Don’t Panic

This has been a very depressing week for the intellectual class due to the unexpected political event. A collective feeling of enormous helplessness has descended upon most of us. Everyone is scared of what next four years will bring. Some have reached the next stage, acceptance. They are now wondering what they can do to limit the damage. Forward thinkers in various professions are sharing their views on what they can do. I don’t know about other professions, but here are my thoughts on what technologists can do. First of all:

Don’t Panic!

You know where your towel is.

  • The job of technologist is to build tools for the society which they can use or abuse, for better or worse of the mankind. It’s our job to build the best of the tools, but also to consider their implications. There are always possibilities of them getting abused by short-sighted greedy elements and this has happend to so many of today’s technologies. Build the tools that minimize this abuse. Example: After you have built the fastest indexing and lookup infrastructure of torrent of live data, don’t just try to milk it to boost your ad-revenue. Questions the ethics of what technological decision your are making.
  • Build tools to reason better. From climate deniers to globalization blamers, everyone is expert in picking the news bite that fits their claim and give interviews with so much confidence that’ll make you doubt your sanity. To argue with these idiots, you have to reason better. You have to show proof. We the tool makers have to make the facts as accessible as possible, so that the good guys can take them and go after these posers with full force. And when they still deny it, let’s build the tools to reach their audience directly and then convince them what’s the reality.
  • Build tools to fix the economy. The cause of this situation is the loss of living standard in American society - unemployment, reduced wages. The cause behind that is the greedy exploitation of technology in past few decades. The silicon valley companies have pushed capitalism to new limits. They are close to joining the Wall street players in hall of shame. All of them have started with a technological idea that was genuinely capable of improving our lives and have ended up with products that have affected our lives in many harmful ways. While these companies have reached new heights of wealth, they have robbed the rest of the society from jobs. It’s time to think ways in which we can undo these effects. It’s possible. In the technological landscape where an Elon Musk is possible, everything is possible. We need to build horizontal solutions that will empower trade and employment in masses. We can’t go back to finding manufacturing jobs. They are gone to third world countries and later will be passed on to robots. We have to go back to basics. Redefine commerce. Reinvent currency. Look at Blockchain based technologies, there’s lot of promise there. If you think we cannot live with VR, AI and Self-driving cars; then first figure out how these technolgies can create new jobs, new commerce, new value. And not just 2 high tech jobs, while decimating 200 existing ones.
  • Make art. Your art may not directly change the decision on climate policy (or it might), but works of art have the power of influencing the society in so many intangible ways. If you are an artist and that’s the only thing you are good at, don’t feel you can’t help make the society better. Make art that will offset the hypocrisy, bigotry, racism, sexism and what vile thing the world has to offer. Make the world worth saving. Remember Lenon’s Imagine. Make a game where we can shoot all the terrorists and learn the hollowness first hand deep inside. See Black Mirror. The engineers among us don’t have enough imaginative outreach to see ways in which our work can affect the society, it’s up to the artists to show it to us.
  • Build tools to protect civil liberties. A lot is already being done in this area, but solutions are still far from perfect. Privacy and anonymity are paramount in guarding the democratic values. We need tools that will thwart corrupt powers from undermining our democratic rights.

Let’s not pretend that we have lost control. Because we were never in control (and never will be). It’s only the illusion of control that we decide to believe in. A lot of things happen beyond what we can see or what we care to see. Some good, some bad. We can only do what we are best at. So we should do that with high standards of ethics and compassion for the humankind.




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