Understanding technology today
Technology is not an industry, but a way to change the cultural and economic conditions of existing systems and institutions. It can be a bit difficult to understand technology as just a set of consumer products purchased. But technology is much deeper than the phones we have, and if we are to make the right decisions about how technology companies shape lives, especially if we want to influence those actual manufacturing technologies.
Even those of us who have long been immersed in the tech world may miss the drivers that affect their impact. So here we will identify some key principles that will help us understand the place of technology in culture.
What you need to know:
1. Technology is not neutral.
One of the most important things everyone should know about the apps and services they use is that the values of technology creators are deeply rooted in every button, every link and every glowing icon we see. The choices software developers make in terms of design, technology architecture, or business models can have a profound impact on our privacy, security, and even civil rights as users. When the software encourages us to take pictures of squares instead of rectangles, or to put a microphone always on in the living room, or to make the boss accessible at any time, it changes our behavior and changes our lives.
When we use new technologies, all the changes that happen in our lives are based on the priorities and preferences of the people who created them.
2. Technology is not inevitable.
Popular culture presents consumer technology as an endless upward development, constantly making everyone's life better. In fact, new technology products often require a series of trade-offs, where improvements in usability or design are accompanied by weaknesses in privacy and security. Sometimes new technologies are better for one community and worse for others. Most importantly, just because a technology is "better" to some extent, there is no guarantee that it will be widely adopted, nor that it will lead to improvements in other more popular technologies.
In fact, technological progress is much like the evolution of the biological world: even if we see great progress over time, there are all kinds of dead ends, extinctions, or tradeoffs.
3. Most technicians sincerely want to do things.
We can be skeptical or criticize modern high-tech products and companies without having to believe that most people who create technology are "bad people." I have met with thousands of people who create hardware and software around the world, and I can prove that their clichés want to make the world a better place are sincere. Tech creators are eager to get a positive impact. At the same time, it is important for technicians to understand that good intentions do not relieve them of responsibility for the negative consequences of work, regardless of their intentions.
Recognizing the good intentions of most techies is useful because it enables us to implement those intentions and reduce the impact of those who do not have good intentions, and to ensure that stereotypes of pensive tech brothers do not obscure most thoughtful, due diligence Human impact. If we are to effectively hold everyone accountable for the technology they create, then we must also believe that most technical jobs have good will.
4. The technical history is unclear and unclear.
People who learn to create technology can usually find every inherent detail of the programming language or device creation method they like, but it is almost impossible to know why certain technologies thrive and which ones do not. Although we are still in the early stages of the computing revolution, so many pioneers are still alive and committed to creating today's technology, it is not uncommon to find that the technical history of a few years ago has been erased. Why did your favorite application succeed but others did not? Did previous attempts to create such applications fail? What problems did these applications encounter-or what problems did they cause? As we create myths around today's largest tech giants, which creators or innovators are removed from the story?
All these questions will be covered up, silent or sometimes intentionally incorrectly answered, in order to build a story of smooth, seamless and unavoidable progress in the technological world. Now, this is hardly unique to technology. Similar issues can be pointed out in almost every industry. But when today's technology creators cannot learn from people in the afterlife, this historic view of the technology world can have serious consequences, even if they want to.
5. Most technical education does not include ethics training.
In mature disciplines such as law or medicine, we often see the integration of centuries of study into professional curricula with clear requirements for moral education. Now, this will hardly prevent ethical violations from happening-we can see that today's deeply immoral people in power positions attend top business schools and they proudly tout their boastful ethical plans. However, a basic understanding of ethical issues makes these areas widely fluent in ethical concepts, so they can have useful conversations. More importantly, it ensures a solid foundation for those who want to do the right thing ethically and do their job.
But until recent strong opposition to the worst radical behavior in the technology world, little progress has been made in raising expectations for the integration of moral education into technical training. Plans to increase the ethical knowledge of existing employees are still few. Continuing education focuses primarily on acquiring new technical skills, not social skills. There is no solution to this problem. It's too simple to think that just building a closer working relationship between computer scientists and liberal arts professionals can greatly solve these ethical issues. But it's clear that if technicians want to continue to get the broad public support they currently enjoy, they will have to quickly address the issue.
6. Technology is usually based on ignorance of users.
Over the past few decades, society has greatly increased respect for the technology industry, but this has often led to the belief that those who create technology are absolutely reliable. Nowadays, technology creators are often regarded as authoritative in various fields such as media, labor, transportation, infrastructure and political policy, even if they have no background in these fields. However, knowing how to make an iPhone application does not mean that you know an industry you have never used before!
The best and most thoughtful technology creators interact deeply and sincerely with the communities they want to help to ensure that they meet actual needs, rather than wantonly "destroying" the way the established system works. But sometimes, new technologies are made recklessly in these communities, and the people who make them have enough financial and social resources that the shortcomings of their methods do not prevent them from disrupting the balance of the ecosystem. Often, technology creators have enough money to fund them without even noticing the negative effects of design flaws, especially if they are isolated from the people affected by those flaws. All that makes the situation worse is the issue of inclusiveness in the technology industry, which means that many of the most vulnerable communities will have little or no representation in the teams that create new technologies, leaving those teams unaware of possible concerns . It is especially important for those on the edge.
7. There will never be only one genius technology creator.
In pop culture, one of the most popular representatives of technological innovation is the genius in the dormitory or garage, who proposed a breakthrough innovation as the "Eureka!" Moment. It feeds the common myth of people like Steve Jobs, where, when tens of thousands of people worked, one person was praised for "inventing the iPhone." In fact, technology always learns from the insights and values of the communities on which its creators are based, and almost every breakthrough moment is accompanied by years or decades of others trying to create similar products.
The "lonely creator" myth is particularly destructive as it exacerbates the problem of exclusion that plagues the entire tech industry. Few unique geniuses portrayed in the media have as many backgrounds as those in the real community. Although media organizations can benefit from rewarding or recognizing individuals, or educational institutions can inspire personal myths to immerse themselves in the glory they reflect, the real creative story is complex and involves many people. We should be skeptical of any other statement to the contrary.