Note — Feb 06, 2022

Holding to Account: On Duties of Care and Resistance to Big Tech

Safiya Umoja Noble and Meredith Whittaker interviewed by J. Khadijah Abdurahman on “how to do critical tech research, and how to insist on transformative justice practices as we try to dismantle technologies of oppression.” I pondered including this one quite a bit. From one point of view, it’s maybe a bit too ‘down in the weeds’ of AI ethics vs academia vs Big Tech. On the other hand, that’s exactly part of the problems they are discussing; the hard work of care and maintenance is too often ignored or hidden by the flashier announcements and social-media mob scenes. So yes, go read!

Also, great example of why not only are maintainers > builders but also that maintaining is harder than building. Although I always want feedback, before some hit reply: yes, builders still matter and do important work, but we need lots more emphasis on maintenance and care, and in a world with dwindling resources it’s ever more important to take care of what’s already built. And, dependencies.

The tech industry is a monopolizing force, and one of the many things it monopolizes is the means for producing knowledge about it. In the platform era, the machinery of the internet is locked behind closed doors, creating problems for researchers. […]

The ascent of AI was predicated on concentrated tech company power and resources which had, as their driving force, the surveillance business model. […]

We have to be in community. We have to be in conversation. And we also have to recognize what our piece of the puzzle is ours to work on. While it is true, yes, we’re just individual people, together we’re a lot of people and we can shift the zeitgeist and make the immorality of what the tech sector is doing—through all its supply chains around the world—more legible. It’s our responsibility to do that as best we can. […]

My voice doesn’t need to be the center of every conversation. But, okay, if I have a little power and a little standing maybe I can move capital, maybe I can ask people what they need and see what I can do to get it to them, to support and nurture their expertise and organizing and approaches, which may be completely unfamiliar to me, and may not need any advice or insight from me.