Tuesday, February 05, 2008


By Douglas Coupland

When you're a tech geek working for the world's biggest software company, it's already understood that you don't have a life... or at least in this book. What really matters, the author says, is your brains. Never mind that your hair grew wayward, that your working outfit consists of the usual khaki slacks, company branded shirts, white socks and Birkenstocks, as long as you're a think tank that never runs out of bright ideas. One of the philosophies presented in the book is this: If you can't make yourself worthwhile to society, then that's your problem, not society's. People are personally responsible for making themselves relevant. I agree in a sense that you really have to make an effort to make yourself useful at home, in the workplace, to your friends... otherwise, you'll become redundant such that people will begin to forget you. That's the basic principle of mutualism -- give and take.

Geeks graduate from college, get hired at Microsoft or Apple or any similar company for that matter, work their asses off and think that relationships will happen naturally. Next thing they know, they wake up at thirty and realize that they've never been kissed.

This is a really fascinating (and sometimes funny) read about a fictional bunch of geeks who worked at Microsoft, obsessed about Bill Gates, and eventually decided to leave the comforts of having the coolest, high-paying jobs in search for what they call a 'life'. Although written in 1995, it remains relevant today except for the technologies mentioned (if you're expecting iPods and the like, well, it didn't even talk about Windows XP, to say the least). The book was written in first person, a journal where the day-to-day undertakings of the characters were recorded. Most of the journal entries were just observations but it was through these that we get to pick up a lesson or two about life.

For example, it is said in the book that work is providing us with a comforting sense of normalcy. Simply grinding away at something makes life feel stable even though the external particulars of life are, at best, random. Quarter-life crisis, is that you?

There's no major issue or event in the book that needed a resolution -- it's just filled with thought-provoking statements, almost a collection of musings, aphorisms and reflections about technology, work, work-life balance, families and relationships, that paint a picture of what some of us are probably going through, or went through in life.