Working in Seattle...
Working in Seattle... Charles Mudede

Gene Balk's new column concerns "the most common job in [the] Seattle [area]." It used to be retail sales (a part of the service economy), and is now software developers (a part of the shift from the post-industrial service economy to a post-service one). Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Balk determined that the city employs 60,000 programmers. This is a booming industry, and it is certainly claiming a larger chunk of the second- and third-rate code talent that used to go to Wall Street—specifically algorithmic trading. A stunning 83 percent of these programmers are men. Though Balk does not show the racial composition of this high-paying area of the local job market, he does point out that women are over-represented in jobs that make paying the bills and rent almost impossible in Seattle.

Women are also over-represented in what certain thinkers of the Italian post-operaismo school would call affective labor—or emotional labor ("caring, listening, comforting, reassuring, smiling"). As more and more jobs are automated, and the service economy—retail and distribution—shrinks, this form of labor, the production of genuine states of feeling, will be what's left for humans in societies that no longer make things.

Speaking of making things, Balk found that there are indeed carpenters in Seattle, and almost all of them are like Jesus—men. Women, it seems, are either not interested in wood or are prevented from making it work.

Speaking of wood, Duncan Jones's new and rather messy film Mute, which is available on Netflix, imagines a future world that seems to be organized by the kind of economy that can only have an Amazon at its center. No one really has a standard service job, and the few who do are much like those employed at the Amazon Go store on 7th Avenue. They mind the self-service machines. These minders also, like the employees at Amazon Go, must not only watch the machines and extricate customers who are not up on things from difficulties with the system, but be loss-prevention officers. The police function in this future and in Amazon Go is generalized.

Mute Netflix

In Mute, a "neo-noir science fiction film," there are no waiters at conventional restaurants. You make an order on a smartphone and the food is delivered by the kind of small drones that Amazon wants to fill our skies with (Amazon Prime Air). The city has become a hive of these drones. So, what do ordinary people do to make a living in the future world of Mute—a world that still has not, as many Marxists of old so hoped, organically transitioned to communism? (It is very interesting that Marx thought a capitalist economy dominated by the stock market would be ripe for communism.) These people mostly do sex work or work related to those kind of jobs: strippers, porn, prostitution. That's all that's left for humans—fucking other and richer humans. The city is not only a hive of drones instructed by programmers but it is a brothel that services those who have inherited wealth, or are criminals, or hold actual jobs—most of which, one gathers, are in tech. But even sex work is not safe. One scene has a kimono-clad man caught in the middle of an orgy with robots.