We used to be very excited about technology. What happened?

I blinked at the aesthetic poverty of most recent stadium for Meta’s Horizon Worlds virtual reality game, featuring an animated avatar of Mark Zuckerberg’s dead eyes on a background image that one Twitter rated as striking compared to “the painted walls of a primary daycare center.” abandoned day”. I sighed in silence before news about Ring Nation, an Amazon-produced TV show featuring “fun viral content” recorded from the Ring surveillance empire. I clenched my jaw at a screenshot afterward Stable text-to-image diffusion model provides AI artwork in the style of dozens of unpaid human artists, whose collective labor has been poured into the model’s training data, grounds, and discards.

I recognize the feeling and I know its name. It’s resignation – the feeling of being stuck in a place you don’t want to go but can’t leave. I suffer from the irony that I have studied technology all my life to avoid feeling like this. Technology used to be my happy place.

Naturally, I poured my emotions into a tweetstorm:

The saddest thing for me about modern technology's long spiral into user manipulation and surveillance is how it slowly kills the joy that people like me used to feel about new technology.  Every product that Meta or Amazon announces makes the future bleak and murky.  t used to be the opposite.  Technology is one of my favorite things.  I still remember how it felt when I took the first BART trains in SF.  When I saw my first Concorde, my little head exploded.  My PET Commodore.  The last time technology made me truly happy was these glories.  What will it take for us to get that feeling back?  You don't think it's just my nostalgia, do you?  Tech companies no longer promise us anything that we really need or ask for.  Just follow more, push more, consume more of our data, our time, our pleasure.


I was startled. As my notifications started popping up and thousands of replies and retweets started pouring in, the initial dopamine reward for going viral gave way to a deeper sadness. One so many people who are sitting with the same feeling of heaviness in the stomach.

However, there was still emotion in reading so many others agreed with it.

Our lives and our technology are missing something. Its absence is causing growing insecurity by many who work in the technology field or study it. That’s what drives the new generation of doctoral and postdoctoral researchers I work with at the University of Edinburgh, who are drawing together knowledge from the fields of engineering arts, sciences and humanities to try to figure out what happened to our tech ecosystem, and how to fix it. To do that, we must understand how and why priorities in that ecosystem have changed.

The goal of consumer technology development in the past was quite simple: design and build something of value for people, giving them a reason to buy it. A shiny new fridge, cuts my energy bills, makes ice cubes look cool. So I bought it. Accomplished. Roomba promises to vacuum the cat hair under my sofa while I take a nap. Sold! But this vision of technology is increasingly outdated. The refrigerator is not enough to keep food cold; Today’s version offers camera and sensor can track how and what I’m eating, while Roomba can now send map of my house to Amazon.

The issue here goes beyond the obvious privacy risks. It’s a huge shift in the whole innovation paradigm and the driving forces behind it. Why settle for a single profitable transaction for the company when you can instead design a product that will extract a monetized stream of data from every buyer, bringing in revenue for the company. company for many years? Once you’ve captured that stream of data, you’ll protect it, even if your customers are disadvantaged. After all, if you buy enough in the market, you can afford to endure the anger and frustration of your customers. Just ask Mark Zuckerberg.

It’s not just consumer technology and social media platforms that have created this change. For example, major agritech brand John Deere, formerly beloved by customers, is up against a The “right to repair” movement farmers are angry at being banned from fixing their machines, lest they disturb proprietary software that sends high-value data about farmers’ land and crops back to producers. As many commenters on my Twitter thread have noted, nowadays in the tech sector we is the product, not the primary beneficiary. Mechanical devices that were once products are increasingly just middlemen.

There is also a change in today’s technological innovations for. Several respondents countered my topic by drawing attention to today’s vibrant market in new technology for “enthusiast” and “nerd” —Raspberry Pis, software tool Open source, programmable robot. Many of these tools are great for people with the time, skill, and interest to use them, they’re tools made for a narrow audience. Likewise, the thrill of seeing real innovation in biomedical technology, such as an mRNA vaccine, also lessens as we see benefits concentrated in rich nations. have the most – the countries that have been best served by technology.


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