The Things We Need to Talk About
A short motivation to the people behind technology
The most peculiar thing about technology is not that it’s neither good nor bad, but that it’s an amplifier for each. We built the first tools to help us harvest our food—or we built them to slay our neighbor and steal it from him. Using technology for the good or the bad makes us human.
In our day, bragging and arguing about our technological advancement is easy. What devices are you using? Should I get a new gadget since I’ve already had this one for 6 months? How fast is this processor, how high that screen’s resolution? Should I get my notifications on my smartphone or my watch? Or maybe on both at the same time? So convenient, but who is winning the wearable war? Does your TV support 3D even though you hate wearing glasses at home? Don’t you hate how that app drains all the battery?
We love to talk about these things. We love to talk about them, because they don’t matter. Five years from now, nobody will care if I chose iOS or Android, or how old my phone was. Nobody will care about its speed or resolution. Absolutely nobody will care about the plethora of gadgets now covering my body, stealing my time and attention. They don’t matter.
Talking about the things that matter is so much harder. Because these things won’t be irrelevant in five years. If we don’t talk about them now, they will spread and become bigger—possibly expand to a level that will have an impact on us all. For the worse, that’s for sure.
Wars in Ukraine, Gaza, Syria and Iraq. Police oppression in Ferguson. 50% unemployed youth in Spain. Mass surveillance, the NSA, PRISM, INDECT, or the Five-Eyes-Alliance.
We, the people behind technology, need to talk about these things, because we create them. We create the apps to rate the best-looking food and those that help bring fresh water to people who are starving. We build the systems that distribute information or keep people away from it. We set up the data-centers that threaten the privacy of individuals. We write the software that guides missiles into homes and hospitals.
We need to talk about these things, because we need to have an opinion. There’s nothing worse than having no opinion about the things that will impact our future and that of our children. Without a solid understanding, we can’t form those opinions, and neither can we act accordingly.
We need to talk about those things in public, because this is the only way we can work out a global consensus. And a global community we are, the people behind technology.
I am afraid to talk about these things. It’s not easy.
I could be wrong. I could offend others. I could be criticized on behalf of my opinions. But I need to talk about these things, because I need to understand them and how they will influence my life and the lives of everybody else. I need to talk to help build that global consensus and act upon it. But before I act, I need to decide.
I can decide if my app needs to access a user’s contacts. I can decide if I leave that backdoor open for third parties. I can decide if I set up this database to collect questionable meta-data. I can decide if my software compares faces and tracks their locations. I can decide if I help build the guiding system that kills people.
I can decide if my work and knowledge are used for good or bad things. And so can you, people behind technology.