I’m at the raggedy end of two conferences and then being sick. I’m only just now ramping back up to full force.
Hi there! Welcome to.. what day is it? Wait, where am I?
And, you should check out the #BDYHAX tag on twitter. Lots of good stuff archived there. My talk was decent, but my blood sugar crashed halfway through. Ryan from Grindhouse Wetware said roughly the same thing, but more eloquently and more politely. Personally, the best part was the social aspect. Talking to the presenters, talking one on one with the attendees, hangouts and micro conferences in bars and hotel rooms… The Biohack Austin meetup/bbq that happened the Monday after.
The distributed conference behind the conference.
Then there was Extreme Future Tech Fest Three! I didn’t even take notes. It was actually awesome! Lots of good speakers. I personally had one of my better, more coherent talks. It’s really starting to come together there. The new location really helped. At some point, David will get the video from the livestream up and we can all watch. Here is a link to the eftf site. Maybe you can somehow mine it for information about what actually happened. I will definitely be attending the next time. No longer will I drink myself into an early grave while we discuss giant space chainsaws for new real estate options… hopefully.
When I was in Austin, about halfway through my talk I just kinda looked around, askance, and said,
“Look. I don’t even want to be here. I want to be in a lab, actually doing work. But there is no lab. Because you guys don’t understand the barriers to getting people into labs. So, I’m here. Talking with you. Until this happens. Because someone has to.”
Therefore, what I’m going to write about today is something that has come up a couple of times in the last few weeks.
I am speaking of this article by Adrienne Graham, on the Forbes site.
I’ve been working in consulting lately, for a collection of people both here and in other countries. The number of people that expect you to work without pay is phenomenal. Yes, I know, we all talk about this at some point, regularly, even routinely. This pops up in the news roughly every six months or so.
Startup culture has taken this to an art. ‘Once you work long enough the money will come’. Guess what? The money ain’t comin. Maybe if you’re good and rich this can be your hobby. That’s great. I got bills to pay.
My experience is with science culture. Gradschool culture. It’s there too. The belief that just being working with them should be enough, to have their name attached to yours. It’s ramen and 80 hour weeks but at least you get to have a good PI. You’re told that you can get a lab if you work for tenure. Fifty-three percent of biology students pursue the tenure track. Only something like 4% actually get it. Read a big pdf here.
I will posit that biologists tend to be pretty ok with teh maths. So where does this leave us? With a culture that has developed a narrative where it’s acceptable for doing below or no pay work with the expectations of a goal which is statistically, significantly not going to happen.
I’ve had people tell me that they can’t pay me now, but that I should just wait for the money to flow forth as if from a well when we are done.
That’s great. I’m dying of thirst right now.
When did self respect and autonomy begin to mean so little to us? Or was it never really there and just the story we told ourselves?
I think we can agree , most of us are sick and tired of being thirsty. I can’t count the number of people I know that have 2 degrees and 3 jobs, and are barely making it.
If people keep wasting our time, maybe one day we’re just going to walk away. See, maybe it isn’t worth it anymore. I did it with academia. I know a couple of people that are starting to feel the same way about a lot of things like that. Look at these cool Ethereum peeps. They’re just completely fed up at this point. They’re not even going off the grid. They are building their own grid.
Every rich person that exists, exists because they have benefited from scientific expansion.
If you’re going to work, get what you’re worth in return. Spend your time building something for yourself instead of building something for someone else (This is where I would post a link to any paper written by a grad student with the PI as the primary author. So, like, most of them. Pick a paper.)
Here’s the thing. If people can’t make a living doing science and research, people will not do science and research. That means society is fucked. You wouldn’t ask a plumber to fix your toilet for the name recognition, experience, or exposure.
The bar is pretty high to do scientific work. Science requires raw materials, time, and steadfast effort. It’s not easy. It’s not easy to learn, and it’s not easy to invest in those resources.
“I’ve talked with more than 100 interviewers, just about the eyedrops thing,” he said. “If you’re so goddamn excited, why am I still broke? Why can I not finish the project? Why is there nothing else to do? Why did I just get off a job at a kitchen?”
What do you think?
How do we, as a community, both demand, and procure access to tools and information to improve our lives?