“Alexa – End Racism Now!”

It’s intriguing, this idea that injustice is perverting or transgressing a natural, higher order, so that all you need to do is stand up and bear witness and it will somehow be automatically sorted out by “The Powers that Be” or by “The People”. Everything will naturally fall back into its just and philanthropic place, without further effort from you. 

Ours is such a highly organised and managed world. I think we’ve become used to being served, spoon fed, complaining to the management and demanding that they do something: “Siri, dim the lights”, “Alexa, end racism, now!”

It all has echoes of Deism or Free-market Capitalism, both of which believe that beneath social conventions and human behaviours, there’s a fundamental, beneficial framework that would naturally sustain and protect you, if you could just get back to it[1]. (“The market will provide.”) 

I think this is reinforced by our experience of the internet. We believe our freedom is somehow underwritten by a sustaining, foundational framework. This is echoed by the computer platforms that serve us. They are pre-constructed by the Great Coders in the Sky (well, Silicon Valley) for our benefit. They constrain our choices, allowing only activities for which there is a button, but they won’t let us down.

It’s true that hackers can introduce viruses and malware and occasionally crash platforms but, so far, nothing catastrophic has occurred. Coders and hackers themselves work with infallible systems, and seem to believe in a nurturing and protective universe. Why else would Facebook think that, “Move Fast and Break Things” was a good slogan? Of all the slogans language would allow them, they opted for the most reckless and complacent[2]. If you break everything, all you are left with is fire, darkness and the knife.

[1] It also reminds me of deluded communists hoping that, if they could just get word to “Uncle Joe” Stalin, he would stop their persecution by his underlings, which he must not know about, or he wouldn’t allow it.

[2] Humankind’s great ability is creativity. We should celebrate what we have made. It is a consumerist fraud that the new is always better and everything must be dismantled and remade so it can be resold. But then, Silicon Valley has always been deeply capitalist and, for all its swagger, deeply conventional. 

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