337 Cohen Hall
Dan Bouk, Colgate University
Lives in Corporate Service: Depreciation Accounting and Forecasting from Human to Machine and Back Again
In this age of Uber, predictive analytics, and the precarious labor, it's tempting to think that corporate predictions rule our futures in an entirely new way. It's certainly true that planning and forecasting technologies leave few nooks or crannies of ordinary lives undisrupted: the rapidity of high speed electronic trading seeps into employee scheduling algorithms and hiring plans; high stakes quarterly profit calls demand workers whose careers come chopped up into quarters too. But what has changed is not the influence of corporations' future-making. With the advent of the factory, capitalism dragged ordinary people into a world of fixed hours and domineering clocks. over the course of the twentieth century, a new breed of industrial corporation imposed the idea of a career on millions of employees, carving lives into 30-year chunks gradated by the rungs on (often illusory) career ladders. In this talk, historian Dan Bouk traces the early history of the modern career back to a surprising origin point: early-twentieth-century depreciation accounting and the project of forecasting the decay and risk of obsolescence for capital goods in U.S. industry.