The week in quotes (2019W38)

Sebastian Greger

The past week was dominated by the release of Edward Snowden’s memoirs and millions of people worldwide demanding climate action. Somewhat unintentionally, but not at all coincidentally, this is reflected in the limited range of topics in my saved quotes as well.

A remarkable Twitter thread by Edward Snowden, in which he outlines the threat of smartphones and the delusion of consent:

This system of predation has survived for so long because it occurs under the illusion of consent, but you were never asked your opinion in a way that could change the outcome. On the most consequential redistribution of power in modern life, you were never granted a vote.

The lie is that everything happening today is okay because ten years ago, you clicked a button that said “I agree.” But you didn’t agree to the 600 page contract: none of us read it. You were agreeing you needed a job; agreeing you needed directions, email, or even just a friend.

They can point to the law and tell us this is legal. They can point to the world and say everything is okay.
I disagree.

Also Edward Snowden, in his first ever interview on German television, making a point that links the political dimension of his work to questions of design:

In the terms of silicon valley, they want to make it a “frictionless” decision. Frictionless just means concealing the consequences, concealing the costs. They are frontloading the joy of their product while hiding from us the harms of it.

Bastian Allgeier, in a very personal blog post pointing to the various forms of denial when it comes to understanding the radical change that would be needed to our way of life:

I’m part of the problem. I see my kids and want a healthy world for them. I want them to grow old without worrying. But I’m also stuck in my privileged way of living. Just one more steak, one more trip with the car, one more cheap purchase online. How bad can my impact be? After all, the system around me has to change. But that’s just another excuse. I’m aware of that and I’m willing to do more than I’m currently doing.

Tristan Harward’s tweet - while likely overgeneralising - points out an obvious disaccord in startup culture:

What’s funny about startups in this era of climate crisis is that there’s actually a need and opportunity to literally save the world—the mission every startup says they want—and we’re still mainly making apps for the urban upper class and software for software companies.

“For the sake of life on Earth, we must put a limit to wealth” writes George Monbiot, describing plenty well why I, too, took to the streets on Friday:

A meaningful strike in defence of the living world is, in part, a strike against the desire to raise our incomes and accumulate wealth: a desire shaped, more than we are probably aware, by dominant social and economic narratives. I see myself as striking in support of a radical and disturbing concept: enough. Individually and collectively, it is time to decide what “enough” looks like, and how to know when we’ve achieved it.

A somewhat optimistic outlook to the future is provided by Al Gore’s op-ed in the New York Times:

[…] the evidence now indicates that we are in the early stages of a sustainability revolution that will achieve the magnitude of the Industrial Revolution and the speed of the digital revolution, made possible by new digital tools.

A (more or less) weekly collection of inspiring, surprising or otherwise noteworthy texts, talks and podcasts. Usually around my core topics of usability, ethics, and digital society. Previous issues in the archive.

I'm Sebastian, Sociologist and Interaction Designer. This journal is mostly about bringing toge­ther social science and design for inclusive, privacy-focused, and sustainable "human-first" digital strategies. I also tend to a "digital garden" with carefully curated resources.

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