Tag: tech

Morality, responsibility, and (online) information

This is a useful article in terms of thinking about the problems we have around misinformation online. Yes, we have a responsibility to be informed citizens, but there are structural issues which are actively working against that.

How might we alleviate our society’s misinformation problem? One suggestion goes as follows: the problem is that people are so ignorant, poorly informed, gullible, irrational that they lack the ability to discern credible information and real expertise from incredible information and fake expertise.

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This view places the primary responsibility for our current informational predicament – and the responsibility to mend it – on individuals. It views them as somehow cognitively deficient. An attractive aspect of this view is that it suggests a solution (people need to become smarter) directly where the problem seems to lie (people are not smart). Simply, if we want to stop the spread of misinformation, people need to take responsibility to think better and learn how to stop spreading it. A closer philosophical and social scientific look at issues of responsibility with regard to information suggests that this view is mistaken on several accounts.

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Even if there was a mass willingness to accept accountability, or if a responsibility could be articulated without blaming citizens, there is no guarantee that citizens would be successful in actually practising their responsibility to be informed. As I said, even the best intentions are often manipulated. Critical thinking, rationality and identifying the correct experts are extremely difficult things to practise effectively on their own, much less in warped information environments. This is not to say that people’s intentions are universally good, but that even sincere, well-meaning efforts do not necessarily have desirable outcomes. This speaks against proposing a greater individual responsibility for misinformation, because, if even the best intentions can be corrupted, then there isn’t a great chance of success.

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Leaning away from individual responsibility means that the burden should be shifted to those who have structural control over our information environments. Solutions to our misinformation epidemic are effective when they are structural and address the problem at its roots. In the case of online misinformation, we should understand that technology giants aim at creating profit over creating public democratic goods. If disinformation can be made to be profitable, we should not expect those who profit to self-regulate and adopt a responsibility toward information by default. Placing accountability and responsibility on technology companies but also on government, regulatory bodies, traditional media and political parties by democratic means is a good first step to foster information environments that encourage good knowledge practices. This step provides a realistic distribution of both causal and effective remedial responsibility for our misinformation problem without nihilistically throwing out the entire concept of responsibility – which we should never do.

Source: On the moral responsibility to be an informed citizen | Psyche Ideas

Hiring is broken, but not in the ways you assume

Hacker News is a link aggregator for people who work in tech. There’s a lot of very technical information on there, but also stuff interesting to the curious mind more generally.

As so many people visit the site every day, it can be very influential, especially given the threaded discussion about shared links.

There can be a bit of a ‘hive mind’ sometimes, with certain things being sacred cows or implicit assumptions held by those who post (and lurk) there.

In this blog post focusing on hiring practices there’s a critique of four ‘myths’ that seem to be prevalent in Hacker News discussions. Some of it is almost exclusively focused on tech roles in Silicon Valley, but I wanted to pull out this nugget which outlines what is really wrong with hiring:

Diversity. We really, really suck at diversity. We’re getting better, but we have a long way to go. Most of the industry chases the same candidates and assesses them in the same way.

Generally unfair practices. In cases where companies have power and candidates don’t, things can get really unfair. Lack of diversity is just one side-effect of this, others include poor candidate experiences, unfair compensation, and many others.

Short-termism. Recruiters and hiring managers that just want to fill a role at any cost, without thinking about whether there really is a fit or not. Many recruiters work on contingency, and most of them suck. The really good ones are awesome, but most of the well is poison. Hiring managers can be the same, too, when they’re under pressure to hire.

General ineptitude. Sometimes companies don’t knowing what they’re looking for, or are not internally aligned on it. Sometimes they just have broken processes, where they can’t keep track of who they’re talking to and what stage they’re at. Sometimes the engineers doing the interviews couldn’t care two shits about the interview or the company they work at. And often, companies are just tremendously indecisive, which makes them really slow to decide, or to just reject candidates because they can’t make up their minds.

Ozzie, 4 Hiring Myths Common in HackerNews Discussions

I’ve hired people and, even with the lastest talent management workflow software, it’s not easy. It sucks up your time, and anything/everything you do can and will be criticised.

But that doesn’t mean that we can’t strive to make the whole process better, more equitable, and more enjoyable for all involved.