They transferred me last September. It happened so fast, took my breath away.
I had no time to research the new position – you know – the career growth prospects, whether the boss is a schlep or has tits, what the rest of crew look like, the flexibility, the monetary benefits – no time at all.
One day, it was right after the Labor Day weekend, I was regarding a PW308 fan that appeared to have been over-peened and Dave Sanders, the MLM of the Intelligent Cell, approached. I know Dave well – he had been my first boss in this joint. He has, since, progressed to MLM. I am not sure what MLM stands for – Manufacturing Line Manager probably.
The Dave I used ta know was like a pet python – you can cuddle it but always beware, it might just decide ta strangle you one day. But he is best remembered by us – the hoi polloi – as Le Stilletto. He could stick it into you like a stilletto and you wouldn’t even realize it. (The stilletto is an Italian stabbing knife that has a blade so slender that the wound closes after it is retracted, preventing blood from escaping out, making it appear outwardly as if the victim isn’t hurt).
I remember Dave as a maneuverer, constantly jockeying for position within the organization, managing plum postings for himself even though he is essentially an ars—le. Everybody hates his guts but he still manages to claw his way up steadily, while more competent folks fall behind. Thus, it came as no surprise that he has gotten himself in as MLM of the Intelligent Cell (otherwise known as the ‘IC’).
Here’s the thing about the IC – it is a tightknit little group created within the organization, which has near carte-blanche to get out of the box, its task – bringing in advanced robotics and building a manufacturing cell that can literally think for itself. All the development engines shall be built and tested here.
Recruitment into the IC doesn’t happen through the regular job postings intranet site. There are no oral or written tests. One morning the MLM (in this case – Dave) stops by and offers you the job, subject to a detailed one-on-one of course.
Here’s the thing – no matter how large an organization, you are always being watched and an invisible profile of you is being registered and updated, like your podcasts feed. Word goes around. If your profile has discipline, motivation, resourcefulness, calm-headedness and doggedness in it in fairly large amounts, chances are that you’ll get a knock on the proverbial door. It will happen through a sort of word-of-mouth grapevine, like ‘that guy, Spunkybong – he is supposed to be a wizard with Catia V5, let’s look him over.’
Israel’s elite special forces, the Sayeret Matkal, recruits in a similar fashion, though family pedigree too plays a role there, loyalty being an important attribute for selection. If you have had a grandparent in the 1948 freedom movement or if your dad died at Sinai 1967 or Golan Heights 1973 or if someone in your close family has already served in the Mossad or the Sayeret, that would be a huge factor in determining your eligibility.
The concept of creating an elite squad is nothing new. Most large organisations in the west began developing such cells at the turn of the 20th century, recognizing the need during the militarization that followed the First World War. The goal was to be nimble like smaller businesses, in quickly implementing new stuff and thus staying ahead of the competition.
Gradually, the concept caught on even with governments. Most ‘black ops’ cells and special forces cadres of militaries around the world have similar tightly knit highly skilled black box groups that are designed to function in a highly coordinated and disciplined manner in order to achieve specific objectives. A fictional example could be Treadstone, a group of unfeeling, robot-like assassins created by the CIA in the Bourne Identity series.
Lockheed began its famed ‘Skunkworks‘ in the 1950s, developing the SR71, the U-2 and more recently the F35 Joint Strike Fighter. Boeing too has its ‘Phantom Works’, which is prototyping advanced military technologies such as the Talon HATE datalink system, the Mach-10 X-S space plane, the Long-Range Strike Bomber and ultra-secret unmanned fighter aircraft.
The level of sophistication in our own Intelligent Cell is comparable to the ones you’ll find in the above two companies. When you enter, assuming you possess the clearance, you are inside a sterile white environment where no one is speaking in raised voices. People move around like silent wraiths, their feet encased inside protective cotton socks.
Most of the robotics is still undergoing greenroom testing, arms uncoiling, fingers splaying and clenching, some stations able to swivel around and follow your movement as you pass them by. One group of stations has disembodied voice activation and response and they sound comical, like a trans-gendered Siri.
It is frightening. Someone said that in the foreseeable future artificial intelligence will achieve human intelligence and once that happens, it will get more and more difficult to demand obedience. Complete intelligence and complete subservience cannot coexist peacefully, they say. Perhaps one day the intelligence of man shall be left far behind, by ultra-intelligent machines that will effectively be humankind’s last inventions. When you stare at the Intelligent Cell from the inside for the first time, it gives you that same creepy feeling.
Usually, the employees who work in the Intelligent Cells, Skunkworks and the Phantomworks of the world have an aura around them that says they are different, set apart from the rest. In most cases, they wear distinctive uniforms or at least, shirts or coveralls with specially crafted logos emblazoned on them. The Skunkworks logo is a smiling skunk while the Phantomworks logo is a caped guy in a low hat and wings on his feet. We don’t have a logo yet at the IC.
We are hotshots, yes – the crème de la crème of jet engine technology. I won’t try ta downplay my brilliance here. I am not like other bloggers who try to thinly veil their zoopityzip, with modesty. I am good, yeh, period. The bosses think I’m a magician and the women want ta go to bed with me, all of them.
Why, just yesterday, Penny from Rotating Structures was leaning over my desk to show me something on the suction side airfoil tip surface of a PW600 rotor. She had stooped so far forward that I speed-counted the hairs around her left areola. Her breasts were in profile and therefore regrettably I couldn’t take a similar census of the hair population on the right areola. Of course Penny knew she was giving me a spectacle. I can’t help it. Its the price I have ta pay for being so sexy, I guess. By the way, that’s Penny up there in the picture.
Oh what’s the use. I was lying. There is no one among my colleagues named Penny, with or without hairy areolas. But my joining the IC is true and yes, I really am a hotshot.
A half year in the Intelligent Cell and I’m beginning to be amazed, not only at the crew and the hardware (the robotics being assembled) but I am starting to amaze myself. This is an out-of-the-box joint where you are encouraged to place even the most outrageous ideas on the table and no one will bat an eyelid.
The end result – fully assembled turbofans, being run through scans and diagnostics in an environment that seems to have a life of it’s own, with guys like me scurrying around in spotless white lab coats. The system is still under a one-year long breaking in period and thus all the bustle. I am sorry I can’t tell you how things work in the IC in greater detail because it is classified. If I did, they would have to kill me. It says so in the contract. (kidding).
The other thing about the IC is how quickly it has grown into a second life, where the crew is like one big family. Even Dave seems to have changed, seeming to be genuinely interested in encouraging us to look out for each other. In this sort of setup, there is an overwhelming feeling of pride in working toward the success of the group and not the individual. We have begun sitting for lunch together, taking coffee breaks together, organizing picnics and outings with family, making the whole thing a bit spooky – kind of like that law firm Mitch McDeere joins, in the John Grisham novel, The Firm.
I am loving every minute of it, but I do feel a prickle up my spine at times, wondering if passing 10 hours every day with highly intelligent machines is transforming me in changing the way I think about problem solving. Life is after all and string of problem solving exercises.
Even so, I am looking forward to the day Station-10 goes online. Who knows what it will say? Maybe,” Yo, all we need now is a Penny with hairy areolas.”