Jennifer on Thu, 22 Feb 2018 07:46:15 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> nettime-l Digest, Vol 125, Issue 24

Hi Juana,

Not sure for literarure for 6th graders, but Sherry Turkles 'Alone Together' (2011) is in part about this question. She has done research amongst children as well as any age. As a sociologist and psychologist she raises some very interesting questions about wether robots are alive, or alive enough, if they can be a substitute for human care etc.
I recommend that as a starting point.


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Today's Topics:

1. Submission. Technology: The Solution or the problem (juana romero)
2. Re: Submission. Technology: The Solution or the problem
(chris mann)
3. Re: Just as rabid as the Unabomber, but safely on the winning
side ... (Morlock Elloi)


Message: 1
Date: Wed, 21 Feb 2018 11:03:42 -0300
From: juana romero
To: ""
Subject: Submission. Technology: The Solution or the problem

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I would like to submit a topic to the listing.

I am working on a project with 6th graders and they have pose the next
question: Technology, the solution or the problem? Their question points to
other questions about the survival of humans. They battle between the idea
that technology has for sure help us to survive and improve as a specie,
but could also help to destroy us. They are research around the topics of
A.I, communication advancement, drones and its appliances, robots,
transportation and other subjects.

I was wondering if anyone has literature about the topic, good for 6th
grades if possible, or if anyone has interesting thoughts about this topic.


Juana Romero
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Message: 2
Date: Wed, 21 Feb 2018 09:42:42 -0500
From: chris mann
To: juana romero
Cc: ""
Subject: Re: Submission. Technology: The Solution or the

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when eisenstein was working on the shooting script for das kapital he was
particularly impressed by chestertons father brown stories because they
introduced the dialectic into popular consciousness.

On 21 February 2018 at 09:03, juana romero

> Hi,
> I would like to submit a topic to the listing.
> I am working on a project with 6th graders and they have pose the next
> question: Technology, the solution or the problem? Their question points to
> other questions about the survival of humans. They battle between the idea
> that technology has for sure help us to survive and improve as a specie,
> but could also help to destroy us. They are research around the topics of
> A.I, communication advancement, drones and its appliances, robots,
> transportation and other subjects.
> I was wondering if anyone has literature about the topic, good for 6th
> grades if possible, or if anyone has interesting thoughts about this topic.
> Thanks,
> Juana Romero
> # distributed via : no commercial use without permission
> # is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
> # collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
> # more info:
> # archive: contact:
> # @nettime_bot tweets mail w/ sender unless #ANON is in Subject:
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Message: 3
Date: Wed, 21 Feb 2018 09:56:19 -0800
From: Morlock Elloi
Subject: Re: Just as rabid as the Unabomber, but safely on
the winning side ...
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=UTF-8; format=flowed

> Going back to the traditional architecture and structural engineering
> business, there is no way that the building code could be successfully
> enforced without licensing and prosecuting individual
> architects/engineers (ie. by prosecuting the construction company
> only.) This was recognized early on. The reasons are numerous, and
> include the fact that individual engineers usually do not have as much
> cash for lawyers as companies do, so they will think twice before
> violating the code.

A similar position, expressed more eloquently, from the viewpoint of a

[from ]

This Design Generation Has Failed

By Mike Monteiro

A year ago, I was in the audience at a gathering of designers in San
Francisco. There were four designers on stage, and two of them worked
for me. I was there to support them. The topic of design responsibility
came up, possibly brought up by one of my designers; I honestly don?t
remember the details. What I do remember is that at some point in the
discussion I raised my hand and suggested, to this group of designers,
that modern design problems were very complex. And we ought to need a
license to solve them.

About half the room turned to me in unison and screamed ?NO,? as if I?d
just suggested something absurd, such as borrowing $10 million to
develop a smart salt shaker. (It exists. That happened.)

?How many of you would go to an unlicensed doctor?? I asked. And the
room got very quiet.

?How many of you would go to an unaccredited college?? I asked. And the
room got even quieter.

(And before you weigh in on the condition of today?s health care and
education, which I grant are very problematic, let me just add that it?s
not the level of service that we typically take umbrage with, but rather
our difficulty in accessing and then affording those services, which
tend to be quite good.)

Turns out we like it when our professional services are licensed. In
fact, if you?ve ever had occasion to use lawyers, I?m sure you?ve been
comforted knowing they?ve passed the bar. Their certification will be
neatly framed right behind their heads. Not to mention that even the
cafeterias of Silicon Valley?s most disruptive companies have to hang
health department grade sheets where diners can see them. So while you
take a break from fighting against regulations that keep passenger
vehicles safe, you can avail yourself of that burger, which you know is
safe thanks to the regulations inspired by the muckraking work of Upton
Sinclair. A journalist. Or in libertarian parlance???the media.

Turns out we enjoy regulations. When they?re in our interest.

This roomful of designers, however, is quite taken aback by the idea
that our industry, an industry that now regularly designs devices that
go inside human bodies, or control our medication, or is writing logic
for putting driverless tractor trailers on the street, should need
professional licensing.

?Who?ll decide who gets licensed?? they ask.

I?m confident that if other professions have figured this out we can
figure this out as well. We can even look to their examples. The last
runner off the blocks can generally find his way by following the asses
in front.

Yesterday I sat down for coffee with a colleague who teaches design at
the local art school. ?How goes it with the new crop of kids?? I ask him.

?Good! You know, they?re surprising me. They?re asking about things like
sustainability, working in civic organizations, and ethics.?

?This is new??

?Yeah. Up until recently they wanted to know about startups, funding,
and money.?

?There?s hope.?

?There is.?

And that?s when I decided that we???and by we I mean those of us
currently drawing paychecks for professional design services???are
design?s lost generation. We are the Family Ties-era Michael J. Fox of
the design lineage. Raised by hippies. Consumed by greed. Ruled by the
hand of the market. And nourished by the last drops of sour milk from
the withered old teat of capitalism gone rabid. Living where America
ends???Silicon Valley.

We are slouching toward Sand Hill Road. We are slouching toward another
round of funding. We are slouching toward market share. We are slouching
toward entrepreneurship. And ultimately, we are slouching toward
irrelevance. If we are lucky. Because the longer we stick around, the
more we?re leaving for the next generation to clean up. And we?ve given
them quite a bit of job security as it is.

We are slouching because we were born without spines. When society
desperately needed us to be born with them.

The Center Did Not Hold

There are two words every designer needs to feel comfortable saying:
?no? and ?why.? Those words are the foundation of what we do. They?re
the foundation of building an ethical framework. If we cannot ask ?why??
we lose the ability to judge whether the work we?re doing is ethical. If
we cannot say ?no? we lose the ability to stand and fight. We lose the
ability to help shape the thing we?re responsible for shaping.

Victor Papanek, who attempted to gift us spines in Design for the Real
World, referred to designers as gatekeepers. He reminded us of our
power, our agency, and our responsibility. He reminded us that labor
without counsel is not design. We have a skill set that people need in
order to get things made, and that skill set includes an inquiring mind
and a strong spine. We need to be more than a pair of hands. And we
certainly can?t become the hands of unethical men.

We are gatekeepers, and we vote on what makes it through the gate with
our labor and our counsel. We are responsible for what makes it through
that gate, and out into the world. What passes through carries our seal
of approval. It carries our name. We are the defense against monsters.
Sure, everyone remembers the monster, but they call it by his maker?s
name. And the worst of what we create will outlive us.

There?s no longer room in Silicon Valley to ask why. Designers are
tasked with moving fast and breaking things. ?How? has become more
important than ?why.? How fast can we make this? How can we grab the
most market share? How can we beat our competitors to market?

Today?s designers have spent their careers learning how to work faster
and faster and faster. And while there?s certainly something to be said
for speed, excessive speed tends to blur one?s purpose. To get products
through that gate before anyone noticed what they were and how foul they
smelled. Because we broke some things. It?s one thing to break a
database, but when that database holds the keys to interpersonal
relationships, the database isn?t the only thing that breaks.

Along with speed, we?ve had to deal with the amphetamine of scale.
Everything needs to be faster and bigger. How big it can get, how far it
can go. ?A million dollars isn?t cool. You know what?s cool?? You know
the rest of the line. When we move fast and break things and those
things get bigger and bigger, the rubble falls everywhere.

Facebook claims to have 2 billion users. (What percentage of those users
are Russian bots is currently up for debate.) But 1% of 2 billion is 20
million. When you?re moving fast and breaking things (this is Facebook?s
internal motto, by the way), 1% is well within the acceptable breaking
point for rolling out new work. Yet it contains 20 million people. They
have names. They have faces. Technology companies call these people edge
cases, because they live at the margins. They are, by definition, the

Let me introduce you to one of them: Bobbi Duncan was ?accidentally?
outed by Facebook when she was a college freshman. When Bobbi got to
college she joined a queer organization with a Facebook group page. When
the chorus director added her to the group, a notification that she?d
joined The Queer Chorus at UT-Austin was added to her feed. Where her
parents saw it. Bobbi had very meticulously made her way through
Facebook?s byzantine privacy settings to make sure nothing about her
sexuality was visible to her parents. But unbeknownst to her (and the
vast majority of Facebook?s users), Facebook, which moves fast, had made
a decision that group privacy settings should override personal privacy
settings. Bobbi was disowned by her parents and later attempted suicide.
Facebook broke things.

A year later I gave a talk at Facebook. I told Bobbi?s story, which was
public at this point. An engineer in the audience screamed out, ?It was
the chorus director?s fault, not ours.? And that somehow manages to be
the scariest part of this whole story. We?re putting the people who need
us most at risk, and we?re not seeing our responsibility. And to this I
must both ask why and say no.

We?re killing people. And the only no I hear from the design community
is about the need for licensing. If ?why? and ?no? are at the center of
who we are, and they must be, the center has not held.

We need to slow. The. Fuck. Down. And pay attention to what we?re
actually designing. We?re releasing new things into the world faster
than Trump is causing scandals.

Why We Failed: The First Reason

?I want to do the right thing, but I?m afraid I?ll lose my job.?

?Must be nice to afford to take a stand.?*

?I have rent to pay.?

?If you?re telling people how to work then you?re the fascist!?

I?ve heard variations on all of these phrases thrown at me from
designers I?ve spoken to all over the world. Sometimes they?re
apologetic about it. Sometimes they?re angry. Sometimes they?re looking
for absolution, which I?m not in a position to give. But mostly they
feel tired and beaten down.

Yes. You will sometimes lose your job for doing the right thing. But the
question I want you to ask yourself is why you?re open to doing the
wrong thing to keep your job. Without resorting to the level of
comparing you to guards at Japanese internment camps, I?d argue there
are paychecks not worth earning. An ethical framework needs to be
independent of pay scale. If it?s wrong to build databases for keeping
track of immigrants at $12 an hour, it?s still wrong to build them at
$200 an hour, or however much Palantir pays its employees. Money doesn?t
make wrong right. A gilded cage is still a cage.

You?ll have many jobs in your life. The fear of losing a job is a
self-fulfilling prophesy. Fear makes it less likely that you?ll question
and challenge the things you need to question and challenge. Which means
you?re not doing your job anyway.

The first part of doing this job right is wanting to do it right. And
the lost generation of designers doesn?t want to do it right. They found
themselves standing before a gate, and rather then seeing themselves as
gatekeepers they decided they were bellhops.

We failed because we looked at our paychecks, saw Mark Zuckerberg?s
signature, and forgot the person we actually worked for was Bobbi Duncan.

* For the record, it?s not that I can afford to do this. It?s that
growing up an immigrant I?ve seen a little bit of the effects of being
marginalized. Certainly not as much as others, but generally more than
the white boys (they?re always white boys) who say this to me.

Why We Failed: The Second Reason

I also hear from plenty of people who attempted to do the job right and
hit their head against the wall time after time. (If it makes you feel
better feel free to put yourself in this second group.) These were the
people who looked for backup and didn?t find it. Whether it was backup
from within their organization, or the backup of a professional service
that protects the integrity of the craft.

Let me tell you a story. My family and I drove out to Sequoia National
Park a few years ago. We stopped for dinner at a diner on the way. There
was an elderly couple sitting next to us. He was wearing one of those
navy caps with a picture of the battleship he?d served on. When their
check arrived the old man wasn?t happy with the total. He called the
waitress over and informed her the check didn?t reflect the early bird
price. She smiled, and in her best voice, told him they?d been seated
just a few minutes too late to get the early bird price. At which point
Joe, and I know his name was Joe because his wife was telling Joe not to
make a scene, reaches for his wallet, pulls out his AARP card and sits
it on the check. That was the end of the argument.

No one fucks with the AARP. Because the AARP looks out for its old
people and it will fuck your shit up. Had that waitress not given Joe
the early bird price I?m pretty sure a platoon of AARP lawyers would?ve
parachuted into the diner. Joe ended up paying the early bird price
because Joe had the power of a professional organization behind him.

Imagine this same situation playing out with a designer standing up for
the solidity of her work. Imagine the power of a professional
organization having our back. We?ve never had that. Possibly the AIGA
came closest, but closest isn?t even the right word because it contains
the word close. So every designer out there fighting the good fight is
doing it with the knowledge that she?s going at it alone.

Why We Failed: The Third Reason

The history of UX design is, until very, very, very recently, the
history of design as defined by other fields. Our field was defined
first by engineers because, let?s be fair, they?re the ones who invented
the internet. And their definition of design???the people in the bunny
hats who make the colors???is still widely accepted by a large majority
of designers working in the field today. It?s the easy path. You sit in
the corner, listening to The War On Drugs on your big expensive DJ
headphones, picking colors and collecting checks.

We?ve spent the last 20 years proving our legitimacy to engineers who
thought we were a waste of time. Until they realized we could magnify
their power exponentially.

We let other people define the job. We complained when we were told what
to do. We complained when we weren?t told what to do. We became
proficient in eye-rolling. (Be honest. You proved my point by rolling
your eyes at that last sentence.) We fought for a seat at the table, and
once we started getting that seat, we found out a lot of designers
didn?t want it.

I?m a little unfair when I say that designers haven?t fought. We?ve
fought to have other people define us. We?ve fought to have other people
define our responsibilities. We?ve fought to give away our agency. And
we?ve fought not to have a seat at the table. We were all too happy to
dribbble away our time while decisions were being made around us. (Shade.)

A few months ago, Jared Spool, who?s been doing yeoman?s work for design
for the better part of 40 years, tweeted this out:

Anyone who influences what the design becomes is the designer.

This includes developers, PMs, even corporate legal. All are the designers.

? Jared Spool (@jmspool) March 1, 2017

Everything in that tweet is correct. Everyone who influences the final
thing, be it a product or a service, is designing. And yet, if you click
through and look at the replies, you?ll see the evisceration of Jared
Spool in defensive bite-sized little vitriolic thoughts still covered
with the spittle of ego. And, even more sadly, it quickly turns into a
discussion of titles. We are happy to give away all the responsibilities
that come with the job, but don?t take our titles. I have seen designers
argue for a week with a new employer about what their title will be,
without sparing one breath to ask about their responsibilities.

Design is a verb. An act. Anyone is free to pick up the ball and run
with it. And if you?re not doing the job you?re being paid to do, you
can?t be upset when someone else starts doing it. You cannot not design.
What a professional designer brings to the act is intention. But for
that, the designer needs to behave intentionally. Designers are dead.
Long live design.

You just rolled your eyes. You should?ve thrown an elbow.

We Are The Children Of Capitalism?s Last Gasp

We are all working in a system that measures success financially. We are
about how much money a movie makes on opening weekend (go Black
Panther!), we pay attention to music climbing up the charts, and Jack
Dorsey?s leadership was finally vindicated when Twitter posted their
first profit-making quarter.

The first sentence of that linked Mashable article is chilling: ?It
turns out cutting back, focusing, and maybe a little Donald Trump can
help make money.?

Let?s look at the price of that profit-making quarter. Twitter?s profit
came at the cost of democracy. When an American autocrat chose it as his
platform of choice to sow hate, disparage women and minorities, and dog
whistle his racist base, Twitter rallied. Rather than shut him down for
violating its terms of service, Twitter chose to expand those terms of
service to accommodate the engagement Trump was bringing them. Twitter,
and every employee working within Twitter, failed their moment. Their
ethics failed them. The reason Donald Trump has access to nuclear
weapons is, in no small part, thanks to Twitter.

Why is there no tool *built into Twitter* to identify and neutralise
Russian bots?

Because bots stir the pot. Raise the temperature. And keep us engaged.

Twitter's engagement model is different from Facebook's. But arguably no
less toxic.

? Mark Pesce (@mpesce) February 16, 2018

And yet, all is forgiven because Twitter has now turned a profit. Profit
justifies everything. Silicon Valley, the engine that powers the end of
America needs profit to survive, and it needs profit at scale. We remain
enamored with our ideas, and blind to their effects. We award golden
parachutes for failing big, because Silicon Valley rewards failing big
over succeeding small.

The biggest sin in Silicon Valley is a small victory.

The Path Forward

In August of 2017, James Liang, an engineer for Volkswagen, was
sentenced to 40 months in jail. A court in Detroit sentenced him for
knowingly designing software that cheated federal emissions tests. He
wasn?t the only Volkswagen employee sent to jail for this. (Thankfully.)
But he?s the one important to our story. He knew he was designing
something deceitful, and he did it anyway. That?s an ethical breakdown.

In March of 2017, Mike Isaac published an expos? in the New York Times
about Greyball, a tool at Uber designed to purposely deceive
authorities. Authorities who were looking out for the safety of Uber?s
riders. No one at Uber has yet to go to jail. But the stories are the same.

Two companies, knowingly designing software with the express purposes of
deceiving regulating bodies. Volkswagen got caught because the
automotive industry is regulated. We know cars are dangerous. Uber got
away with it because it claims to be a software company, (it?s not), and
we?re just beginning to realize how dangerous software can be,
especially in the hands of companies led by ethic-less, feckless men.
But Travis Kalanick, Uber CEO when Greyball was designed, should be in
jail as well.

We need to be held accountable for our actions. We?ve been moving fast.
We?ve been breaking things. Sometimes on purpose. Sometimes out of
ignorance. The effects are the same. The things we?re building are
bigger than they used to be, and have more reach. The moment to slow
down is here. Because what we?re breaking is too important and too
precious. Much of it is irreplaceable.

I am part of design?s last generation. I?ve fucked up. We all have. None
of us did enough. Maybe the tide was too strong, or maybe we were too
weak. But as I look behind me, I see the hope of a new generation. These
designers are asking better questions, at a young age, than we ever did.
And I truly hope they do better than us because the stakes have never
been higher.

For you to succeed, you?re going to need the following:

A Body of Oversight

You?re going to need someone to have your back. Look to history. Long
hours and working weekends are still long hours and working weekends,
regardless of whether the cafeteria is serving swordfish. Human resource
departments do not work for you, as Susan Fowler and many courageous
others have found out. They work for your boss.

I am the son of a Philadelphia construction worker. Every winter my
father got laid off because it was too cold to build, and every winter
someone from the union showed up with groceries. The only ones who will
ever stand up for workers are other workers. Stand together and unionize.

And when one of you is trying to do the right thing, let them (and their
bosses) know that there?s an entire brotherhood and sisterhood standing
behind them.

Educational Autonomy

Art has as much in common with design as a potato has with a Honda
Civic. So why are we still cramming design departments into art schools?
Not to disparage art schools???they?re a wonderful place to get an art
education. I?m also not disparaging existing design programs here as
much as I?m trying to get you more room! Design is too important and too
big a field now to be given a wing in someone else?s school. It?s time
to create our own. A few years ago Jared Spool and Leslie Jensen-Inman
did just that. They started Center Centre, a small school in
Chattanooga, Tennessee, to specifically train UX designers. I hope it
succeeds and that it?s the first of many.

License to Practice

My friend Ryan is a professional dogwalker. Dude loves dogs. Which I
totally get because at our best, our goal should be to be the people our
dogs think we are. Before Ryan could become a professional dogwalker he
had to get a license. He had to pass a test. As someone who loves my dog
more than I should, I?m glad he had to do that. It reassures me that my
dog is in good hands. I know that if my dog does something stupid, which
he does plenty, Ryan will know how to handle it.

My dentist is licensed. My doctor is licensed. My lawyer is licensed. My
accountant is licensed. Almost every professional I interact with is
licensed. There are really good reasons for that. Not only does this let
me know they?ve passed some sort of test, some sort of proficiency, but
it also gives me a way to measure a standard of expectation for their
level of service, and to address any grievance with a lack of it.

Closer to home, architecture is the hardest design profession to study
and get into and has incredibly high standards. Architects can debate
style and aesthetics all night, but at the end of the day, their shit
has to be up to code. Architects have to make sure that engineers and
contractors carry our their intention, and they have to be ready to make
changes to their vision to accommodate reality. There?s no minimal
viable product in architecture because bad architecture kills people.
Bad UX is now just as deadly. And yeah, even Howard fucking Roarke had
to be licensed.

And while I?ll be the first to agree that licensing doesn?t solve all of
the problems listed in this article, I do believe that it?s the first
step in addressing those problems. It gives us a chance. Let?s not spend
the next 10 years looking for the perfect solution at the cost of
implementing a good one.

As professionals in the design field, a field becoming more complex by
the day, it?s time that we aim for a professional level of
accountability. In the end, a profession doesn?t decide to license
itself. It happens when a regulatory body decides we?ve been reckless
and unable to to regulate ourselves. This isn?t for our sake. It?s for
the sake of the people whose lives we come in contact with. We moved too
fast and broke too many things.

Amateur hour is over.


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