Violence and injustice are omnipresent these days. We’re faced with an ugly truth and it’s gut-wrenching to watch.
Through my developer-centric filter bubble, I sometimes see the tech world react to times of crisis. Often our first instinct seems to be to turn to technology. Build something to fix this.
I get that if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. I’m guilty of this myself. That knee-jerk reaction might come from a genuine desire to help - and if code is what we know best, it’s understandable that we want to apply these skills here too.
But some problems can’t be solved with technology.
You can’t code away systemic racism, and you can’t design your way out of a human rights crisis.
No blockchain, no cloud and no A.I. will get us out of this.
There are problems that have to be solved with humans. They have to be solved in our laws, our culture, and ultimately our minds. It’s a long, hard, uncomfortable and sometimes violent process.
Technology can only help that process by taking a step back. By amplifying voices that would otherwise not be heard, and by providing tools for people to take action.
The web is an amazing tool in bringing us together. Yet some of the best and brightest minds of our generation are working on how to get more people to click on ads. Imagine what technology could be capable of if it focused all that energy on the problems in our communities instead.
There are examples of code being used for the greater good in this:
- People organize on independent websites and encrypted messaging apps
- People document police brutality online and try to hold them accountable
- When the “black squares” campaign drowned out images of the movement on Instagram, someone wrote a bot to reach out to posters to take them down.
There’s many more I’m sure, but they all stand back behind the actual human beings in the streets, protesting for justice.
Code won’t bring us forward here. People will.