Abadesi Osunsade knows a lot about work culture (see her bio below!). We thought she’d bring a very different perspective to Krys Lee’s story, about how the workplace might change with the increasing use of technology. We asked Abadesi to respond in a format we like a lot at Storythings: ‘Five Things I’ve Learned’. This format helps the reader focus on a set number of takeaways from a story in a succinct manner. Every person who writes this format comes at it from a different angle (we should know!), and we like how Abadesi has picked out specific lines from the story to respond to.
If you like Krys’ story and Abadesi’s response, read about how work and pay are being affected in the pandemic era in Rethink Quarterly, our publication for ADP. We think this piece about the undervaluing of womens’ role in the economy is relevant to what Abadesi says. If you have thoughts about the future of work you’d like to explore through storytelling, we’d be happy to help – email us to say hi!
1. Robots will steal some jobs… but we should be more worried about women leaving the workforce now
‘They’re taking over our city. Walk into a store and good luck finding a person to help you!’
Automation is everywhere. It’s all the rage in the tech world, as experts urge CEO’s to hire Chief Automation Officers to look for opportunities to optimise their business. It’s terrifying, but you can sort of see how it’s happened. Coming out of a pandemic where women were forced out of work in record numbers to help at home, job scarcity is rightfully on many minds when it comes to thinking about the future of work. But robots aren’t as sophisticated as sci-fi shows like Black Mirror will have you think – we have a long way to go before they can replicate many of our most valuable skills. And in the meantime, increased automation provides an opportunity for individuals to escape mundane tasks themselves and embrace the more creative elements of their roles. We should be less worried about robots stealing jobs and more concerned about employers finding ways to keep women in work e.g. with better childcare benefits, mandatory paternity leave and increased flexibility.
Why do robots always have to look like men? Why do we limit our imagination when it comes to more physical forms that robots can take? Or is this an extension of ‘building in our image’? After all, we’re still in a patriarchy.
2. Men in tech are so vain they make robots in their image
‘The robots are everywhere, they’re serving pizza, taking orders, and the real people stay inside those white buildings before sunrise with their robots and leave after dark.’
In August 2021, before the dust settled on the rocket launches of SpaceX, Elon Musk was in the headlines again, this time unveiling designs for a humanoid Tesla bot. Possibly inspired by Rosie the Robot in the Jetsons, he billed it as the answer to the problem of actioning all our tedious tasks. The only question that came to my mind was: why do robots always have to look like men? We’re already interacting with AI and bots on a daily basis – ‘Hey Siri, tell me a joke’ – so why do we limit our imagination when it comes to more physical forms that robots can take? Or is this an extension of ‘building in our image’? After all, we’re still in a patriarchy. So if buildings are phallic, I guess robots should look like men? I’m still waiting to see a robot with breasts that isn’t a sex doll…
Can we ever see objectively? Or does the bias we aim to escape from start embedding itself so early in our consciousness that it is inescapable?
3. Double standards for men and women seem to be inescapable
‘Take my advice: It’s no way for a woman to live. The old man looks as if he expects you to flee to the train station so you can look for more suitable women’s work. But it’s a good life for a man? you ask. The words croak out of you, for it’s been a long time since you’ve spoken full sentences. He gives you that oh-you’re-one-of-those looks through the rearview mirror.’
Can we ever escape our past? Probably not. In Krys Lee’s version of reality, patriarchy has dominated the narrative; and one very real and very painful consequence of that is that men and women continue to face double standards in society. Women are often penalised for actions men are applauded for – for example, one man’s assertiveness is another woman’s bitchiness. (Sarah Cooper does a great job of explaining this in her book, ‘How to Be Successful Without Hurting Men’s Feelings’). A recent example is the treatment of male and female entrepreneurs by institutions like the legal system and mass media. Ellen Pao recently wrote in the New York Times that Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos is being dragged for her actions; while CEO’s like Kevin Burns of Juul, who have been accused of marketing vapes to young people creating a nicotine epidemic amongst school kids, barely make headlines let alone end up in court rooms. Can we ever see objectively? Or does the bias we aim to escape from start embedding itself so early in our consciousness that it is inescapable?
4. Loneliness is a problem we may never solve and technology is making it worse
‘That you stopped doing many things, like going for walks. Meeting the few new friends you’d made. Washing your matted, earthy hair.’
A thousand years ago the poet Rumi wrote, ‘Do not feel lonely. The universe is inside you.’ A millennium later, humans are still feeling lonely even in an increasingly connected world. We spend hours on social media each day. TikTok has recently overtaken YouTube in terms of average viewing time in the US and UK, with users spending on average 24 hours a month on the app. Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation is urging governments to take mental health seriously. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds. Have we lost the ability to root ourselves in something meaningful? Have we gone beyond the point of mitigating the risks we face when interacting with technology?
When faced with the most challenging circumstances, humans always find a way to be resourceful. As a woman who has spent a decade in the tech industry, facing gaslighting, aggression, sexual harassment, you name it – I persist! Because I believe I can make a difference and I believe things will get better.
5. Hope is an antidote to all our ailments
‘Tell them, tell anyone, that you want to remember what it was like, to be human.’
Every adventure needs a driving force. The adventure of humanity seems to be driven by hope. When faced with the most challenging circumstances, humans always find a way to be resourceful. As a woman who has spent a decade in the tech industry, facing gaslighting, aggression, sexual harassment, you name it – I persist! Because I believe I can make a difference and I believe things will get better. Call me naive or call me hopeful, the result is still the same. I’m still showing up, I’m still taking risks, I’m still doing the work. And I’m not alone. If we didn’t have hope the world wouldn’t exist (thanks Stanislav Petrov!). All I know is that humans cracked the code for survival a while back: never stop hoping.