50 Years of Service

December 03, 2018

50 Years of Service

I saw this plaque in the Marshall Fields building in Chicago. It was one of those things that, when you see it, immediately strikes you as being from a different moral universe.


Silicon Valley doesn't believe in employer/employee loyalty; how could it, given how quickly things change? Nobody's thinking about the "gold watch" for 25 years of service when the company won't even exist in five years.

More than anything, company loyalty is a cynical punchline to a joke; the sort of thing you laugh at after a few drinks, while shaking your head at the new "great idea" someone just had.

But as I reach my mid-30s, it occurs to me that there has to be something else. I can't speak for others, but for me, there has to be something more than climbing the ladder, or piling up as much money as possible. Something beyond living in some anonymous box of an apartment, angling for one promotion after another, trying to accumulate as much money and/or power as I can.

Being part of a great organization—an institution—the Church, the Army, a sports franchise, university, or great company—was something people used to aspire to. These days, it feels like something you'd be ridiculed for.

I suspect Paul Graham is right; company loyalty was probably a thing of the Duplo Economy, with few firms and limited competition. Perhaps in today's more competitive business climate, the conditions to make that possible no longer exist.

So the "Duplo Economy" is a thing of the past and on the whole, that's proably a good thing. But like pg, I'm not 100% excited for what's next. We will probably be richer, but I can't help wondering whether the world will become more like San Francisco: more and more billionaires, even as the ground becomes ever more littered with broken syringes, dropped by homeless drug addicts desperate for a hit.

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