Over time, your body of work will build, and you’ll find that people are interested in surprising topics. This post on equality of outcome vs opportunity has been the most popular thing on my site for a while now, which I never could have planned or anticipated. The power is in being consistent, and keeping your site online for the long term. (I wish I could have told my 1998 self that.)
We live in a consumerist society where everything is presented in terms of products. So, let’s talk products. Tim Burton’s Batman was released 30 years ago. So was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. And, yes, Star Trek: The Next Generation is thirty-two years old. In less time than that, it could all be over.
A key question to building any software in the modern age is: “In the wrong hands, who could this harm?”
Decades ago, software seemed harmless. In 2019, when facial recognition is used to deport refugees and data provided by online services have been used to jail journalists, understanding who you’re building for, and who your software could harm, are vital. These are ideas that need to be incorporated not just into the strategies of our companies and the design processes of our product managers, but the daily development processes of our engineers. These are questions that need to be asked over and over again.
Buying and selling automatic weapons is indefensible. These are weapons of war, designed to be wielded by trained military servicepeople. We don’t need them on our streets. It’s not about mental health; it’s not about drugs; it’s not about videogames. It’s not about prayer in schools. It’s about limiting access to instruments of death.
My love of tech has always been deeply tied to my love of people. Technology isn’t interesting for technology’s sake: it’s interesting because it elevates the human experiences and lets people do things they couldn’t do before. It has the potential to make the world more educated, more inclusive, and more peaceful. It’s certainly not interesting because it makes money for people.
Code is never more important than life. Genocide is always a bigger problem than software distribution licenses. Hopefully this is obvious.
While I accept that it runs counter to the stated principles of the free software movement, I believe we need a new set of licenses that explicitly forbid using software to facilitate hate or hate groups.
Being generous, having purpose, working in service of others; the truth is that all of those things make you happier, too. I need to get so much better at this. But it’s clear to me that it’s the right direction.
Rather than be responsive to hate, fear, or tragedy, I want to be proactive with love, with everything in my work, and everything in my life.
Lustig says that pleasure is short-lived, selfish, and can be achieved with substances whereas happiness is the opposite. Most importantly though, Lustig believes that pleasure is based on dopamine and happiness is based on serotonin, two entirely different brain chemicals.
Happiness is a laudable goal, and we can only achieve it by creating a better society (and even a better world) for everybody. Not through authoritarianism or revolution; not through a worship of markets; not through tending to the individual at the expense of community, or through tending to community at the expense of the individual; not through accidentally creating new gatekeepers as we tear down the old ones; but through balance, compassion, and an eye for creating equal opportunities and making everybody’s lives better.
A common, and correct, critcism of alternative funding models has been that they don’t adequately describe the upside for potential investors.
We have a half gallon of eggnog in the fridge. I can hear my family now, awake and down in the living room. I’m going to go downstairs, pour a little eggnog in my coffee – those West Point cadets missed a trick – and join them.
What information is Facebook sharing with Palantir, or the security services? To what extent are undeclared data-sharing relationships used to deport people, or to identify individuals who should be closely monitored? Is it used to identify subversives? And beyond the effects of data sharing, given what we know about the chilling effects surveillance has on democracy, what effect on democratic discourse has the omnipresence of the social media feed already had – and to what extent is this intentional?
With any lens except the most superficial, Facebook fails this test. Yes, its product is free and available to anyone. But we pay with our data and privacy – and ultimately, with our democracy. Facebook’s dominance has adversely affected entire industries, swung elections, and fuelled genocides.
Noting your concerns with Mastodon, I am wondering if you think Micro.blog fixes any of this, especially with its use of feeds and webmentions etc
- Create a sustainable business structure without the pressure of ROI
- Rebuild the social networks
- Develop new ways of holding those who are struggling
These are complicated ethical questions. As builders of software on the modern internet, we have to know that there are potentially serious consequences to the design decisions we make. Facebook started as a prank by a college freshman and now has a measurable impact on genocide in Myanmar. While it’s obvious to me that everyone having unhindred access to knowledge is a net positive that particularly empowers disadvantaged communities, and that social media has allowed us to have access to new voices and understand a wider array of lived experiences, it has also been used to spread hate, undermine elections, and disempower whole communities. Decentralizing the web will allow more people to share on their own terms, using their own voices; it will also remove many of the restrictions to the spread of hatred.
In America, we’re unfortunately used …
It’s not enough to have working code. It’s not enough to have a vision. You’ve got to have a holistic, concrete understanding of your entire venture and the context it sits within.
Your vision can be a raging fire that might change the world. But you can’t have a fire without a spark that takes hold.
I know that most people don’t use text-based RSS readers, and I’m not dogmatic enough to require that they do that if they want to keep up with this blog. So, there’s a mailing list option, and I’ll keep tweeting links to new articles.
Although it uses incredibly imprecise language, it can be reasonablly inferred that the directive targets large service providers like Google and Facebook. It doesn’t target small communities or people who are independently hosting their content.
All of which means that peer-to-peer decentralized social networks are exempt, if you’re hosting your profile yourself. Nobody on the indie web is going to need to implement upload filters. Similarly, nobody on the federated social web, or using decentralized apps, will either. In these architectures, there are no service providers that store or provide access to large amounts of work. It’s in the ether, being hosted from individual servers, which could sit in datacenters or could sit in your living room.