📅 June 24 - July 01 | Tech's Impact: Time for a change

I’m a little late with this blog for a couple of reasons, one being a massive hurricane passing south of the island on Monday. Whilst not directly affected by the storm, we had a lot of rain, wind, and a few other disturbances. Around 10,000 people were without power on Monday on the island, but they steadily got back connected during the day and after.

The storm, a category 4 hurricane, passed directly over Carriacou Island near Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The videos and stories coming from it and the neighbouring islands are heartbreaking and difficult to accept.

Where does tech fit in all of this?

Of course, without tech, we wouldn’t have witness accounts of lived experiences available for the entire world. We wouldn’t have video evidence of the horrifying nature of a hurricane; however, I refuse to post a link here. Disaster porn is not something I feel I should promote. A quick search on Google’s video platform will lead you down a rabbit hole, where you can see for yourself all the destruction you wish, switch it off, have a coffee, and then move on with your day as indifferently as you usually do, doom scrolling and “liking” on Insta. Or, you can reach out to those in need and see what you can do to help. I know what the world needs now. TLDR; it’s not more “likes”.

But the true enemies and culprits are those willingly contributing to the destruction of the planet in the name of speculative claims of “productivity gains”, “solving cancer”, “going to Mars”, etc. The very same Google, Facebook, and now, shamefully, Apple are literally green-lighting projects that have the power to make the planet inhospitable.

Google’s green ambitions have been thrown out of the window in the name of a largely inaccurate bullshit generator, pushing its energy use to increase by 48% in one year!12 Microsoft’s energy usage shot up similarly and has now been on the damage-control narrative since. Pledging 10$ billion in “renewable energies”, but looking at the details, much of it is moving numbers in Excel and offsets.3

I guess, ultimately, I’m arguing for a different type of tech —tech that is more respectful of not only the environment but also of us as humans. A tech that hasn’t been hijacked by a group of cynical extremists, racists, and liars. In the current state, tech is moving wealth away from the masses to themselves, contributing to the pollution and destruction of the planet, and un-ironically showing off to the world their riches and their apocalypse bunkers.

You, we, can do something about that, and we should start now. I’ll discuss that another time.


Reading

I continue to be impressed and enjoyed by the quality of the articles published by 404media. I think that many of us hope they are showing the way for small media to work in the face of tech companies’ constant and systematic destruction. This article about Facebook’s losing control of the content published on its site highlights the aforementioned AI problem.4 Not only that, they have doubled down on restricting access to researchers and even suing them in the case of a group based Brazil.5 🤢

In a fit of research, I stumbled across a paper from 2019 entitled “The ‘online brain’: how the Internet may be changing our cognition.6

Overall, the available evidence indicates that the Internet can produce both acute and sustained alterations in each of these areas of cognition, which may be reflected in changes in the brain.

(Areas of cognition mentioned: a) attentional capacities, b) memory processes, and c) social cognition.)

I am coming to the conclusion that social media in its current state is a net negative for the world and that this experiment on humanity needs to be reeled in and supervised a little differently. It may not be obvious, but my conclusions are not necessarily for the reasons we hear in the press, i.e., that social media is damaging for kids, CSAM, etc. The real culprit is advertising and the malicious incentives generated by a complete free-for-all when it comes to the surveillance and sale of that information, coupled with the entitlement these companies believe they have over us. It has links to Internet Governance, innovation, racism, and Cyber Colonialism.

I’m formulating these arguments and will discuss them here and there over the coming months. Hopefully, if I can rally my brain around to concentrate on them, I can write a big piece on them.


Have a great week.


  1. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10676-024-09775-5 ↩︎

  2. https://www.bbc.com/news/articles/c51yvz51k2xo ↩︎

  3. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-02606-3 ↩︎

  4. https://www.404media.co/has-facebook-stopped-trying/ ↩︎

  5. https://www.theregister.com/2024/06/16/meta_ads_brazil/ ↩︎

  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6502424/ ↩︎

Matthew Cowen @matthewcowen