I think this question “what do algorithms do,” which points to the question of agency, I think is an inappropriate way to ask the question. I think we should rather ask the question, what do algorithms become in situated practices?
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It’s interesting and scary to think about an Earth that could be completely controlled by humans, but it seems like it’s definitely possible. I could find fun thinking about living under the sea or all the places that humans really haven’t been able to sustain themselves in very well. Like, if we could really get control of that. I mean, it’s definitely a dark future, but I think something that I could embrace if we did go there.
I think at a fundamental level I just believe in human agency. And I think that everyone should feel like they can participate and shape the economy, rather than feel like they’re experiencing symptoms of the economy. When the recession happened, there was all this chatter around well, the Fed is going to do this. Or the banks are going to do this. And government is going to do this. And there was no narrative around what people are going to do.
We are in the midst of a shift in how we encounter information. And we’re wrestling with three paradigms at the same time. The oldest of these paradigms, for for most of us, is edited media. … You have a powerful gatekeeper, the newspaper editor, who says, “Here are things you need to pay attention to today. Give this a small amount of your time, and you will be roughly up to date with what you need to know.”
My thinking is how do we design systems that provide for every aspect of our humanity? How do we design a city that cares for all of our needs? You know it’s not just thinking about shelter, but it’s thinking about our food and our air and so, obviously the types of industry we have are very different, because we have to make sure that our air and our water is clean. And that our food is readily available, and that we have spaces for contemplation and reflection. And that we have places for communing with each other.
The question that philosophers have asked since antiquity is how should you live? What is the good life for a human being? And the two answers that have repeatedly come back time and time again are that there are two things that matter. One is agency. That’s to say being in control of your life, actively, creatively engaging with the world. And the other is community.
We’re trying to say it’s on you, it’s your responsibility, figure this out, download this, understand end-to-end encryption, when it’s a shared problem and it’s a communal problem.
Pretty much anything that Lucifer says in Paradise Lost, you could probably imagine the CEO of Uber saying. They’re just disrupting the Heavenly orders, you know. They really needed it.