Questions about tech and society

As you might know, I have the honor of serving as the Tech Editor for Current Affairs

Today, I took some time with Jessica McKenzie. We thought about what the editorial stance of the tech criticism wing of Current Affairs should look like, and what sample pitches might look like.

That really got me thinking. What are the questions about tech and society that I’d dearly love answered?

Here’s a partial list:

  • Is Gabriella Coleman awesome, or is she too trusting / too manipulative?
  • What happened to the Free Software movement? Is it dead? Why did Richard Stallman have no real heirs? Why is the Free Software Foundation so marginal?
  • “Activism” in tech was done by writing software in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Specifically, free software. Now it might be done by making specific web apps. How else do people in tech do activism by creation?
  • Cryptography is an extremely important part of liberatory technology. Yet understanding cryptography is a really rare skill. Are our freedoms bounded by the energy of just 10-20 pro-social cryptographers?
  • Americans presumably would not stand for policemen following them everywhere, recording everything they do in a notepad. Yet they seem surprisingly sanguine to even more surveillance when done over the internet. Why is that? What does that analysis miss?
  • Say you’re a talented developer in your early 20s. What exactly should you be doing with yourself to be most useful to society?
  • Is big data inherently oppressive? Does that make Data Science as a profession suspect? What about organizations like Data Kind?
  • Can we disentangle the effect that facebook the app has on society vs Facebook the company? Is that even wise?
  • Open source efforts are governed in many different styles. What does the success or failure of different open source initiatives say about the viability of the benevolent dictatorship, democracy, etc, in our modern lives?
  • Is open source software development an example of libertarian organization or socialist organization? Is there a difference?
  • Is it possible for a consumer tech review site to be both popular and trustworthy?
  • Is “liberation technology” a real thing?
  • Platform Cooperativism seems awesome. Is it really?
  • What happened to Anonymous?
  • Why do people forgive the Obama administration for its “war on hackers”?
  • If programmers are so difficult to hire, so hard to replace, and directly control the means of production – why aren’t they unionizing in droves?
  • Software developers – are they workers? Where do they stand in the class struggle?
  • Why did the glorious mashable internet of Web 2.0 – the one with RSS feeds, interoperable APIs, and mashups – die?

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