Response to Take Back the Future

#response to Take Back the Future ^61708b

full post

Notes

  • highlight things that aren’t just general agreement
    • extend to the software that teach this sort of agency
    • ask about how we can make this more of the default in our education

Body Draft

In high school, I took a computer science class because I liked to play computer games. I never intended for it to become an outlet for expression, a STEM safe haven for my creative urges. I fell for the craft as much as I fell for the people and brands that were the face of it in society. ^5f5213

I’m heavily drawn to ideals, so nothing drew me more than the shining G, which had started to become the face of everyone’s experience with the internet. I wrote private love letters to Google and binged the “If Google Was A Guy” series. I was enamored by their “do no evil” slogan and drive to make the world better and empower everyone with technology. I watched The Internship with bated breath, picturing myself in the shoes of these hopeful students and nerdy engineers using their computer powers for good. I admired Google for providing a space where software empowered people to be themselves, a medium to reflect our quirks, our curiosities, our innocence, and our shame. It was an extension of ourselves—the poster child for how technology could help us, as a people, be smarter, faster, better.

I was a loyal supporter and advocate. I couldn’t believe my heros would do anything wrong. I idolized the very identity of a technologist as someone infallible and their creations as irreplaceable relics. I arrived at the technology industry from the opposite end of Jasmine, yet we’ve arrived in similar places on our perspective, an understanding that we need to acknowledge all the good and all the bad in order to move forward.

Many years later when I came to Silicon Valley for the first time for an internship in college, my expectations were finally put to the test in reality. I dreamt of a city full of passionate, smart, and slightly socially inept optimists. I hoped for a utopian place where those who cared about the future were working unflagging to bring that dream to life and to our hands. I wished for a place free of rigid forms of thinking, blatant discrimination, and petty sabotage. I found a lot of the good I had hoped for, along with a lot of the bad that I couldn’t imagine I would find in my utopian dream. With all the optimistic technologists, I found just as many people struggling to fight for their lifelong homes and opportunists manipulating for power. There were companies made to make a quick buck and policies designed to further reward the powerful at the cost of the marginalized. I found myself at the center of a paradox, a dissonance between what I believed and what I discovered.

Having lived in San Francisco, a place that is simultaneously the heart of the Silicon Valley technology hub and home to some of the worst homelessness in the country, for the past couple years, my relationship has similarly tempered to technology. I see and acknowledge both the incredible good and incredible evil that it has advanced. Despite the sudden influx of all the bad that technology and technologists can perpetuate, and sometimes even in spite of the noblest of intentions, I didn’t want to give up. If there’s one thing the dissonance taught me, it’s that everything is malleable, shapeable, changeable.

Perhaps it was coming to the understanding that optimism is closest thing we have to a boundless energyーa substance that costs nothing to be produced and has only the potential to multiply when released into the world.

Jasmine argues for an action-oriented yet ideal-chasing perspective towards taking our future into our own hands, to demand and fight for the change we want to see in both our words and our daily actions. I’m interested in how we transform belief at scale to reverse our traditional education to accept what is given to us as it is. We must teach an infallible belief in the power to change and adapt. When technology first took over the world, it felt like magic %%The Internet Is Rotting%% because it wasn’t understandable to a non-technologist. In order for us to seize technology to work for us rather than immense corporations and governments, I believe we must make the technological tools we use seem malleable; that is, we must believe we can decode the black box of our technological magic and make it work for our needs. dynamicland is one large-scale experiment exploring utopian-like visions of this. How else can we teach individuals and communities to believe in their ability to make change to things they don’t understand at scale?

In the face of many movements that are all bleak or all fluff, I’m excited by this rising movement of action-based optimism that reboot is pushing forward. “Take back the future” is a charge that’s critical yet hopeful. It doesn’t shy away from amplifying problems, but it also points towards a path to change it for the better. We won’t find utopia sitting idly and remaining complacent to technological violations of our dignity, let alone being complicit. We have to seize the faint thread leading to the future we want to see with our own hands. We must pull with our communities and our full selves, to realize a better world for tomorrow. It’s easy to believe that societal impact is beyond our reach, but it’s more fun to trust that our actions, no matter how small, make a difference in crafting the future we wish for.