Hey, High Tech! Have you noticed it’s 2019?

I am having to change banks for the second time in a month. I had encountered problems with declines on my debit card with Redwood Credit Union. At first I assumed I had tripped fraud detection (which, in my case, is never right) and had started to give them a ration of shit about false positives meaning their entire fraud detection system is bullshit when they denied any knowledge of the declines.

I was grumpy but moved on. Then Redwood lost a deposit. I recovered the money quickly enough but the fact was, it wasn’t where it was supposed to be, when it was supposed to be there. I read in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat that they had had an outage lasting several hours. The account, while cursory, was sufficient to inform me that this institution is still having problems that were solved twenty years ago.

Understand I’m not talking about knowing what the fix is, where when something awful happens, we know what to do. I’m talking about system designs that prevent the problems arising in the first place. And twenty years later, having pissed off systems administrators royally (first rule of Information Technology: do not, repeat, do not piss off your sys admin—seriously, don’t do it) any time they failed, they’re now pretty damned near bullet-proof.

So for a financial institution to be experiencing these problems today is pretty damned near incomprehensible. The system designs—networked RAID and redundant servers would have done the trick—needed are expensive, but not that expensive. They are well within any financial institution’s budget.

Owing to my employment travails, I’m driving for Uber and Lyft again, and not very happy about it, but ironically, possibly as a way of promoting their own offering, Uber had warned me that they might have trouble with debit card deposits to my Redwood account. So I had signed up with their own offering, GoBank, and now that I was closing the Redwood account, I proceeded to make the GoBank account my primary bill-paying account.

GoBank has its own limitations, including some I really don’t want to deal with, so I’ve opened an account at Umpqua Bank. Just in the nick of time, it would seem.

I started having problems logging into my GoBank account. And yes, I’m fed up.

Here I need to explain about something I went through a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far way. Okay, not that long ago or that far way: I have not, at least to my knowledge, somehow traversed the time and distance from the Star Wars universe to our own.

But once upon a time, I was a computer programmer. It was good experience, experience I probably paid too high a price for, but good experience. It wasn’t a field I could last in; decades would pass before I understood that I burned out in relatively short order.

But I understand the tremendously sequential, linear thought process that goes into computer programming. I understand the arrogance that imagines big data can solve all problems (much like neoliberals think markets can solve all problems). I saw mountains of spaghetti code and code that had been inadequately tested. I also have a slightly better than average understanding of technology.

In my last real job, as the dot com boom was busting, I learned that inadequate testing had evolved to zero testing, that programmers now rely on other people to test their code.

Sometimes those other people are quality assurance specialists, paid to test the shit out of code. Sometimes, as apparently with GoBank, those other people are unpaid end users—like me.

And where I earned, at my peak, $60,000 per year (this, only for a couple months as the dot-com bust busted), pretty much everybody in information technology (IT) these days is earning six or more figures. They can pay rent. They can pay their bills. They can afford toys. And, in general, they don’t need a college education to do it.

Meanwhile, having been unable to find gainful employment since the dot-com crash, even having returned to college, finished a Bachelor’s, a Master’s, and a Ph.D., I’m driving for Uber and Lyft. I can’t pay rent. The bills are a real struggle. I can afford some toys mainly because, really, they’re the cheapest things I can spend my limited funds on. Oh, and some of them are necessary for driving for Uber and Lyft.

I’m furious about this situation. The dot-com crash happened in 2001. It’s been damn near eighteen years of doing everything I can possibly do to find a job, being forsaken by the people I thought were my friends, and still coming up absolutely empty. I can’t even get interviews.

But now these mother fuckers, the ones earning six or more figures a year, want me to help debug their fucking software. For free. You can imagine my response.

Author: benfell

David Benfell holds a Ph.D. in Human Science from Saybrook University. He earned a M.A. in Speech Communication from CSU East Bay in 2009 and has studied at California Institute of Integral Studies. He is an anarchist, a vegetarian ecofeminist, a naturist, and a Taoist.

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