Why hardcore is old hat

Elon Musk’s insistence on ‘hardcore’ workers who are prepared to sacrifice everything for work is unlikely to attract and retain the best talent or to result in the best product.

Tired woman pouring coffee


So the Twitter saga continues with many people signing up to Mastodon, the Twitter alternative, in the last few days. The decision to reinstate Donald Trump this weekend after a yes or no poll on the site – held up by Elon Musk as the epitome of democracy – is likely to spark a greater drift away from the platform, although many seem to be waiting to see what others will do, worried about losing access to both news and audience/influence.

Some also argue that leaving Twitter to the alt right and avoiding political extremists rather than trying to battle with them may lead to greater entrenchment of views, greater intolerance and everything that might follow from that. Yet staying put means feeding the Twitter beast, being complicit in the kind of threats, hatred and aggression that some like to present as free speech. I used to work for a human rights group during a time when hate speech was a big topic of discussion, following the fall of the Soviet Union. It was notable that those who defended free speech, including hate speech, were those who had least been affected by its impact.

One of the many things that has caused the current Twitter furore is Elon Musk’s approach to his workers. He issued them with an ultimatum either to sign up to being ‘hardcore’ – working all hours at great intensity – or to leave. Many have chosen the latter option. Trying to present general sacrifice of everything to work as somehow manly [as the word hardcore implies] seems so old-fashioned. It’s not good for people as individuals to devote all their time to work and it’s not even good for work.

What you end up with is burnt-out shells of people who only know about work and know nothing about life or the lives of their consumers. They may be great at algorithms and data analysis or whatever, but that isn’t enough these days. We know algorithms can be biased. We know data can be used for all sorts of things. What matters is having enough checks and balances in the system to overcome bias so the system works for the widest number of people. That comes from having a broad range of people doing the jobs, asking the questions and seeing the gaps.

The future of work will see many things being automated. But that doesn’t mean that we have to turn humans into machines – the true ‘hardcore’ workers. Rather, it means that what differentiates us from machines becomes more important.

The use of the word hardcore to describe an all work and no play attitude is also a misnomer. It suggests that those who don’t or can’t do those hours are somehow weaker. As a parent, I would dispute that. How many times has Elon Musk – father of 10 children – sat up all night with kids throwing up and still managed to get into work in the morning? How many times has he been up most of the night with teething children – for weeks on end – and still been able to deliver at work? That’s hardcore. But doing that without any kind of support at work – or at home – is not something we should be encouraging. Hardcore working is not a sustainable way forward and it is definitely not something to aspire to.

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