This has been a fascinating weekend of conversations, many of them about systems and institutions and technology—with everyone from Lyft and Uber drivers to Trevin Wax, Joe Carter, and Matthew Lee Anderson.
The conversations Stephen Carradini and I have been having on Winning Slowly over the last couple seasons, and this season ahead, all seem more important to me than ever before. Not because the show itself is very important—it isn’t—but because these issues, and one question in particular, seem increasingly urgent in our day.
That question is simple: Can we say no to given technologies or opportunities, not only as individuals but as communities?
If we cannot, we are slaves to whatever idea someone dreams up next, whether it is good or bad, beautiful or wicked. Our tools will own us.
If we can, then at least some things I believe we ought. The question then will be: what technologies not only can we but must we refuse?
The answers to those questions are more than a tweetstorm can disentangle, indeed will require years of hard work and thought to search out. But as of right now, too few are even asking them—we think instead, “We can, and we may do some good, and so we must!”—heedless of the cost.
These questions press especially on those of us in technology, those of us who teach, and those of us in positions of influence. The things we choose—including, sometimes most importantly, silence and refusal—will shape not only our own but also many others’ lives.