I started learning how to code websites around 2000 – that’s almost 20 years ago now. Back then, I was only 13 years old and pretty excited about the future of the web and all the marvellous opportunities that digital technology promised to open for humanity. But in 2018, the web and the whole digital tech industry has lost a lot of its shine for me.
When I first attended to the Beyond Tellerrand conference last year, I felt a different vibe than this year. Although all the scandalous behavior of secret services and tech oligarchs in terms of surveillance and abusement of power was already well-known and has been discussed for some years now, the overall mood seemed to be much more positive and uncritial than now. I remember some discussions about Tesla’s latest car models, iPhones and stuff. And that’s okay of course, the latest technology has an important impact on our work at least. But this year, I got the impression that technology was discussed in a much more critial manner and I am really welcoming that. Some announcements about new tech during the last years already started to alienate me, because they often lacked any critical reflection on the topic or product by our community. But as the web industry matures and everyone can see the devastating effects of e.g. social media services being exploited by fascists we really need to talk about ethics — better sooner than too late! Although it might feel annoying sometimes; we must realize that being unpolitical about our work is not an option any more (has it ever been?). The web is not an isolated echo chamber and everything we build has an influence on the life of real people.
Mike Monteiro’s great talk reminds us that we cannot affort reducing ourselves to being mere service providers for building an apocalyptic future any longer. We are human beings at first, not designers, developers or engineers. We are more than just two hands with a bank account! And we do have a choice who and what we want to work for.