Elections, Zittrain and Social Responsibility

I’ll spare you the meme that seems to be making the rounds today. I already put my call to civic responsibility in my last podcast. I did vote, myself, this morning. The whole family shared a nice walk to our polling place, chatting about the election, trying to instill in the boys a sense of curiosity and start to ignite the tinder of civic pride and responsibility. The exhortations to participate should not be about obligation, fear or guilt. Your daily participation in an aspiring, open democratic society should foster an ever present social conscience.

This election hasn’t helped my current general state of anxiety over being in search of a new job and on hearing the near constant the dire observations of doom and gloom over the economy. Other than my employment status, we haven’t felt much effect of this downturn. I believe strongly on saving and responsible spending so we carry very little unsecured debt and thankfully have been able to recover from our last travels which had depleted our reserves a bit more than I had liked.

Still, I felt I could use a little bit of distraction. I will be at the New America Foundation this Thursday, the 6th, for a debate between Adam Theirer and Jonathan Zittrain. I have the electronic edition of Zittrain’s latest book, “The Future of the Internet–And How to Stop It”, but wanted to have a dead tree version in case the opportunity to get it signed presents itself. From what little I’ve read of the book so far, there are some provocative assertions about where production of content and innovation stands on the internet today and the incipient threats face it. I look forward to the chance to read more. The debate will no doubt enrich my appreciation of Zittrain’s views and ideas. I don’t always agree with Thierer since I lack the same degree of faith he places in the market. His views are well reasoned, however, and I tend to respect them.

In the back of my brain, I have been ruminating on this week’s monologue. I want to speak about hacking with a social conscience. I am not talking about the made up distinction between white hats and black hats. I am talking about cultivating an awareness of how the technology we create affects the lives around us for good and for ill. It is not an easy topic, it bears directly on why I produce the podcast and agree to speak at events. It is easy to fall into an inward facing middle ground, protecting technology for the sake of technology. Technology is not an end unto itself, however, but is always, by its definition, a means.

The social and policy aspects of technology are rarely very clear until after the fact. This makes being a hacktivist difficult. Precedents are often difficult to explain quickly and easily to the average person. Prediction around technology is fool hardy at best. Neither of these is an excuse not to continue to contemplate the weighty concerns invited by transformative and disruptive technological innovation.

I am just struggling today with trying to find some more tangible aspects, anything more practical that can help inform our day to day hacking. If you have any ideas or suggestions, especially if you are in a similar state of mind as you contemplate the effects of your vote, your participation, I’d love to hear them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *