Is the glass half-empty or half-full? Know that one? The former depicts the views of our pessimist and the latter of our optimist on the state of the glass which volume is 50% occupied by some hypothetical liquid.

How would our characters view the current state of the tech world?

I will name three facts about tech nowadays and try to imagine the responses of our three imaginary characters with their different attitudes.

Three facts that our characters will respond to are:

  1. Everything is in the cloud, renting is replacing ownership and most of the software exists as a service
  2. COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the rise of remote work for most tech workers and it’s unclear how that’ll continue
  3. Social networks are becoming a way of life, most of the interactions are online, and attention span is getting shorter

Jump to any topic that you find interesting, and if you wish, you can ignore the rest. They are completely separate.

Before we dive in, let’s meet our characters.

All three of them have a lot of things in common – they all work in tech, they are all the same age (enough to remember the pre-cloud, pre-covid, and pre-social media world) and they (luckily for our realist) live in a world where fish peacefully coexist with human beings.

1) Everything is in the cloud, renting is replacing ownership and most of the software exists as a service

Optimist:

That’s great! It saves me a lot of headaches. I remember the days when I had to transfer all of my data between devices with a USB stick. And then if you lose it, you have one problem more. Transition to the cloud is a godsend, especially because the apps various companies built to go with it work so seamlessly.

I don’t have to worry about syncing my data anymore. It’s done in the background, automagically. I lost several days of work at that time my hard drive died on me. Luckily, that can’t happen again.

All the data is now transferred constantly to a safe storage facility, where it has a redundant backup. It’s also all encrypted, safe, and I don’t have one worry in my mind about it.

This software as a service thing is also really convenient. I can sign up for something for as long as I want to and cancel it when I want to. Why buy a cow when milk is so cheap?

Before this became a thing, I would have to save money to buy some software, and it was always an enormous investment for me. It didn’t matter if you use it or not – you paid big bucks for it and it’s sitting there. After some time, a new version of the thing you bought gets released, and you realize you need it because all the people you work with are switching to that version. Again, pay big bucks.

Nowadays, I rent the software, it’s automatically updated in the cloud so I’m always using the latest version, and I simply stop paying for it once I don’t need it anymore.

This cloud thing is awesome!

Pessimist:

Cloud is a synonym for mass surveillance. Hey George Orwell, your 1984 started with the coming of the magnificent cloud. All praise the cloud!

I can’t buy anything anymore that doesn’t want to connect to the freaking cloud. Some things will not even work if they can’t connect. That’s really great. I guess toasting a piece of bread requires an Internet connection and a user account nowadays. What progress we made!

I don’t buy all that convenience with the background sync. Apps are not that great and they certainly don’t work on all platforms. It’s like people changed their workflow to create a problem that the cloud solved. Who needs to transfer their files several times a day from one device to another. And how many devices does a person need?

Can you believe you can’t actually buy and own the software you want nowadays? Nope. They make you pay for it monthly, or yearly. Of course that the cancellations are sometimes impossible and you get auto charged a lot of times, even if you didn’t want to.

Most of the stuff you could do offline back in the day, you can’t do today. It’s all on the freaking web or connected to it. Some stuff that we had functional and good 20 years ago – now we have poor copies of it, but in the web browser.

Cloud, my disappointment is immeasurable.

Realist:

Moving to the cloud brought us a lot of things deemed unimaginable 15 years ago. Many of the services running in the cloud nowadays couldn’t exist without it – the way they are built and the purpose they are serving require a constant synchronization with an online source.

Services like online storage, online office suites, variety of productivity tools with collaboration features – they solved a real problem we previously had and made us better at our daily work.

While there’s a trend to turn everything into a service that is being rented, and sometimes it makes little sense, the benefits outweigh the annoyances the whole ‘moving to the cloud’ brought us. Just like with everything in life, it’s wise to have a backup plan. In the possibility you get locked out from a specific provider, you can still conduct your business.

With proper planning, proper privacy settings, and being cautious who you choose to rent the service from, you can benefit from a plethora of great online tools that will make your life easier.

2) COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the rise of remote work for most tech workers and it’s unclear how that’ll continue

Optimist:

Well, it was time for work from home to become a norm. The commute is killing me. I was thinking of getting an apartment close to work, but it’s really expensive. Showing up every day in the office takes two hours from my day. I could spend those two hours with my friends, doing yoga, relaxing, or just enjoying the coziness of my apartment.

And the food! I can cook my food and eat it fresh, not microwaved. I don’t have to go outside and wait in line or sit in a restaurant waiting for a meal. That’s even more time saved.

Open office bugged me. All the noise and chatter are a bit irritating, and I dislike wearing ANC headphones all day long. In my home, I’m the king of the castle and everything is just as I want it to be. Gosh, I hope this sticks!

Pessimist:

What a crock of shit that entire work from home is. I can’t wait to get back to the office. I miss my colleagues!

Do you know what you can’t do from your cozy home? You can’t overhear your colleagues discussing something interesting in the hallway. Sometimes that would spark an interesting conversation that would benefit all of you.

This work from home really interferes with my work/life separation. Before I worked from home only, I would rarely open my work laptop at home.

It’s just not the same conversing over the screen. And the mentoring… A junior developer just started her job, and trying to get her up to speed this way is awful. It would be so much easier and natural to do it in person.

Pair programming? Did you try to do it online? It sucks!

Conversations with my colleagues are colder, and I feel disconnected from them. Even being seen by others in the open space made me more productive. I wasn’t distracted that much.

And the food! Our cafeteria at work was the best! Fresh, free, as much as you want. I saved so much money on groceries when I was working from the office. Good times!

Realist:

Remote work and remote workers will benefit long-term from the situation that got us all locked up in the last year. A lot of managers and executives were prohibiting people to work from home under the pretenses that the productivity will suffer. We have since learned that it’s the total opposite.

While we can do most of the things from home as we can from the office, I believe there are some things that are easier done face to face – in person.

Many people work remotely only, and that’s fine. If the entire company works remotely only, that’s even better. Because they built their culture around that way of work, and everyone works under the same conditions.

Where WFH and office workers are mixed, office workers will always have some advantage. Bonding, communicating, catching up with someone in the hallway – I believe those things are not easily replaceable with the existing online alternatives.

While I stand by the belief that a sensible mixture of remote and office work is optimal for the majority, I think the changes regarding remote work in the past year were a net positive for everyone involved. We made a lot of progress regarding tools, software, and policies for those working from their homes. It both benefits employees and employers.

I hope we will be able to accommodate both groups – those who wish to work from home only and those that prefer to work from the office. This sticky situation we found ourselves in just sped up the inevitable.

3) Social networks are becoming a way of life, most of the interactions are online, and attention span is getting shorter

Optimist:

Wow! I’m in contact with so many people that I usually wouldn’t be. There’s just no time. With social networks, I can see what Jerry is doing and where Elaine went on vacation – with a measly click of a mouse.

Kramer is still being silly. I love the stuff he shares. It always makes me laugh. Back in the day, I would only interact with my coworkers and a handful of close friends that I sometimes wouldn’t meet for weeks because of our busy schedules.

Thanks to social networks, I know what’s everyone up to and I don’t even have to pick up the phone all the time to check upon them.

Event scheduling is so awesome, our dinner hangouts are so much easier to plan. No more playing the telephone game. And it’s all there. Not just the dinner hangouts. I can see all the things happening around me – from the local meetups to concerts.

I can also get the news I’m interested in right there on my feed. Tailored to me, and easily accessible. I like the format too. No boring long-form articles – everything is so snappy, and I catch up on so much!

Pessimist:

Everyone wants to be my friend online. It lost its original meaning. I don’t care for Bob; we didn’t speak for 15 years since we finished high school. There’s a good reason for that. Bob’s an asshole.

A friend just told me the other day he found out his daughter is cyberbullying some poor kid at her school. He didn’t even know she was part of so many groups online. It’s tough to keep track of that and almost impossible to keep under control.

I can’t even have a decent dinner with my friends anymore. At least one person is checking their phone to see what their network is doing. They are eating dinner in front of you, you doofus!!!

FOMO – Fear of Missing Out. That’s now a common theme. God forbid you to miss that the cafe in your neighborhood is using fancy new chair cushions.

That’s not even the worst thing. It’s the constant seek of others’ approval. Constant comparison with others. We’re not all built the same, and we’re not all equally strong – both physically and mentally. Some people develop a problem. They link their self-worth to their looks and their possessions.

It’s not entirely the fault of social networks, but the business model, that many of the social networks adhere to, promotes that kind of behavior. People are getting hurt in unprecedented numbers at an unprecedented speed.

Realist:

Social networks solved the problem of connecting and conversing with more people than we would be able to within the constraints of our physical world. We could connect with people online before the rise of social networks, but they made it easy. So easy that even the most technically challenged people can be part of them. Everyone can join a discussion and everyone can be part of the group that’ll accept them as a member.

Keeping your family and friends updated on your or your child’s life is something that social networks made possible in a no-effort manner. Features that social networks offer can improve your social life, they don’t have to replace it.

Being a responsible person, and teaching younger generations to be as responsible is the most important thing to enjoy all the benefits of social networks without the downsides mentioned by the pessimist Richard.

Event management and social organization tools made some great happenings around people visible, something that was harder to do previously.

If one considers social networks as an extension of their social life, and not the replacement, joining one can be a substantial addition to one’s life. It’s easy to get fooled by the overwhelming ways social networks share your data, but if you treat it and behave like you would in real life – you’ll probably be safe.