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Virtual Boss Keeps Workers On a Short Leash 664

Gr8Apes writes "Hitachi has created a 'perfect virtual boss.' The company is manufacturing and selling a device intended to increase efficiency in the workplace called the Hitachi Business Microscope (paywalled). 'The device looks like an employee ID badge that most companies issue. Workers are instructed to wear it in the office. Embedded inside each badge, according to Hitachi, are "infrared sensors, an accelerometer, a microphone sensor and a wireless communication device." Hitachi says that the badges record and transmit to management "who talks to whom, how often, where and how energetically." It tracks everything. If you get up to walk around the office a lot, the badge sends information to management about how often you do it, and where you go. If you stop to talk with people throughout the day, the badge transmits who you're talking to (by reading your co-workers' badges), and for how long. Do you contribute at meetings, or just sit there? Either way, the badge tells your bosses.'"
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Virtual Boss Keeps Workers On a Short Leash

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  • Misunderstood? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <> on Monday February 03, 2014 @12:52PM (#46141509) Homepage Journal

    Japanese companies have tried stuff like this before, but not so that bosses can harass their employees. They genuinely want to know how to make the business better by finding out how people actually work... You know, like a good boss should.

    Obviously the potential for abuse is massive, but I think the article author is projecting their own thinking on to this idea. Aside from anything else abusing it would probably be illegal under Japanese law, as it would be in most European countries.

  • by DoomHamster ( 1918204 ) on Monday February 03, 2014 @12:56PM (#46141565)

    This is why it is important for the plotucracy to engineer a global economy where capitol can freely traverse national borders but the workforce cannot.

  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jythie ( 914043 ) on Monday February 03, 2014 @01:07PM (#46141719)
    They are trying to solve the problem of wanting to fire individuals but needing cause, and an application like this is pretty much an automatic paper trail generator that can be mined to fit pretty much any firing.
  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday February 03, 2014 @01:11PM (#46141775)

    No, I don't mean "doing their job". I mean they will start to game the system. People who want to slack off have been very inventive and creative when it comes to slacking, so this will be no different. They will come up with ways to tweak that. Don't want to go to a boring meeting? Let a coworker take your badge along. He'll do it for you next time and everyone's happy.

    Of course this does not increase productivity, but rather decrease it for the necessary overhead involved to game the system. But hey, I didn't come up with the idea, management gets what management wants, and if they want me to spend time fucking with their spying system rather than work so my "characteristic figures" look the way they should, I give them what they want.

    For reference, see the success of the "how many keystrokes did the programmer make today" for measuring the productivity of programmers creating code. It's not that much different from this junk.

  • by Subgenius ( 95662 ) on Monday February 03, 2014 @01:13PM (#46141799) Homepage

    True story: My CEO (US company, California) tasked me to install 3 motion-detection CCTV cameras at all of our remote staff locations (3 part timers, in their homes, in eastern Europe), and then review the footage daily to determine if they 'were at their posts' during working hours (and did not take 'too many' breaks during the day). Of course, the reason for this was to 'make sure we are getting what we paid for.' I'm glad this device was not around last year (or will be very expensive THIS year).

    No, I did not install the cameras, I just let the issue die. (still have a job, too).

  • Re:In otherwards (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Samantha Wright ( 1324923 ) on Monday February 03, 2014 @01:31PM (#46141997) Homepage Journal

    Wait, wait, I know this one! [] Ah, nothing like innovations in management to remind you that a dystopia is always possible. Anyone who hasn't read Manna, go do it! It is worth it.

    It's too bad so much iconic dystopic science fiction was written or cinematized in the 80s (Nineteen Eighty-Four and Bladerunner, to name but two film examples), since it means that all you need to trick people into thinking it's impossible is a bright and cheery computer interface.

  • Re:In otherwards (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 03, 2014 @01:57PM (#46142345)

    Probably because libertarians understand freedom better than you seem to.

    You are free to not have these things forced on to you.

    You are also free to sign a contract with your employer and surrender those rights.

    Likewise, the government saying a company cannot implement these policies takes away the companys freedom to run their business as they see fit.

    If you think you can "force" (by law or by gun) freedom then you don't understand what freedom is.

  • Re:In otherwards (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Gort65 ( 1464371 ) on Monday February 03, 2014 @02:09PM (#46142479)

    It might be fine for Japanese culture... I don't know. But it sure as hell wouldn't fly here. As soon as I found out those were required I'd be out the door.

    The problem is that there is always some desperate person willing to take your place, either out of apathy or economic necessity. Eventually, if enough of these people fill in the vacancies, then you'll find this sort of thing spreading to other workplaces, again chasing you out. It'll spread if it's allowed to. Still, there's always collective action to avoid this kind of thing. Pity that such defensive action is sort of frowned upon today, though.

  • Re:In otherwards (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sqrt(2) ( 786011 ) on Monday February 03, 2014 @02:20PM (#46142651) Journal

    I've mostly stopped typing out my own rebuttals and just started linking to the specific part of my .sig that addresses whatever particular libertarian fallacy someone is invoking. Rarely do I need to go offscript, and even more rarely is a competent rebuttal offered that doesn't distill down to a simple difference in values. Libertarians are, at heart, corporate fascists. They are simply working from a different value system--a horrifyingly barbarous one.

    You can consider the debate over when you get them to affirm their subscription to the unadulterated version of those beliefs. For example, I've cornered one before and forced them to admit that rampant poverty is preferable to even a small amount of taxation to alleviate it.

    I'll give them credit for their absolute devotion to ideological purity. That's real devotion.

  • Re:Manna (Score:5, Interesting)

    by meta-monkey ( 321000 ) on Monday February 03, 2014 @02:29PM (#46142761) Journal

    I was thinking old school, like the French Revolution.

    I agree, I certainly don't approve of inefficiency for the sake of menial jobs. I'm not suggesting we throw our shoes into the Google car's engine.

    I would love to see those people re-educated as artists, craftsman, teachers, whatever. And that's basically what the second half of Manna is about. My point is that we're far more likely to wind up with the first half of Manna. The very wealthy own the robots, unemploy the poor, and the poor are corralled into cheap public housing to sit and wait to die. In America, today, what'll happen when the robots take the driving jobs, and the Siris and Deep Blues take the call center jobs is the poor will be left to rot with their food stamps and unemployment benefits cut, and they'll be told it's their fault for being poor because they're too lazy. That is a dystopia to which I am not looking forward.

    And it's sad, because in America TODAY we could basically guarantee everybody three squares, a small apartment and healthcare for less than what we spend on a war. Those people would then be free to better themselves without worrying about starving. But that will never happen, because the government is bought and paid for by the wealthy, and the wealthy want an underclass of wage slaves scrambling over each other for menial jobs.

  • Re:In otherwards (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jader3rd ( 2222716 ) on Monday February 03, 2014 @02:56PM (#46143071)

    You're missing the point. A business that did this would be at a disadvantage because of the dissatisfied employees (especially competent ones) who would go elsewhere.

    My in-laws were shocked to learn that my employer doesn't ban digital frames in the office. The reason is because my father-in-laws employer (Boeing) does (or at least did at the time). Apparently some bean counter calculated that if every employee brought in a digital frame into the workplace it would cost the company X many dollars. So they banned them. I asked about employee moral, etc, and my father-in-law looked at me and said "Where else would they go?"

  • Re:In otherwards (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bugs2squash ( 1132591 ) on Monday February 03, 2014 @06:00PM (#46144869)
    Since when did anyone have property rights that trumped being powerful enough to seize the property ? You may think you own your land, who sold it to you ? who sold it to them ? You don't have to go back too far before the equitable trade stops.
  • Re:Calm down (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Electricity Likes Me ( 1098643 ) on Monday February 03, 2014 @06:17PM (#46145041)

    Sure you can force someone to be productive under miserable conditions but you can get terrific productivity as well by treating your employees nicely.

    Actually you really can't - its a policing fallacy. People count the costs of welfare, but don't count the costs of their police force.

    Similarly, a part of that "force people to be productive" is paying a whole bunch of managers to stand around and bear over them.

"An organization dries up if you don't challenge it with growth." -- Mark Shepherd, former President and CEO of Texas Instruments