Demand Better

Cory Doctorow says, Let’s get better at demanding better from tech. At long last, the techlash has arrived, and not a minute too soon. A critique of technology that focuses on its market conditions, rather than its code, yields up some interesting alternate narratives. Any path to a better future will involve technologists, because no group of people on earth is better equipped to understand how important it is to get there. post

The long-delayed techlash has an unfortunate tendency to scapegoat early tech pioneers who promoted the idea that technology could make our lives better. These people – people I was fortunate enough to grow up among – are said to have been blind to the potential of technology to harm our privacy, our discourse, and our human rights.

The reality is that these early “techno-utopians” were keenly aware of these risks. They founded organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Free Software Foundation, not because they were convinced that everything was going to be great – but because they were worried that everything could be terrible, and also because they saw the potential for things to be better.

The motto of these pioneers wasn’t, “This is going to be so great.” It was, “This could be great – if we don’t screw it up.”

The people of tech – the people without whom Google and Facebook and Apple and Amazon couldn’t keep the lights on – are not gut flora. They’re human beings with agency and willpower, and they are subject to moral suasion. They are capable of building a technological future that gives us the things we love about our technology, without inflicting the harms of these systems upon us.