Saturday, March 23, 2013

The 'hacker superiority complex'

A couple of questions from an interview with Jaron Lanier in the Spectator, to which he provides interesting answers.

You criticize the culture of the tech world several times throughout this book, but you are also part of it: can you explain this paradox?
There are a lot of very positive things about the tech world. It’s remarkably unprejudiced and I’ve never encountered racism in it. There are a lot of good qualities, so I don’t want to criticize it too much. I remain in it, and I enjoy it. However, there is a smugness, or a kind of religious aspect to it. There is a sensibility that says: we have skills that other people don’t, therefore we are supermen and we deserve more. You run into this attitude, that if ordinary people cannot set their Facebook privacy settings, then they deserve what is coming to them. There is a hacker superiority complex to this.

Do you think this culture of superiority in the tech world is making society less democratic?
Well I think this culture really undermines our discipline because to me the only proper way to describe the profession of engineering is to serve people, otherwise it’s not a sensible activity. There is no rational basis without people as the beneficiaries. Just in order for me to function sensibly I need to believe in people, not robots. When we don’t put people at the centre of the world, I think we create rather bizarre technologies that don’t tend to make sense.

1 comment:

Geoff Coupe said...

"It’s remarkably unprejudiced and I’ve never encountered racism in it."

Hmm. Not exactly my experience from 40 years of working in the tech world. And while Lanier can claim that he personally has never encountered racism, I doubt that he could claim that there is no sexism in the tech world.

Attitudes towards women in tech remain depressingly, embarrassingly, endemically, awful.