEXT: Nondelegation Doctrine and Quarantine Orders

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  1. So, to be clear, it is right to praise essential workers in low status jobs, but you won’t do that. Instead, you will only praise high status workers whose work has made other high status workers lives easier.

    1. A better answer is that markets are incredibly good at defining what is essential. It’s fine to single out truckers and farmers as the visible ends of getting food to the table, and to sneer at those who maintain the internet so celebrities can post mind-numbing selfies. But did anyone ask truckers and farmers what they do in their precious time off? Maybe they like numbing their minds watching millionaires smash into each other on football fields, or watching the Real Housewives of Peoria.

      This is what markets do so damned well and what central planners cannot do under any circumstances. It’s awfully presumptuous of bureaucrats to make these decisions for the farmers and truckers they pay lip service to, but that is the only skill politicians have — making fucked up decisions for everybody they pretend to serve.

    2. He’s a law professor. I’m hard-pressed to think of a less essential job

      1. I’m hard-pressed to think of anyone who can determine essentiality better than markets.

        1. As unintentional proof of judging the professor’s essentiality, I note that you deemed it necessary to monitor this blog, read this article, and post a snide comment of little essence.

          1. This blog isn’t so much about law professing as much as it is about an attempt to make movement conservatism more popular among broader audiences — partisan polemics with a scant academic veneer.

            Had you caught SIV making that comment while attending a law school class, your comment would have been strong.

        2. The market for… public law school professors?

        3. I mean, I’m all for keeping educational pipelines open, but the market is not really going to do good economic triage in cases like this.

    3. Did you even bother to read the article? Or the companion article Prof Volokh wrote yesterday that inspired this one?

      If you’re going to be a troll, at least be an entertaining one.

    4. Travis, you are ignoring what’s perhaps the most important impact that technology has had on our loves, and that is the communications and operations infrastructure upon which all businesses depend. Business systems supporting logistics in shipping, trucking, air transportation, and railroads; electronic navigation; manufacturing infrastructure; transportation vehicle systems; IoT; and of course our voice and video communications infrastructure. All of this is based on our modern technology, From your comment I take it you are unaware of this, perhaps you should look into it.

      That said, as a technologist, I thank Prof. Volokh for the recognition.

      1. Highlighting Skype as the pinnacle of this progress shows a clear lack of understanding.

        1. Despite the fact that your reply to my post is shallow and trite, it doesn’t reference anything I said. Have you had your meds today? (Or maybe too much?)

    5. “So, to be clear, it is right to praise essential workers in low status jobs, but you won’t do that.”

      It’s already been done, right there in the paragraph he’s quoting. Any technologist knows not make something that already exists.

      1. You mean like instant messaging apps?

    6. “So, to be clear, it is right to praise essential workers in low status jobs, but you won’t do that.”

      I observed that he did that.

  2. Zoom and Skype and Google hangouts are meaningless and easily replaced but the real infrastructure was built by scruffy men digging lines and hanging wires on poles and the real technologists who invented fiberoptic cable (especially erbium-doped) and fast, cheap lasers. The apps themselves are a dime a dozen as witnessed by the fact that their core function was developed 40-60 years ago.

    1. Yea, like virtual network functions deployed via OpenStack. Sheesh, we had that when man was landing on the moon. /sarc

    2. I don’t know much about it, but I do know that network utilization is as much a tech that required research and development as any hardware.

  3. I agree with both the complement to workers that you endorsed, and for tech you highlighted.

    I’m, and indeed most of us here, are all lucky to be in a knowledge industry and so can work from the safety of our homes. Respect to those who can’t, and respect for those who have enabled us to do so, some of whom are already in the first group and so deserve double respect.

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