First they came for <non-white, non-male, non-heterosexual> people, us. Two months ago white supremacy terrorist executed 50 people during time of their prayer in Christchurch and we enabled him. We need to do better.
Couple of years ago in a subreddit there was a discussion about Silicon Valley and people who live there. One of the redditors who claimed that they work there said that Silicon Valley is 50% naive Autistic engineers and 50% sociopaths with MBA1. It’s an exaggeration, at least on the Autistic part since only 1 in ~30 people is Autistic. What’s not exaggeration is the fact that a lot of people are developers either because it pays really well or because they like to solve technical problems. As I get older and see the world through different lenses, transperson, immigrant, asexual, woman, etc., I realize that both reasons are problematic.
A well paying job which enables hatred and oppression is a job which enables hatred and oppression. Period. As humans we are taught to care more about human life than material stuff, at least some of us. Getting a lot of money is great and being underpaid sucks. But there should be a line where money shouldn’t be able to buy skills.
Also the argument that “if I don’t do it, they’ll outsource to India”. Fine, let them outsource. In my opinion my integrity is more important than having blood on my hands. And yes, I did quit a job in order to keep my integrity in tact after realizing that I can’t change things. Let them outsource, let someone else do it.
The problem with liking to solve technical problems lies in the fact that technology is all around us. I am writing this on my laptop, you’re reading this on whatever device you are using. If you are not reading this on your phone, I bet that your phone is somewhere close to you and you check it frequently. Am I right?
Technical problems aren’t in vacuum, although at physics classes for the sake of simplicity everything was in vacuum. Technology revolves around us. I am not afraid to say that because I have Fitbit on my wrist I was cyborgized. I don’t fully know who owns my data and who can buy them but I bet that some engineer solved pretty neat technical problems to get my biological data to my phone/tablet and on the cloud.
As engineers we need to care about the next step. We. Need. To. Care. How. The. Stuff. We. Created. Is. Used. We need to look at how that stuff will be supported and where it will be used. We cannot expected people to understand how privacy is handled on the web because privacy policies are too long and full of legalese, and when asked for simpler version there’s not a clear answer2, and because we and our predecessors deteriorated everyone’s sense of privacy to the point where a lot of us struggle with keeping boundaries online.
We, the people in tech, need to do better. Especially developers, we need to advocated for non-tech people in tech companies because companies like Facebook are responsible for genocide. Facebook isn’t the first tech company involved in genocide, IBM in 30s and 40s in the previous century helped build Nazi regime.
We need to do better.