Infrared Emission, Too

warmbody: a career that exists in certain “economically quirky” parts of the emerging markets, the warmbody – also sometimes known by the unusual sobriquet “rent-a-squishie” – reflecting an unwillingness to accept the realities of industrial magic and need to preserve “traditional” employment at all costs.

From the corporate perspective, warmbodies serve to pad payrolls, generate the appearance of activity, and most importantly, are living permission slips to do business in polities in the grip of labor-cults.

The actual functions of the warmbody vary widely in accordance with the nexus of corporate policy, regulatory environment, and individual characters involved. At its best, it can function as a form of subsidized training, preparing people for meaningful careers elsewhere in the business, or working as independent associates.

At its worst, by contrast, it constitutes an elaborate shell game in which corporate pretends extremely hard that its workforce is doing something of use – and are not being kept carefully away from anything that might impinge on actual operations – while said workforce hopefully pretends not to notice.

(These arrangements rarely last for long in those circumstances in which they’re unwilling to go along with the pretence.)

But for the most part, it just works out to be a Universal Tedium, in which boredom is inefficiently exchanged for resources. Since it is usually considered important that the public not be aware of the nature of such arrangements, warmbodies do acquire a skillset of some note in fields such as paper-shuffling, beverage-fetching, wall-propping, stealth gaming, and the tactical deployment of bullshit – applicable across a wide range of industries.

– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary

“Polite”, As In Somewhat Less Dismissive

vetel i-seldá (n.):

  1. Employee (lit. “seller of time”).
  2. Hireling (pej.)
  3. Flunky, lackey, stooge. (v. pej.)

vetel i-seldá remains the currently accepted term in Trade Eldraeic for an employee, under the quasicontractual doctrine practiced in many polities, despite being a reuse of the original term in formal Eldraeic for the lowest grouping within the (obsolete) servile daressëf, those who were unable to contract for the performance of specific works or the use of professional skills and were therefore limited to selling their time per se, working under direction upon arbitrary tasks. This is typically ascribed to it remaining the technically accurate term in the eyes of those contract brokers currently holding the largest talent market share, not coincidentally corporations domiciled within Imperial space.

The term that may be heard but should nonetheless always be avoided is traüljíra jaqef, ‘bound servile’, a reformulation of an ancient (korásan-period) term roughly equivalent to ‘serf’. This is an extreme pejorative, whether used of an employee or of an employer’s desire, and – even for the lightest and most self-deprecating usages – unsuitable for any usage beyond extranet polemics, invitations to duel, or acceding to the fighting words doctrine.

– Dictionary of Trade Eldraeic, min Sarthall, League Press


Labor Theory of Value

(I was going to post the next chunk of Before the Phoenix today, but it’s not quite ready yet. So, here’s a quick wee thing instead…)

In the Conclave of Galactic Polities, Ambassador llin-Terl-an of the Palnu Sodality put forward a measure – supported by others of the Socionovist Association – proposing a system of voluntary interpolity fund transfers for the support of those individuals deprived of employment by imported cornucopia and other “industrial magic” automation technology.

Speaking for the Empire, Presiding Minister Calis Corith pointed out that his polity had, by the definitions contained within the proposal, all-pervasive deployment of industrial magic and an employment rate of zero, and thanked those supporting the proposal for stepping forward to financially ease the citizen-shareholders’ negative-value labor deficit at what would surely be a great cost to themselves.

The measure was tabled for further study.

– from the Imperial Infoclast

Trope-a-Day: Happiness in Slavery

Happiness in Slavery: Played with – Imperial law, despite the extreme cultural aversion to slavery, does permit voluntarily contracted indenture as a way to get out from under unrepayable debts without resorting to bankruptcy, and suchlike.  It’s not exactly happy – indeed, by local standards, it is ridiculously humiliating – but it’s probably better than most of the alternatives; and most cultural Imperials would see it as infinitely better than default.

(The kicker: with the exception of not being able to quit until the contract term is up, we would find the ghastly state and working conditions of what the Empire calls “indenture” very familiar indeed.  We call it employment.)

Averted pretty comprehensively with actual slaves in the darker and more hideously backward parts of the Worlds, though.

The Job Free Market (3/3)

It is important to realize, when working in the Empire, that your connection to your employer is defined strictly by your contract.  There are rarely benefits attached to it (the tax system does not advantage providing them, and the locals almost all prefer additional fungible money), nor are there specific laws governing working hours or other working conditions.  (Despite this caution, the latter are almost universally excellent; Imperial businesses have operated on the basis of the need to optimize the productivity of a highly skilled and formerly sharply limited labor pool for a very long time.)  It is entirely up to you to manage how much you want to work in any given period, when and how much vacation time you wish to take (by not taking contracts, or if you are on a time-bounded contract, by negotiating for what you consider a reasonable “duty cycle”), and what other conditions you are prepared to accept.  In almost all cases, all these conditions are negotiable, much more so than you are probably used to.

Likewise, while Initiatives may have suggestions for and even be willing to sponsor certain training – in exchange for contract considerations on your part – your professional development is also entirely in your hands.  If you intend to have a career of any length, you will need to put aside money and time for ongoing education, training, and downloadable skillsets to keep up with the current state of the art.

In short, you must learn to manage yourself.

Another consideration you must pay attention to is the requirements of a given contract where tools and facilities are concerned.  Some contracts require you to use the Initiative’s facilities and equipment, or facilities and equipment contracted-in by them; some require you to use your own, or facilities and equipment you have contracted for the use of; yet others permit either, at your choice.  This is something you must pay attention to in particular, since the remuneration you are looking for obviously will differ in each case.

You should also make sure that your tort insurance covers the work you intend to perform.  (In addition to professional indemnity cover, your tort insurance should also cover you for health -emergency-and-third-party breaches; if you are, for whatever reason, unable to perform as your contract requires, your counterparty will seek to recover the costs incurred by that default, or of hiring your temporary or permanent replacement, from you or your insurer.)  Typical tort insurance covers both professional indemnity and breach cover for most non-specialized professions, but tort insurance purchased as part of a travel insurance package may not, and specialized professions may require additional cover.  You should check the precise details of your coverage before accepting any contract.

As a final note, please be aware of the nature of the Empire’s job market.  You will be competing in a job market which is largely occupied by highly educated transsophonts accustomed to using intelligence-enhancing biomods and implants, gnostic overlays, mnemonetic skill downloads and other such technologies to enhance their competitive advantage.  This is half of the equation that produces the Empire’s infamous quality standards and intolerance for anything less than the absolute best at all times.

The other half is the near obsessive-compulsive dedication which Imperials manage to bring to their work.  Don’t be misled by their relaxed attitudes outside work, or by the generally short working week which most of them work on; while at work, everything changes, and they have no patience with short-cuts, sloppiness, or failure to keep up.

If you aren’t fully prepared to do what you have to to succeed in that environment, which may well include brain surgery, psychedesign, and many other items from the transophontist menu, don’t go.  It will just be a very expensive way to fail.

– Working in the Worlds, Kernuaz Alliés

The Job Free Market (2/3)

Where do you get these contracts?  After all, if employment as such doesn’t exist in the Empire, surely you won’t find any corporations employing hundreds, thousands, or millions of people?

Quite correct.  The Imperial corporation, from relatively small examples all the way up to the Big 26, is simply a nexus; capital, communications, computronium, and the most senior levels of management, usually called the Directorate.  (Which is not to say that they are all run by boards of directors – Imperial corporate law requires no specific organizational schema, so while there are examples of corporations run by conventional boards, there are also examples of corporations run by AI supervisors, reputation-weighted voting, contractee legislatures, internal prediction markets, Fusions or conflux consensuses, and a variety of other methods.)  The Directorate also are not employed by the corporation, instead being rewarded via compensation schemes tied to net profits and other corporate success metrics, as defined by the corporate charter.

More importantly, most work is not contracted directly by the Directorate – and if you were thinking of looking for work in the Directorate, they’ll call you.

Most work is the province of the Initiatives – spun-off “microcorporate” structures with their own internal charter which exist to perform some specific task – execute on a project, develop a software package, run a factory, operate a particular store, or some such, either as a one-time or a recurring task.  Such Initiatives can be founded by a single corporation or as a joint venture by many – or even by another Initiative – and can be retained by their founders, transferred elsewhere, or sold as a whole.  They receive capital and other resources from their founders, along with their charter and the attention of the Directorate, and usually return whatever profits they make once their obligations are satisfied to their present owners; but Initiatives usually contract for whatever else they need with individuals or other Initiatives, including all the work they need done, managerial, technical, administrative, or otherwise, and any secondary resources they need along the way.

It is among the Initiatives that you are most likely to find counterparties.  (It is important to remember that the majority of contracts are short-term or at best renewable; there are almost no “jobs for life”, and so you will be expected to manage your long-term affairs for yourself in many respects.  More on this later.)  For simple short-term contracts in low- and middle-end fields, the easiest method is to register with Service Gate, ICC, whose dataweave-mediated contract matching and labor market services are used by virtually all Initiatives, and which can therefore find work on a regular basis for all their labor-side clients.  And, of course, if you prove a success at a particular Initiative or with a particular team or manager, you can expect to be called on again for their future contracts.

For more senior or specialized positions, you may be able to find work through specialized path-pointers, but in practice, many if not most of these positions are filled through old-fashioned xicé networking; careful attention to one’s professional society and reputation networks will pay dividends here.

Another possible source of counterparties, if you have some starting capital available, is the so-called “bounty economy”.  In this, many corporations and Initiatives simply post work they wish to be done, problems they wish solved, and so forth, to a bounty registry, along with the amount they will pay for its completion or solution.  (Some, but not all, of these registries let you claim exclusive rights to attempt to solve a given problem for a period of time; others are strictly “winner takes all”.)  Whoever does the work or solves the problem receives the bounty.  These bounties can be a good source of income for the speculatively inclined.

For completeness, there is also the public contracts channel, to which anyone can post low-value contracts for completion by anyone in the area that chooses to pick them up.  While a convenient enough source of petty cash for small favors for anyone, such contracts as a rule don’t amount to enough to be a useful source of primary income.

– Working in the Worlds, Kernuaz Alliés

The Job Free Market (1/3)

So, you want a job in the Empire?

Of course you do. At least half of the people in the Associated Worlds have at least thought about it. Pay rates are infamously high, tax rates are infamously low, and it is generally agreed that there’s no finer place for the ambitious to get rich quick.

The easy part is that there are no artificial barriers to stop you. You don’t need a work permit, you don’t need a work visa, and you don’t need to bribe the Minister of Work. You don’t even need an entry permit; assuming you aren’t on their list of undesirables, you can simply go there and start working.

The hard part is that you don’t want a ”job” in the Empire. In fact, it’s best if you forget you even know the word ”job”. The sort of employment familiar in most polities – an exchange of money for time, in which you work under direction – offends the libertist Imperials in a deeply philosophical way; they don’t practice it, they assert that the closest thing they do have to it is indentured servitude, and they will not appreciate the suggestion that they might like to start doing so with you.

In any case, everyone who might consider you fancies that they are looking for someone with dynamism, wit, entrepreneurial spirit, and vaulting ambition, and if you sound to them like someone who wants to just sell his time and be told what to do, you won’t even get an interview.

So, you’re not looking for ”a job”, you’re looking ”to work”, and this distinction is a lot more important than it might sound.

How is work organized in the Empire, then? Contracts. (You will have to learn to read and understand contracts yourself; while it’s possible to obtain pocket-obligator software, people won’t wait for it to explain the simple and standard to you.)

In Imperial law, every person is also a business; everyone is automatically self-employed. These people/businesses are contracted to perform specific tasks for specific remuneration (on the basis of completion, productivity or time).

Unlike the employment model you’re familiar with, the contracting businesses take little interest in how the work is done, only that it is done. Tools, techniques, workplace, working hours, how many contracts you work on simultaneously, and so forth are all largely up to you – but you also hold all the responsibility for the job being done on time and to specification. The obligations of contractor to contractee, and vice versa, are strictly those found in the contract.

– Working in the Worlds, Kernuaz Alliés