Two quite different news stories appeared in the papers on my doorstep on Tuesday, April 27, 2021. While different, the stories are perhaps not unrelated.
The Wall Street Journal carried an article titled, "Who Nds th Lttr E?." The full title, if you can read it, pretty much tells it all. Standard Life Aberdeen PLC (a Scottish fund manager and a "Public Limited Company") has said that it will eliminate all the Es in its name, and change its name to “Abrdn.” The new company name, even without the Es, is to be pronounced the same: "Aberdeen." Click right here to read the company's official statement about this decision. Here is the gist of what the company says:
Our new brand Abrdn builds on our heritage and is modern, dynamic and, most importantly, engaging for all of our client and customer channels. It is a highly-differentiated brand that will create unity across the business, replacing five different brand names that have each been operating independently. Our new name reflects the clarity of focus that the leadership team are bringing to the business as we seek to deliver sustainable growth.
The Wall Street Journal demystifies the actual reason behind this gobbledygook. As it turns out, there are a lot of "Aberdeens" out there in the world at large, including, specifically, the city in northeast Scotland that bears that name. There is also an Aberdeen in South Dakota, and one in Washington state. And there are lots of other "Aberdeens," besides. Those who search on the internet for Standard Life Aberdeen PLC, often by just typing in "Aberdeen," will not always have the fund manager's website come up at the top of their search list. That has irritated the company. With the name change, if someone searches for "Abrdn," there will be no such problem!
The second story I read was in the San Francisco Chronicle. It was headlined, "Remote workers are being paid $20,000 to relocate to America's small towns." Most of those reading this blog posting will probably hit a paywall if they click that link, so here is a brief excerpt from the Chronicle article:
From Maine to Michigan, communities are dangling incentives ranging up to $20,000 in cash and perks for out-of-state folks who relocate and stay at least a year, while continuing their existing jobs from a distance. Besides the money, the main lures are lifestyle amenities — a slower pace, affordable housing, less traffic, access to nature, close-knit communities.
For towns and counties, it’s well worth forking out money to diversify their populations and boost their economies. New residents patronize local restaurants and stores, pay taxes, enroll their kids in schools and may volunteer or immerse themselves in civic activities.
The Chronicle article is actually pretty helpful if a person is inclined to move somewhere new, and to work and connect with current friends and family "remotely." For instance, the article spells out exactly what sort of inducements you can get:
As I say, when I read through the newspapers on April 27th, these two articles seemed not unrelated. In both cases, what we might ordinarily think of as the "real world" is shown to be less important, in some ways, than the world that can be accessed and understood, and defined and inhabited, through the internet.
Messing with the English language by removing vowels, to enhance internet searches, seems just plain "weird" to me (or "wird," to conform to the "no Es" proscription). What "Abrdn" has done is to show that the internet, and an internet search issue, is more important than our language itself.
Similarly, deciding to move to a community that has no physical proximity to where a person works also suggests that the world of the internet is, in some sense, primary. At least, that is how this opportunity to move away from where you work strikes me, even though I know you can see things in exactly the opposite light, too. You can decide that now, thanks to the internet, it is possible to live anywhere; constraints related to work have been removed. Freedom has been increased! Right?
Maybe that's right; or maybe not. Treating the internet as the primary or "most important" element of the world in which we live is a real doubling down on the idea that we, as human beings, are continually working to escape the confines and limitations of the World of Nature, a world into which we are born, and upon which we and all of human civilization ultimately depend.
The human world is a world that we have constructed inside the World of Nature, but it is a physical world, anyway, as the World of Nature is, too. Our human world is a world that is composed of "real" and tangible things.
The world of the internet is another humanly-created world, a world constructed within our human world, but one that is less and less tethered to what we have always thought of as "real." Is this an advance?
Maybe. But maybe not. Mark me as nervous!
(1) - https://www.wsj.com/articles/who-nds-th-lttr-e-scottish-fund-manager-aberdeen-tries-abrdn-instead-11619473672
(2) - https://www.sfchronicle.com/business/article/Remote-workers-are-being-paid-20-000-to-relocate-16124553.php
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