Hear me out a bit before the future comes around, inclusion, ethics, afrofuturism, Colorful, Dynamic Lighting

Hear me out a bit before the future comes around.

Hear me out a bit before the future comes around, inclusion, ethics, afrofuturism, Colorful, Dynamic Lighting
Hear me out a bit before the future comes around, inclusion, ethics, afrofuturism, Colorful, Dynamic Lighting
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There’s a new tale that’s being told with increasing frequency these days, in which tech industry executives and employees come forward – sometimes quite sheepishly, sometimes quite boldly – and admit that they have regrets, that they’re no longer “believers,” that they now recognize their work has been damaging to individuals and to society at large, that they were wrong.

These aren’t apologies as much as they’re confessions. These aren’t confessions as much as they’re declarations – that despite being wrong, we should trust them now that they say they’re right.

The Tech ‘Regrets’ Industry
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That’s the true sin of Big Tech: using deception and coercion to control users. Companies that gain this control can be reliably expected to use it in whichever ways they can get away with. They are paperclip-maximizing artificial life-forms bent on devouring the human race, not ethical actors.

Pluralistic: 14 Nov 2022 Even if you’re paying for the product, you’re still the product – Pluralistic: Daily links from Cory Doctorow

Tech Regrets and the Ethics of Ed-Tech

We’ve been following the humane tech and tech ethics beat for awhile. As part of that, we used to collect tech regrets into Twitter moments. Here are several months worth.

Many tech workers are grappling with the ethics of what we have wrought. Pieces from high profile developers and designers on our ethical failures are regular features.

If we cannot ask why we lose the ability to judge whether the work we’re doing is ethical. If we cannot say no we lose the ability to stand and fight. We lose the ability to help shape the thing we’re responsible for shaping.

Technology companies call these people edge cases, because they live at the margins. They are, by definition, the marginalized.

We’re killing people. And the only no I hear from the design community is about the need for licensing. If why and no are at the center of who we are, and they must be, the center has not held.

We need to slow. The. Fuck. Down. And pay attention to what we’re actually designing. We’re releasing new things into the world faster than Trump is causing scandals.

Yes. You will sometimes lose your job for doing the right thing. But the question I want you to ask yourself is why you’re open to doing the wrong thing to keep your job.

Twitter’s profit came at the cost of democracy. When an American autocrat chose it as his platform of choice to sow hate, disparage women and minorities, and dogwhistle his racist base Twitter rallied.

Profit justifies everything. Silicon Valley, the engine that powers the end of America needs profit to survive, and it needs them at scale. We remain enamored with our ideas, and blind to their effects.

we’re just beginning to realize how dangerous software can be, especially in the hands of companies led by ethicless feckless men.

Source: Design’s Lost Generation – Mike Monteiro – Medium

Though many of these tech regrets are performative and lacking in apology, they’re something. Ed-tech needs to do this self-examination too, and do it better.

Because this is where we’re at.

‪Ed-tech combines the dismal ethics of tech, Silicon Valley, and market fundamentalism with the dismal ethics of behaviorism and the deficit model and mainlines it all into public ed.‬

The zero-sum games of attention and engagement…

Facebook’s DNA is that of a social platform addicted to growth and engagement. At its very core, every policy, every decision, every strategy is based on growth (at any cost) and engagement (at any cost).

Facebook is addicted to growth and engagement. Engagement gets attention, and attention is a zero-sum game. Time spent on Facebook (or Messenger, Instagram, or WhatsApp) means that’s attention not spent on Twitter, Snapchat, or anyone else who dares to compete with them.

Source: The #1 reason Facebook won’t ever change – Om Malik

…and the corruption of exponential growth…

There is no higher God in Silicon Valley than growth. No sacrifice too big for its craving altar. As long as you keep your curve exponential, all your sins will be forgotten at the exit.

It’s through this exponential lens that eating the world becomes not just a motto for software at large, but a mission for every aspiring unicorn and their business model. “Going viral” suddenly takes on a shockingly honest and surprisingly literal meaning.

The goal of the virus is to spread as fast as it can and corrupt as many other cells as possible. How on earth did such a debauched zest become the highest calling for a whole generation of entrepreneurs?

Source: Exponential growth devours and corrupts – Signal v. Noise

…are not things to invite into public education, yet we have. We have reduced kids, learning, and childhood to a business model.

Our tech regrets must extend to ed-tech. So far, we’re not seeing much in the way of ed-tech regret from the tech side. Bill Gates, for example, hasn’t learned.

Millions of students harmed.

The damage done to public schools most likely unable to be repaired in my career.

Learn a lesson: Billionaires do not teach kids. Money does not teach kids. Businesspersons do not teach kids. Politicians are dumb as dirt on education issues.

Source: Angie Sullivan to Bill Gates: No Thanks for the Sand | Diane Ravitch’s blog

much of the $15 billion Gates has put into education projects and programs since the organization was founded has gone to companies not schools (and that’s not counting the Gates grant money that schools have been awarded and then directed to companies too).

“Evolving.” Why make this speech now? Why does Gates want to project a willingness to learn? (I mean, other than everyone’s supposed to have a “growth mindset” these days.) Does Gates wish to differentiate himself and his organization from others in education reform? (And do others in education reform wish to differentiate themselves from the Trump Adminstration?) Who cares if you’re “evolving”? The damage is done. “Evolution” doesn’t undo that.

Source: ‘I Can Change’

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation could have saved itself millions and taxpayers billions if they had the humility to heed the rebel principals’ advice. However, even after the findings of the final report they have no regrets and instead blame the victim. In a statement to Business Insider, Allan Golston, who is in charge of the foundation’s education initiatives, said, “this work, which originated in ideas that came from the field, led to critical conversations and drove change.”

Change for the sake of change — the nearly $1 billion project in disruption. I wonder what “growth score” Golston will get in his evaluation this year.

Source: How the Gates Foundation could have saved itself and taxpayers more than half a billion dollars – The Washington Post

So many technologists–particularly ones with billions–seem really bad at systems thinking. Their prescriptions for education never get beyond more deficit model, more assessment, more behaviorism, more mindset marketing, more surveillance, more “accountability”, more data, and more software to feed on all of it. Their solutions are always to look to psychology, behaviorism, manipulation, and compliance for ways to “fix kids” instead of fixing our systems. This is a total failure of empathy and imagination. Their pedagogy lacks any sort of confrontation with injustice. “It essentially boils down to whether one chooses to do damage to the system or to the student”, and mainstream ed-tech has chosen to damage students.

There is no path toward educational justice that contains convenient detours around direct confrontations with injustice. The desperate search for these detours, often in the form of models or frameworks or concepts that were not developed as paths to justice, is the greatest evidence of the collective desire among those who count on injustice to give them an advantage to retain that advantage. If a direct confrontation of injustice is missing from our strategies or initiatives or movements, that means we are recreating the conditions we’re pretending to want to destroy.

Source: Paul C. Gorski – Grit. Growth mindset. Emotional intelligence….

Fix Injustice, Not Kids

Fix injustice, not kids. Channel tech regrets into building an indie ed-tech that confronts injustice instead of amplifying it. Let’s get structural, social, and equity literate instead of repeatedly, endlessly bikeshedding the deficit model with new coats of mindset marketing and behaviorism.

And I think there’s something about all these confessional narratives (and their hopes, I think, of becoming redemption narratives) that is also deeply intertwined with individual rather than structural change. These stories rarely situate themselves in history, for example, and as such really cannot offer much insight into how or why or even when things might’ve “gone wrong.” They rarely situate themselves among other thinkers or scholars (or activists or “users”). They are individual realizations, after all.

So then, I have to wonder: why should we trust these revelations (or revelators) to guide us moving forward? Why not trust those of us who knew it was bullshit all along and who can tell you the whole history of a bad idea?

The Tech ‘Regrets’ Industry

Move Carefully and Fix Things

To move carefully and fix things, we must hear each other out before the future comes around.

We make things that help people, and we won’t make things that harm people.

Move carefully and fix things.

Technology should create opportunity, not deny it.

What if love said: Hear me out a bit before the future comes around.

Build with, not for.

“Move fast and break things” failed. As a result, we inherited a lot of fast-moving broken things. Sustainability is the most important principle in government tech today. “Move carefully and fix things.”

Technology is almost never the solution to the problem. You need a deep understanding of culture, policy, budget, acquisitions, etc. to be successful. We don’t need ANY more shiny new websites or hackathons. Your first year should be spent understanding the systems.

Fam, choose boring tech over shiny. Those mainframes and COBOL still work just fine after 50 years of service. Those React apps you’re writing are legacy before they launch, at a hundred times the cost, and no one can run them when you leave – making them abandonware.

Welcome Home | Bill Hunt



1979 IBM Presentation

Like gods, these mathematical models were opaque, their workings invisible to all but the highest priests in their domain: mathematicians and computer scientists. Their verdicts, even when wrong or harmful, were beyond dispute or appeal. And they tended to punish the poor and the oppressed in our society, while making the rich richer.

Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy

A close reading of hyperempathy in context reveals its broader thematic, political, and theoretical resistance to the notion of a technologically created, disability-free future as an obviously positive and desirable future. Through Lauren and hyperempathy, Butler suggests that technology is neither inherently good nor predictable; that disabled, poor, and racialized people are least likely to benefit from advanced technologies yet are more likely to be victims of technological abuse; and that disability itself can produce experiences, perspectives, and even pleasures that are useful and desirable. The visionary representation of the future in the Parable series is not a disability- or even oppression-free one. Instead, Butler represents a future in which systems of privilege and oppression continue to operate and impact bodyminds.

Schalk, Sami. Bodyminds Reimagined . Duke University Press. Kindle Edition.

We have an imperative to make sure we are not building a new world for ourselves alone.

Build with, not for.

There can be no trickle down civic tech.

Building for Inclusive Community Participation: Meeting Residents Where They Are – YouTube

As If We Existed

What's the problem with my genius?
Too attached to ever leave it
Silent for the new achievement but
What I long to witness is the equal shift
Of lifted gadgetry to intuition by
Genius giving up its selfish tact
And bringing praise of spirit back (Hey)
Pay respect upon the debt incurred
By non-belief when soul was speaking
Called simplistic by a name familiar to
Those regulars who think intelligence a competition
Missing opportunity to be a real show embarrassment
The care is not
The care is NOT spewing tools to ax the problem
Rather asking have or how they aptly solve themselves
What if love said: Hear me out a bit before the future comes around
This isn't anger, no, it's passion so let's live the way we should
As if we existed

"As If We Existed" by Solillaquists of Sound

Further reading,