Update: AI upscaled to larger resolution with more clarity
Update: AI upscaled to larger resolution with more clarity
Sabelo Mhlambi is a computer scientist, researcher and Fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. He focuses on the ethical implications of technology in the developing world, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, and has written a great, concise essay on technological ethics in relation to the global north and south.
Ethics is not missing in technology, rather we are witnessing the ethics in technology – the ethics of the powerful. The ethics of individualism.
Mhlambi makes a number of important points, and I want to share three of them. First, he says that ethics is the result of human will, not algorithmic processes:
Ethics should not be left to algorithmic definitions and processes, ultimately ethics is a result of the human will. Technology won’t save us. The abdication of social and environmental responsibility by creators of technology should not be allowed to become the norm.
Second, technology is a driver of change in society, and, because technology is not neutral, we have individualism baked into the tools we use:
Ethics describes one’s relationship and responsibilities to others and the environment. Ethics is the protocol for human interaction, with each other and with the world. Different ethical systems may be described through this scale: Individualistic systems promote one’s self assertion through the limitation of one’s relationship and responsibilities to others and the environment. In contrast, a more communal ethics asserts the self through the encouragement of one’s relationship and responsibilities to the community and the environment.
This is, he says, a form of colonialism:
Technology designed and deployed beyond its ethical borders poses a threat to social stability in different regions with different ethical systems, norms and values. The imposition of a society’s beliefs on another is colonial. This relationship can be observed even amongst members of the South as the more economically developed nations extend their technology and influence into less developed nations, the East to Africa relationship being an example.
Third, over and above the individualism and colonialism, the technologies we use are unrepresentative because they do not take into account the lived experiences and view of marginalised groups:
In the development and funding of technology, marginalized groups are underrepresented. Their values and views are unaccounted for. In the software industry marginalized groups make a minority of the labor force and leadership roles. The digital divide continues to increase when technology is only accessible through the languages of the well developed nations.
It’s an important essay, and one that I’ll no doubt be returning to in the weeks and months to come.
This week’s links seem to have a theme about faces and looking at them through screens. I’m not sure what that says about either my network, or my interests, but there we are…
As ever, let me know what resonates with you, and if you have any thoughts on what’s shared below!
The human body is an unusual sort of Instagram subject: it can be adjusted, with the right kind of effort, to perform better and better over time. Art directors at magazines have long edited photos of celebrities to better match unrealistic beauty standards; now you can do that to pictures of yourself with just a few taps on your phone.Jia Tolentino (The New Yorker)
People, especially women, but there’s increasing pressure on young men too, are literally going to see plastic surgeons with ‘Facetuned’ versions of themselves. It’s hard not to think that we’re heading for a kind of dystopia when people want to look like cartoonish versions of themselves.
What I learned as a child is that most people don’t even meet the responsibilities of their positions (husband, wife, teacher, boss, politicians, whatever.) A few do their duty, and I honor them for it, because it is rare. But to go beyond that and actually be a man of honor is unbelievably rare.Ian Welsh
This question, as I’ve been talking with my therapist about, is one I ask myself all the time. Recently, I’ve settled on Marcus Aurelius’ approach: “Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”
Boredom can be our way of telling ourselves that we are not spending our time as well as we could, that we should be doing something more enjoyable, more useful, or more fulfilling. From this point of view, boredom is an agent of change and progress, a driver of ambition, shepherding us out into larger, greener pastures.Neel Burton (Aeon)
As I’ve discussed before, I’m not so sure about the fetishisation of ‘boredom’. It’s good to be creative and let the mind wander. But boredom? Nah. There’s too much interesting stuff out there.
Unlock your devices with a surgical mask that looks just like you.
I don’t usually link to products in this roundup, but I’m not sure this is 100% serious. Good idea, though!
For some employees, like teachers who have conducted classes digitally for weeks, working from home can be a nightmare.Jessie Yeung (CNN)
But in other sectors, this unexpected experiment has been so well received that employers are considering adopting it as a more permanent measure. For those who advocate more flexible working options, the past few weeks mark a possible step toward widespread — and long-awaited — reform.
Every cloud has a silver lining, I guess? Working from home is great, especially when you have a decent setup.
Only you really know what level of clarity you want from each piece of your setup. Are you happy with what you have? Please, dear Lord, don’t spend any money. This is intended to be a resource if you want more and don’t know how to do it, not a stress or a judgment to anyone happy with their current setup
And while it’s a lot of fun to have a really high-quality webcam for my remote work, would I have bought it if I didn’t have a more intense need for high quality video for my YouTube stuff? Hell no. Get what you need, in your budget. This is just a resource.
This is a fantastic guide. I bought a great webcam when I saw it drop in price via CamelCamelCamel and bought a decent mic when I recorded the TIDE podcast wiht Dai. It really does make a difference.
I know it might sound like I have more questions than answers, but it seems to me that we are missing out on a very basic solution for the screen size problem. Manufacturers did so much to increase the screen size, computational power and battery capacity whilst keeping phones thin, that switching the apps navigation to the bottom should have been the automatic response to this new paradigm.Maria Grilo (Imaginary Cloud)
The struggle is real. I invested in a new phone this week (a OnePlus 7 Pro 5G) and, unlike the phone it replaced from 2017, it’s definitely a hold-with-two-hands device.
What has also transpired is a web of unbridled opportunism and exploitation, uncertainty and disparity. We see increasing pockets of silos and echo chambers fueled by anxiety, misplaced trust, and confirmation bias. As the mainstream consumer lays witness to these intentions, we notice a growing marginalization that propels more to unplug from these communities and applications to safeguard their mental health. However, the addiction technology has produced cannot be easily remedied. In the meantime, people continue to suffer.Hessie Jones (Forbes)
Another call to re-decentralise the web, this time based on arguments about centralised services not being able to handle the scale of abuse and fraudulent activity.
It is understood that Google decided to move its British users out of Irish jurisdiction because it is unclear whether Britain will follow GDPR or adopt other rules that could affect the handling of user data.
If British Google users have their data kept in Ireland, it would be more difficult for British authorities to recover it in criminal investigations.
The recent Cloud Act in the US, however, is expected to make it easier for British authorities to obtain data from US companies. Britain and the US are also on track to negotiate a broader trade agreement.Samuel Gibbs (The Guardian)
I’m sure this is a business decision as well, but I guess it makes sense given post-Brexit uncertainty about privacy legislation. It’s a shame, though, and a little concerning.
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Header image by Luc van Loon