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Thoughts and actions for the week of October 11, 2021

Thoughts

  1. I recognize today as Indigenous Peoples’ Day rather than Columbus Day: it’s a marker of the importance of the people who were here before Europeans arrived, and their resilience in the face of genocide and generations of oppression. For the first time, the President recognized it too: a major progressive step. I’ve heard some people of European descent make fun of it, which is nothing but ugly.
  2. One of America’s biggest exports these days is technology. The actual hardware we use is largely made in China, but most of the software that connects us is made Stateside. Apple is based in Cupertino; Facebook is based in Menlo Park; Microsoft is based in Redmond. Yes, they have offices all over the world, but the core of their strategy is defined in these places.
  3. The way we build the software that connects us matters. If it’s largely built by affluent white dudes in expensive neighborhoods, no matter the intentions of those people, it will disproportionately reflect their worldview. The lens through which they see the world becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  4. There are methodologies which attempt to correct for this worldview. Design thinking, for example, can be seen as a way to de-risk your product idea by testing with the people who you want to build it for. The lean startup process is a way of doing this that leans more heavily on quantitative, rather than qualitative, analysis.
  5. Notice the conceptual separation between the people you want to build it for and the people doing the building? These methodologies sit somewhere between a colonialist mindset and white saviordom. If you’re experimenting on communities in order to sell something to them more effectively and those communities are not themselves the owners of both the process and solution, you’re strip-mining them of value.
  6. You can most obviously see this in Facebook’s global outreach, including a disastrously self-serving attempt to provide free internet in India that just happened to shape local connectivity around its own services, and its use to promote genocide in Myanmar. These were headline-grabbing stories, but for every one of these, there are likely hundreds more that didn’t receive global scrutiny.
  7. The same goes for American foreign policy, which seeks to export US values without truly working with local communities. It’s nothing short of imperialism that strip-mines other nations of useful value. Companies like Facebook are an example of this ideology, not its limit.
  8. Whether you’re building software or global diplomacy, the only way to ethically build for a community is to build with them in every possible sense. They must be keepers of the platform, the ownership, the process, and the proceeds.

Actions

  1. As always, there’s a lot to do at work - mostly on the process side.
  2. I’m determined to hit my exercise goals every day this week. It’s crazy to me that I hit them for five months in a row at the beginning of this year and that I then let them drop so precipitously. I mean, it’s also easily been the worst year of my life, so it’s not that crazy, but I’d like to get back on the wagon to round out the year.
  3. I ordered a Dyer Dhow a few months ago, and it still hasn’t shown up. Where is it? I need to chase it down and maybe postpone the order until next year. I’m still on Cape Cod, but I won’t be here forever.
  4. As the year comes to a close, I need to do a little financial planning and trimming. Sadly, services like AirTable, which I used to depend on, probably won’t make the cut.