Realizing Your Job Isn’t Meaningful

A comment on a HN thread Why I Quit Tech and Became a Therapist stood out to me (bolding is on my behalf):

I’ve been having the same existential crisis for a couple years now. I started working at a FAANG company right out of college, then after a bunch of personal health problems ended up taking a leave of absence that I didn’t return from.

I took a long break from software and started learning politics, philosophy, and history, and eventually came to the conclusion that most of the world’s problems are social/political and won’t be fixed by technology.

And in many ways, the type of work we do directly cause harm to people. (Unfortunately, with the long gap in my career I need to build up work experience before switching to anything else)

How can I continue to work at a corporation that directly causes wealth inequality? Sure, I might personally enjoy working on math and software related problems. But why is my own intellectual curiosity more important than whether someone else gets to eat?

I don’t want to just donate to charities, I want to end systemic problems that lead to charities needing to exist in the first place.

nabnob (HN)

This feels like it could’ve been written by me as it pretty much sums up my journey working in the tech industry and subsequently leaving to pursue something more meaningful (except I never expected to find fulfillment working in the tech industry because I spent college trying to run away from it).

Probably the biggest pet peeve of mine of working in the tech industry is the lack of acknowledgement that practically nothing we’re doing is fundamentally vital to humanity. And this is a huge shame because the tech industry certainly attracts some of the brightest people due to technically demanding nature of it and the high salaries.

Sure there are some tech innovations that are monumental, but the developers working on them are a super tiny minority. Most developers are not developing self-driving cars or AI for robotic surgery, they’re getting you to click ads, waste more time consuming mindless media, and buy sh*t you don’t need. None of this is specific to the tech industry, it’s a symptom of a profit-driven market-oriented economic system.

It’s depressing to find out that your career, your life’s work, the work you devote your workweek to and the bulk of your time and energy – is meaningless. People are suffering and the earth is being irreversibly destroyed at our hands, but you’re life’s work is devoted to getting kids to waste more time on Youtube so that advertisers can brainwash them into wanting sh*t they don’t need. That if you were to disappear, nobody’s life would be impacted aside from the mourning of your immediate family and friends.

“With great power comes great responsibility”

It’s even more depressing because you’re probably getting paid very well. So if you live by the mantra of “with great power comes great responsibility”, then you’ll feel guilty for having the financial power to at least affect things, yet you don’t do anything because your job requires you to devote the bulk of your time and energy to serving the corporate overlords.

I couldn’t think of anything worth devoting my time than Universal Basic Income advocacy (UBI), so that’s what I did – job security be damned.

But until we implement a UBI, we’ve all got bills to pay, and so one needs to find a way to get money somehow. This is why I have to apply for jobs again. I don’t give a sh*t about 99% of the jobs out there, but I need the money for survival. So I must pretend to be that apolotical obedient and passionate worker so that I can convince some slavemaster to adopt me.

Most jobs suck. I’d wager that only 5% of jobs are actually meaningful, and the only job that can empower one to directly change the system that forces us into devoting our lives to pursuing meaningless work is to be a politician, or an “influencer” who can influence the masses to vote the politicians in to do their bidding for them.

My goal here isn’t to make you depressed or convince you that you need to quit your job and pursue a career change. You screwed up in choosing this career after all, what makes you think you’ll do better next time?

One must simply accept reality for what it is because it is mentally unhealthy to stress over that which we cannot change. Recognize that as an individual, you can only do so much to change the system. Your best bet at changing the system is to acquire either money or influence, the latter of which is especially easier said than done.

Make a conscious effort to improve things, but don’t sabotage your own career or livelihood to do so unless you can financially afford to, or are committed enough to making it work at any expense.

My goals right now are:

  1. Financial Independence
  2. Activism

Financial independence must take precedent for now because I’ve got bills to pay. Once I’ve achieved financial independence, I’ll be able to devote myself entirely to activism, and not under a pseudonym because I won’t have to care about career repercussions anymore.

I realize that by writing this blog my impact is marginal, but it’s merely something I do on the side, and who knows where it will lead. Again I want to stress that the purpose here isn’t to make you depressed, it’s to make you aware that if you’ve been thinking the same thoughts – you’re not alone. I’m glad I read that article and HN comment/thread because it never hurts to be reminded of that from time to time. We just don’t speak out in real life because it would be career suicide.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s