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robertogreco : timmaughan   6

No one’s coming. It’s up to us. – Dan Hon – Medium
"Getting from here to there

This is all very well and good. But what can we do? And more precisely, what “we”? There’s increasing acceptance of the reality that the world we live in is intersectional and we all play different and simultaneous roles in our lives. The society of “we” includes technologists who have a chance of affecting the products and services, it includes customers and users, it includes residents and citizens.

I’ve made this case above, but I feel it’s important enough to make again: at a high level, I believe that we need to:

1. Clearly decide what kind of society we want; and then

2. Design and deliver the technologies that forever get us closer to achieving that desired society.

This work is hard and, arguably, will never be completed. It necessarily involves compromise. Attitudes, beliefs and what’s considered just changes over time.

That said, the above are two high level goals, but what can people do right now? What can we do tactically?

What we can do now

I have two questions that I think can be helpful in guiding our present actions, in whatever capacity we might find ourselves.

For all of us: What would it look like, and how might our societies be different, if technology were better aligned to society’s interests?

At the most general level, we are all members of a society, embedded in existing governing structures. It certainly feels like in the recent past, those governing structures are coming under increasing strain, and part of the blame is being laid at the feet of technology.

One of the most important things we can do collectively is to produce clarity and prioritization where we can. Only by being clearer and more intentional about the kind of society we want and accepting what that means, can our societies and their institutions provide guidance and leadership to technology.

These are questions that cannot and should not be left to technologists alone. Advances in technology mean that encryption is a societal issue. Content moderation and censorship are a societal issue. Ultimately, it should be for governments (of the people, by the people) to set expectations and standards at the societal level, not organizations accountable only to a board of directors and shareholders.

But to do this, our governing institutions will need to evolve and improve. It is easier, and faster, for platforms now to react to changing social mores. For example, platforms are responding in reaction to society’s reaction to “AI-generated fake porn” faster than governing and enforcing institutions.

Prioritizations may necessarily involve compromise, too: the world is not so simple, and we are not so lucky, that it can be easily and always divided into A or B, or good or not-good.

Some of my perspective in this area is reflective of the schism American politics is currently experiencing. In a very real way, America, my adoptive country of residence, is having to grapple with revisiting the idea of what America is for. The same is happening in my country of birth with the decision to leave the European Union.

These are fundamental issues. Technologists, as members of society, have a point of view on them. But in the way that post-enlightenment governing institutions were set up to protect against asymmetric distribution of power, technology leaders must recognize that their platforms are now an undeniable, powerful influence on society.

As a society, we must do the work to have a point of view. What does responsible technology look like?

For technologists: How can we be humane and advance the goals of our society?

As technologists, we can be excited about re-inventing approaches from first principles. We must resist that impulse here, because there are things that we can do now, that we can learn now, from other professions, industries and areas to apply to our own. For example:

* We are better and stronger when we are together than when we are apart. If you’re a technologist, consider this question: what are the pros and cons of unionizing? As the product of a linked network, consider the question: what is gained and who gains from preventing humans from linking up in this way?

* Just as we create design patterns that are best practices, there are also those that represent undesired patterns from our society’s point of view known as dark patterns. We should familiarise ourselves with them and each work to understand why and when they’re used and why their usage is contrary to the ideals of our society.

* We can do a better job of advocating for and doing research to better understand the problems we seek to solve, the context in which those problems exist and the impact of those problems. Only through disciplines like research can we discover in the design phase — instead of in production, when our work can affect millions — negative externalities or unintended consequences that we genuinely and unintentionally may have missed.

* We must compassionately accept the reality that our work has real effects, good and bad. We can wish that bad outcomes don’t happen, but bad outcomes will always happen because life is unpredictable. The question is what we do when bad things happen, and whether and how we take responsibility for those results. For example, Twitter’s leadership must make clear what behaviour it considers acceptable, and do the work to be clear and consistent without dodging the issue.

* In America especially, technologists must face the issue of free speech head-on without avoiding its necessary implications. I suggest that one of the problems culturally American technology companies (i.e., companies that seek to emulate American culture) face can be explained in software terms. To use agile user story terminology, the problem may be due to focusing on a specific requirement (“free speech”) rather than the full user story (“As a user, I need freedom of speech, so that I can pursue life, liberty and happiness”). Free speech is a means to an end, not an end, and accepting that free speech is a means involves the hard work of considering and taking a clear, understandable position as to what ends.

* We have been warned. Academics — in particular, sociologists, philosophers, historians, psychologists and anthropologists — have been warning of issues such as large-scale societal effects for years. Those warnings have, bluntly, been ignored. In the worst cases, those same academics have been accused of not helping to solve the problem. Moving on from the past, is there not something that we technologists can learn? My intuition is that post the 2016 American election, middle-class technologists are now afraid. We’re all in this together. Academics are reaching out, have been reaching out. We have nothing to lose but our own shame.

* Repeat to ourselves: some problems don’t have fully technological solutions. Some problems can’t just be solved by changing infrastructure. Who else might help with a problem? What other approaches might be needed as well?

There’s no one coming. It’s up to us.

My final point is this: no one will tell us or give us permission to do these things. There is no higher organizing power working to put systemic changes in place. There is no top-down way of nudging the arc of technology toward one better aligned with humanity.

It starts with all of us.

Afterword

I’ve been working on the bigger themes behind this talk since …, and an invitation to 2017’s Foo Camp was a good opportunity to try to clarify and improve my thinking so that it could fit into a five minute lightning talk. It also helped that Foo Camp has the kind of (small, hand-picked — again, for good and ill) influential audience who would be a good litmus test for the quality of my argument, and would be instrumental in taking on and spreading the ideas.

In the end, though, I nearly didn’t do this talk at all.

Around 6:15pm on Saturday night, just over an hour before the lightning talks were due to start, after the unconference’s sessions had finished and just before dinner, I burst into tears talking to a friend.

While I won’t break the societal convention of confidentiality that helps an event like Foo Camp be productive, I’ll share this: the world felt too broken.

Specifically, the world felt broken like this: I had the benefit of growing up as a middle-class educated individual (albeit, not white) who believed he could trust that institutions were a) capable and b) would do the right thing. I now live in a country where a) the capability of those institutions has consistently eroded over time, and b) those institutions are now being systematically dismantled, to add insult to injury.

In other words, I was left with the feeling that there’s nothing left but ourselves.

Do you want the poisonous lead removed from your water supply? Your best bet is to try to do it yourself.

Do you want a better school for your children? Your best bet is to start it.

Do you want a policing policy that genuinely rehabilitates rather than punishes? Your best bet is to…

And it’s just. Too. Much.

Over the course of the next few days, I managed to turn my outlook around.

The answer, of course, is that it is too much for one person.

But it isn’t too much for all of us."
danhon  technology  2018  2017  johnperrybarlow  ethics  society  calltoaction  politics  policy  purpose  economics  inequality  internet  web  online  computers  computing  future  design  debchachra  ingridburrington  fredscharmen  maciejceglowski  timcarmody  rachelcoldicutt  stacy-marieishmael  sarahjeong  alexismadrigal  ericmeyer  timmaughan  mimionuoha  jayowens  jayspringett  stacktivism  georginavoss  damienwilliams  rickwebb  sarawachter-boettcher  jamebridle  adamgreenfield  foocamp  timoreilly  kaitlyntiffany  fredturner  tomcarden  blainecook  warrenellis  danhill  cydharrell  jenpahljka  robinray  noraryan  mattwebb  mattjones  danachisnell  heathercamp  farrahbostic  negativeexternalities  collectivism  zeyneptufekci  maciejcegłowski 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Tim Maughan on Twitter: "Zuckerberg translated: I created a thing that became incredibly powerful and complex, and I now have no control over it https://t.co/nIMEez6IT5"
"Zuckerberg translated: I created a thing that became incredibly powerful and complex, and I now have no control over it [screenshot]

been saying this for ages (as has Curtis and others) - this is now the way the world works.

We build systems so complex we don't understand them, and can't control. Instead we try and manage and reactively fire-fight small parts.

see also: all markets, supply chains, the media, algorithms, economies, day to day politics, policing, advertising..just take your pick.

How do you make sense of a system no single individual can comprehend? You lose agency and blame others. You dream up conspiracy theories.

Or you try to find one single answer or reason - and you argue violently for it - when the reality is its far too complex for that.

"It was her emails! The media! Racism! It was bernie! No, it was the russians!" It was all those things, plus x more levels of complexity.

This all sounds very 'we're fucked' and defeatist and, well, yeah. Maybe. Or maybe we can try and find ways to wrestle control back.

One thing these systems all have in common: their purpose is primarily to create and hoard capital. Maybe we should pivot away from that?

More relevant quotes re complexity, control, and automation from that Zuckerberg statement (which is here https://www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10104052907253171 …) [two screenshots]"
timmaughan  elections  2017  2016  markzuckerberg  facebook  systems  complexity  agency  cv  control  systemsthinking  economics  algorithms  media  supplychains  advertising  politics  policing  lawenforcement 
september 2017 by robertogreco
Rhizome | How to See Infrastructure: A Guide for Seven Billion Primates
"If we lift up the manhole cover, lock-out the equipment, unscrew the housing, and break the word into components, infrastructure means, simply, below-structure. Like infrared, the below-red energy just outside of the reddish portion of the visible light section of the electromagnetic spectrum. Humans are not equipped to see infrared with our evolved eyes, but we sometimes feel it as radiated heat.

Infrastructure is drastically important to our way of life, and largely kept out of sight. It is the underground, the conduited, the containerized, the concreted, the shielded, the buried, the built up, the broadcast, the palletized, the addressed, the routed. It is the underneath, the chassis, the network, the hidden system, the combine, the conspiracy. There is something of a paranoiac, occult quality to it. James Tilly Matthews, one of the first documented cases of what we now call schizophrenia, spoke of a thematic style of hallucination described by many suffering from the condition, always rewritten in the technological language of the era. In Matthews' 18th Century description, there existed an invisible "air loom," an influencing machine harnessing rays, magnets, and gases, run by a secret cabal, able to control people for nefarious motives. Infrastructure's power, combined with its lack of visibility, is the stuff of our society's physical unconscious.

Perhaps because infrastructure wields great power and lacks visibility, it is of particular concern to artists and writers who bring the mysterious influencing machines into public discourse through their travels and research."
adamrothstein  infrastructure  cities  2015  allansekula  charmainechua  jamestillymatthews  unknownfieldsdivision  liamyoung  katedavies  timmaughan  danwilliams  shipping  centerforlanduseinterpretation  nicolatwilley  timmaly  emilyhorne  jeremybentham  jennyodell  landscape  donnaharaway  technology  ingridburrington  nataliejeremijenko  trevorpaglen  jamesbridle 
july 2015 by robertogreco
The Drone Aviary | superflux
"The Drone Aviary - an R&D project from The Superflux Lab - is an investigation of the social, political and cultural potential of drone technology as it enters civil space. Through a series of ongoing installations, films and publications, the project aims to give a glimpse into a near-future city co-habit with ‘intelligent’ semi autonomous, networked, flying machines."



"The installation at the V&A contains a family of 5 drones and an accompanying film. Each drone is designed to be symbolic of the convergence of wider social and tech trends with specific tasks and functions that are gaining popularity amongst drone enthusiasts and entrepreneurs.

1. Madison, The Flying Billboard: This is an advertising drone, a hovering display platform, which can swoop, scan and hunt consumer demographics. It uses sophisticated facial recognition to gain feedback on the effectiveness of its content and to tailor advertisements to the interests of those within its vicinity.

2. Newsbreaker, The Media Drone: Supported by algorithmic monitoring news, emergency services and social media in real-time, these nimble devices push the boundaries for what has become known as High Frequency Journalism, helping feed our growing hunger for the very latest breaking news stories as it happens. As it films and streams news in real-time, story writing algorithms parse imagery, audio, web and radio traffic into rapidly growing, and continually edited, column inches.

3. Nightwatchman, The Surveillance Drone: A highly mobile data acquisition device used by everyone from local councils to law enforcement agencies. By securely connecting to a centralised database The Nightwatchman is able to amass and utilise huge amounts of location and subject specific information assisting in everything from documenting civil offences to detecting potential terror threats.

4. RouteHawk, Traffic Management Assistant: This drone fulfills two primary functions: firstly with its high brightness LED display and powerful 8 motor design the RouteHawk can move quickly to problem situations and provide dynamic warnings to approaching drivers. Secondly its LIDAR speed detector and ANPR camera allow the RouteHawk to efficiently log and transmit traffic violations to relevant penalty enforcement departments, often allowing a unit to pay for itself within a month.

5. FlyCam Instadrone: A highly accessible, low cost, user-friendly platform with true 'smart' style functionality. Quickly superseding the Selfie stick as todays must have life-logging and social media tool, the FlyCam allows anyone with a smartphone to share unforgettable memories from the clouds to the cloud using the Instadrone app. Additionally, its patented context aware algorithm means advertisers can deliver messages to customer when and where it counts.

The Film:
In the film, the drones become protagonists, revealing fleeting glimpses of the city from their perspective, as they continuously collect data and perform tasks. It hints at a world where the ‘network’ begins to gain physical autonomy, moving through and making decisions about the world, influencing our lives in often opaque yet profound ways. A speculative map highlights where physical and digital infrastructures merge as our cities become the natural habitat for 'smart' technologies from drones and wearable computers through to driverless cars."

[Posted to Tumblr with a few notes: http://robertogreco.tumblr.com/post/116318868178/drone-aviary-superflux-the-drone-aviary-an-r-d ]
superflux  drones  nearfuture  designfiction  surveillance  2015  film  uav  future  timmaughan  anabjain  jonarden  infrastructure  robotvision  robotreadableworld  airspace  vision  tracking  society  prototyping  facerecognition 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Eh, Flynn on Twitter: ""Oh, I guess I should see if anyone made a solarpunk board on pinterest." THERE ARE 46 OF THEM."
[great thread here]

[Starts with:]
"Oh, I guess I should see if anyone made a solarpunk board on pinterest." THERE ARE 46 OF THEM."
https://twitter.com/Threadbare/status/517715485106790400

[some highlights:]

@Dymaxion Been reading Seeing Like A State for book club and reflecting on how much of solarpunk comes out of 'fuck high modernism.'
https://twitter.com/Threadbare/status/517726051984633856

"@Threadbare Yeah. I confess I'm still unsure about it. I guess I feel like the way forward is half solarpunk, half walmart+socialism."
https://twitter.com/Dymaxion/status/517738774298886144

"@Dymaxion Yah, I ponder that; even if you have a bunch of idyllic yeoman maker communities, you still need an industrial base + governance."
https://twitter.com/Threadbare/status/517739529277427712

".@Threadbare Yes - "Maker" is a charismatic not-that-megafauna playing tricks with the last mile of the global infrastructural supplychain."
https://twitter.com/Dymaxion/status/517739932732096512

"@Threadbare And everything that really makes an impact is basically in the infrastructural/governance layers."
https://twitter.com/Dymaxion/status/517740048050315267

"@Threadbare Hong Kong and Sinagpore still feel more like the future than your average hackerspace, problematic governance and all."
https://twitter.com/Dymaxion/status/517740166220640256

"@Dymaxion My friend @ChrisBurkeShay once described Hong Kong as "eighties-future.""
https://twitter.com/Threadbare/status/517740315243851776

"@Threadbare @Dymaxion theme of fictional something I'm working on: how much does getting 'off grid' become an abandonment of solidarity?"
https://twitter.com/timmaughan/status/517740324492685313

"@timmaughan @Dymaxion This is partly why I've tried to focus on communities, not households, as the place to do things."
https://twitter.com/Threadbare/status/517740548719792128

"@Threadbare @timmaughan That's a big step in the right direction, because if nothing else we need to reinvent communitas anyway."
https://twitter.com/Dymaxion/status/517740732422316034

"@timmaughan @Dymaxion Communities/cities as largest polity a public can reasonably affect, lived experience transcends filter bubbles..."
https://twitter.com/Threadbare/status/517740795365830656

"@Threadbare @Dymaxion of course, but what differentiates those communities from say, seasteaders?"
https://twitter.com/timmaughan/status/517740990556557313

[continues]
solarpunk  anarchism  infrastructure  community  communities  cities  2014  communitas  polity  future  futures  governance  seeinglikeastate  jamescscott  highmodernism  modernism  yeomen  eleanoraitta  timmaughan 
october 2014 by robertogreco
The future of ed tech is here, it’s just not evenly distributed — Futures Exchange — Medium
"Using design fiction to cut through the relentless TEDTalk-like optimism of ed tech marketing"



"People talk about the future of technology in education as though it’s right around the corner, but for most of us we get to that corner and see it disappearing around the next. This innovation-obsessed cycle continues as we are endlessly dissatisfied with how little difference these promises make to the people implicated in these futures. These products and practices, cloaked in the latest buzzwords and jargon, often trickle down to non-western geographic regions after they’ve been tried and rejected, yet still adopted as the new and advanced “western” methodology that will solve the “problem” of education.

In an attempt to cut through the relentless TED Talk-like optimism of ed tech marketing, this year at the HASTAC conference in Peru we presented a series of fictional case studies. These four design fiction based personas aimed to illustrate the possible impact on society and education, in both positive and negative ways, of not just emerging technologies but also global social and economic trends. They give brief snapshots of the lives of individuals in imagined futures from different geographic, ethnic, economic, and cultural backgrounds, illustrating how each of them might interface and interact with the different technologies."

[See also: http://www.hastac.org/blogs/savasavasava/2014/06/19/hastac-2014-future-ed-tech-here-it%E2%80%99s-just-not-evenly-distributed
Wayback: https://web.archive.org/web/20150630153225/http://www.hastac.org/blogs/savasavasava/2014/06/19/hastac-2014-future-ed-tech-here-it%E2%80%99s-just-not-evenly-distributed ]
savasahelisingh  timmaughan  designfiction  edtech  technology  education  dystopia  marketing  optimism  pessimism  2014  williamgibson  speculativefiction  futures  future  innovation  buzzwords  hastac  casestudies 
june 2014 by robertogreco

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