This entry is part 4 of 10 in the series Snapshots at 27

The relentless hustle of startup culture, or the crunch of game development, or whatever synonym other tech-adjacent industries like to use for the endless grind of work, all rest on the metaphor of the worker as a single-minded machine.

When I stumbled on this article, then, I had to laugh:

An interesting detail from the study is that this finding only applies to “biologically realistic neuromorphic processors.” That is, most other artificial systems don’t run into this problem. Rest — or some analogue of it — becomes necessary only when systems try to mimic human brain function.

What is it about the way we think? Setting aside considerations of biology and chemistry, why does human thought require sleep?

Rest is strange in the grip of a pandemic.

Most of us are presumably confined to our homes, and on paper that sounds like an occasion to relax. It isn’t, of course: fear and anxiety are constant; some people have to grapple with childcare duties, uncomfortable home or family situations, loss of income, the need to risk their health to survive, the dissolution of boundaries that tends to occur with extended remote work arrangements.

No wonder so many people are having weird dreams or keeping odd hours.

“Has your sleep been messed up too?” a friend asked me recently, when we met up to check on each other’s sanity.

We’re both uncomfortable with rest, it turns out. The circuit breaker (CB) was a time for paranoia and unease, not just over the virus but over what actions might be penalised in the country’s attempt to contain the spread.

Early on, she’d helped friends move out of their flat and belatedly wondered if that counted as a social visit to another household, leading to a whole month of fretting. She had been sleeping at 4 AM. These days — a week or so into Phase 2 of the post-CB period; months (for her) and weeks (for me) into excruciating job situations — she’s been trying to sleep before midnight.

“I slept at 8 AM,” I offered. That was one time, and anxiety is ultimately easier to endure while unconscious, but in any case, it made her feel better.