Tech Is Broken. How Do We Fix It?

This Wednesday, we have the pleasure of hosting Moria Weigel and Ben Tarnoff, two prominent tech journalists and authors. Both Moira and Ben have written extensively about the tech industry and the increasing scrutiny of these industries.

In late summer, Moria authored an extensive piece in the Guardian, Coders of the World Unite: Can Silicon Valley Workers Curb the Power of Big Tech?  She writes, Big Tech is broken. Suddenly, a wide range of journalists and politicians agree on this. For decades, most of the media and political establishment accepted Silicon Valley’s promise that it would not “be evil,” as the first Google code of corporate conduct put it. But the past few months have brought a constant stream of negative stories about both the internal culture of the tech industry and the effect it is having on society. 

However, workers are beginning to rise up!

Ben states in a Guardian article, An unprecedented wave of rank-and-file rebellion is sweeping Big Tech. At one company after another, employees are refusing to help the US government commit human rights abuses at home and abroad. At Google, workers organized to shut down Project Maven, a Pentagon project that uses machine learning to improve targeting for drone strikes – and won. At Amazon, workers are pushing Jeff Bezos to stop selling facial recognition to police departments and government agencies, and to cut ties with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice). At Microsoft, workers are demanding the termination of a $19.4m cloud deal with Ice. At Salesforce, workers are trying to kill the company’s contract with Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

The media has been following this story closely. But so far it has missed an important part of the picture. Journalists have largely described these campaigns as examples of “employee activism”. That isn’t quite right. The reason these campaigns have gotten traction isn’t because they’re led by activists. It’s because they’re led by workers. They’re labor actions, in other words – and that’s what gives them their power.

Please join us for this fascinating discussion on the nature of activism and the power of workers in the ever-expanding dominance of Silicon Valley.

For further reading, here are additional links:

Weaponised AI is coming. Are algorithmic forever wars our future?

Mark Warner is Coming for Tech’s Too-Powerful

The Digital Commonwealth: From Private Enclosure to Collective Benefit