Insourcing is the in thing

Tired of outsourcing? Try the opposite


Suresh Menon | June 15, 2011

Outsourcing is as old as – wait, let me get my researcher to check that out for you. Ancient civilisations didn’t think twice before getting neighbouring civilisations to build irrigation canals, for instance, in return for sharing the benefits of farming. If you think about it, getting somebody else to do your work cannot be a modern concept. The caveman who hired a smarter caveman to do his children’s homework was a pioneer.

In recent years, outsourcing has become more exciting, though. After all, building canals can be boring work. And homework begins to pale after a while. Thus, in Japan we read about an agency which supplies clients with adult actors to impersonate blood relations. The most popular, I am told, is a ‘trial’ husband for the bride-to-be who leaves towels on the bathroom floor or ignores the garbage. In the US, mothers-to-be can turn to specialists in finding names, organising baby rooms and medical schedules – all the work that was once done by the loving couple who decided to have the baby in the first place.

In Sydney, you can rent a friend for purely platonic reasons – to show you around town, to go shopping with you, to listen to complaints you might have regarding your Japanese husband who can’t find a name for your child.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to think of a human activity that cannot be outsourced, something that someone else will not do for money. Popular as outsourcing is, what follows is its opposite. Insourcing, shall we say? And here’s an example from real life – my own, as a matter of fact.

After years of missing the first part of a movie and then being interrupted while attempting to watch the last part, my life has changed. I have probably seen more middle portions of movies without knowing how it all began or how everything is finally resolved than anyone else of my height and body weight, if not age.

Recently, technology came to my rescue and I began taping live programmes on TV with a casual flick of my hair while dusting away an imaginary speck off my collar (you must try it sometime – and if you want me to watch it, arrange with my cable operator to put it on my television so I can record it for later viewing).

I would record a movie here, a rerun of something there, a significant news item further over there and so on. All for later viewing. From being a movie buff, I became a recording buff. From someone who demanded instant gratification, I became an adherent of the philosophy of delayed pleasure. Good Will Hunting? Lovely movie. Watched it years ago. And then recorded it so I could watch it again sometime. Witness for the Prosecution? Ditto.

I hardly get to watch any movies now. I record for future viewing, then the box gets filled up with movies I am never going to watch, and I erase huge chunks so I can record more movies which I may never get to watch so I erase them later. This is rather like putting a coin in a slot machine for a soda which is then drunk by the machine itself. Untouched by human hand. In the case of my movies, unseen by human eyes.

Gone are the joyful days when I watched at least forty percent of the movie, missing out only the thirty percent at either end. There was the intellectual challenge of working out when boy met girl and how boy finally gets girl back while watching one tell the other they should never meet again.

Perhaps there is a deep philosophical lesson in all this. Perhaps it is the unexpectedness and the uncertainty of knowing if one will see a particular movie again that causes me to sit in rapt attention while work piles up on my desk. With the recording device, there has been an unweaving of the rainbow. Mystery has been replaced by certainty; out-of-reachness by easy accessibility. I’d like to stay and explain more, but I notice I have to erase some movies I recorded last week. I haven’t seen them, of course, but there will always be reruns, or the recorder will stop functioning and I will be forced to actually watch movies again.



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