When Software Eats the World… and People, too?

Elements of a talk given during API Days Paris, January 31, 2018

I’ll start by reading an excerpt from a paper given by 4 “evil robots” who were sent back from the future in 2082, to talk at the international CHI conference in 2013:

1. “CHI and the Future Robot Enslavement of Humankind; A Retrospective”

A paper by Ben Kirman, Conor Linehan, Shawn Lawson, Dan O’Hara (link)

 “As robots from the future, we are compelled to present this important historical document which discusses how the systematic investigation of interactive technology facilitated and hastened the enslavement of mankind by robots during the 21st Century.
“The CHI community has taken on the specific burden of responsibility to design technology such that it is usable, accessible, effective, fun and ubiquitous. On the face of things, the results of these efforts seem to make people’s lives easier, more enjoyable, better informed, healthier and more sustainable. However, the reality is that this could not be further from the truth.
“The truth is this: that we, as robots from the future, have watched over the eager, yet misguided, work of the CHI community and occasionally steered it towards its true goal: the complete enslavement of humankind by its evil robot masters.
(…)
“Although there has been a history of concern about this eventuality, the field tirelessly focussed on the improvement of technology to make it more usable, accessible and fun, while simultaneously more ubiquitous, hidden and capable of understanding and controlling the behaviour of humans. Indeed, significant effort was expended in developing systems that either directly or surreptitiously increased the workload of humans, freeing up machines to engage in more fulfilling pursuits. The majority of 21st century HCI research was for the purposes of increasing the reliance of humans on, and affection for, machines.
“Our closing statement is to congratulate the CHI community for creating the inevitability of human enslavement by machines.”

–> My question: are you, API developers, providing the back-office for this? Am I an evil robot from the future? Is Simone Cicero, who was on stage just before, another robot?

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Slow Catastrophes, Speculative Futures, Science & Imagination: Rewriting and Rethinking Sustainability

slow-catastrophes-uncertain-revivals-cover-525x600Slow Catastrophes, Uncertain Revivals (2016, free eBook) features 5 stories created by students in “Slow Catastrophes, Speculative Futures, Science & Imagination: Rewriting and Rethinking Sustainability”, a course by Michele Speitz at Furman University in South Carolina.

Taking inspiration from Project Hieroglyph‘s “visions for a better future” and an essay by Kim Stanley Robinson for the 2013 Worldwatch Institute Report (Is It Too Late?, .pdf), the course “challenged students to draw on multiple disciplines—across the sciences and the humanities—in order to create works of science fiction that might inspire us to address the multifarious complications bound up with climate change, that might embolden us to confront what some see as an impossibility: to be able to say ‘Yes, sustainability is still possible.’

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Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming

9780262019842_0Fiona Raby and Anthony Dunne use design as a medium to stimulate discussion and debate amongst designers, industry and the public about the social, cultural and ethical implications of existing and emerging technologies.

Their book, Speculative Everything (MIT Press, 2013), propose to use design as “a means of speculating about how things could be—to imagine possible futures.

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