I find the recent revelations about EA’s labor pracitices to be utterly horrifying while at the same time making me say, “Duh!” This is how the software industry was and is built. Geeks have special tendancies that make them (1) geeks and (2) highly exploitable. Give a software geek a hard question and he won’t sleep until he’s solved it. Give an art geek a curious vision and she will eschew human contact until she has drawn it in excruciating detail.
This is what a geek is, people! A geek is a person with a borderline unhealthy obsession with a particular topic. It only takes a marginally intelligent manager to see the benefits of filling a cube farm with such creatures. Let them wear jeans, bring in shitty pizza once a week and watch your empire grow.
This is really one of those places where capitalism falls down. When you hire an exempt employee a battle begins. On one side is basic human decency, on the other is your own desire for fame, fortune and advancement. Should you be a “people manager” and send your strung-out programmer home because he lacks the sense to know when to call it a day? Or should you grab the productivity gain opportunity and promise more in less time to your Corporate Evil Overlord?
I think it’s fairly apparent what should happen, and what does. It will likely continue, too, now that the threat of outsourcing looms over the increasingly anemic technical job market. Witness the most highly educated slave-class in history!