I fell in love with the Internet in the 90ies when I discovered I could use it to talk to people from all over the world. As I started building and exploring new worlds in Second Life in 2007, I imagined a future where we can all build experiences that bring us closer together and help us learn more about the world and each other.
Sadly, we have since allowed dystopian black mirror visions take over, and we now often feel powerless as algorithms decide whether we’re worthy of attention. Tools that were supposedly designed to bring us closer together are now a source of frustration. And we feel like we have no choice but to allow tech giants to spread black mirrors to every corner of the planet, consequences be damned.
I do believe we have the power – and responsibility – to choose differently. Use technology to dream of rainbow mirrors full of opportunities and diversity. Use AI not as a tool for disinformation and data pollution, but to question the stories we’ve been told and craft our own narratives.
The stories we tell about technology matter. That is why I’ve spent the past couple of years trying to challenge the stories we tell in tech. Whether it’s by introducing new metaphors in the work I do with Tethix, or making it easier for tech workers to commit to better outcomes through Pledge Works.
It might feel like we have no power to face the surveillance capitalism that is stripping us of choice and autonomy. It feels like all we can do is complain on social media. And yes, pointing out questionable actions and talking about the dangers of AI is important, but let’s not forget the power of our own imagination.
As AI makes us question our humanity, it’s worth remembering that what makes us human is the power to tell stories that move other people. Yes, ChatGPT & co can now do it faster, but generative AI still relies on your prompts and imagination – as Hollywood execs are likely to discover soon. Yes, the way it’s currently designed, AI is poised to further the concentration of wealth and disempower workers.
But let’s not forget our numbers advantage. According to some research, it takes just 25% of people in a group to sway the group’s social norms. Unionizing, speaking up for LGBTQ+ rights, advocating for accessibility and sustainability, there are many ways for all of us to contribute to the 25%. In fact, it often feels like there’s too much to do. But here’s the trick: you just need to start somewhere. Responsibility is like a muscle, the more you use it, the more you train your moral imagination, the easier it gets.
And I get it, I have been neglecting this blog for too long now. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by the world and fell into the trap of thinking, “What’s the point?” Well, the point is not to write for reach and optimize conversion rates. The point is just to sit cross-legged at our digital campfire and simply tell my story. If Big Tech insists on their right to exploit every piece of content we publish, we can fight back by contributing better stories to the collective. Contribute to the 25% we need for change.
Today, I am writing this blog post as much for myself as for you, dear reader. A reminder of the power I and you still hold. If you’ve made it so far, may I challenge you to dust off your personal website or blog – or build one for the first time – and share your rainbow mirror story? A message of hope, a call for embracing our messy humanity, a small step in the big project of taking our power back from the few.
Let’s start imagining a world in which we use AI to replace over-compensated CEOs. A world in which writers, artists, teachers, essential workers are fairly compensated, and we all have plenty of time to think, feel, and roam. A world in which we buy less and realize we can kick off our fossil fuel addiction. Without Big Tech insisting you need to be more productive and optimize your engagement rates, how would you use your time to connect with people, recharge, and dream big?