Losing limbs, tipping, Adam Smith's mother

Tech/left news - May 13

A weekly newsletter from a socialist perspective on economics, inequality, and the late capitalist dystopia that is Silicon Valley.

Personal news

(This section is temporarily home to Game of Thrones recaps. It’ll be over next week, don’t worry.)

A thoughtful analysis by Megan Garber for The Atlantic: “Dany is a savior, and Dany is a monster, and it is impossible to know where one ends and the other begins. ¶ In that foundational ambiguity, there is despair. This is what happens, after all, when individual leaders accumulate strength that refuses to be questioned or moderated: Everyday people become subject, in the most intimate of ways, to the workings of leaderly minds and hearts and spleens. The world and its inhabitants get shaped by the fickle emotions of the powerful.”

And some Twitter content about the episode: a comparison to US foreign policy; a practical explanation for why this last season feels so rushed; and a historian’s perspective on ‘Targaryen restorationism’.

Fragments

Recommended content

  • 📖 Radicalized: A collection of four short stories by sci-fi writer and activist Cory Doctorow. It’s a thoroughly engrossing series of predictions about what our tech-mediated dystopian future will look like, underpinned by a thoughtful analysis of the horrors of late capitalism. Topics covered include: US immigration and refugees; the cost of housing; when DRM meets IoT; institutional racism and police brutality; the cruelty of a for-profit healthcare system; how you should prep for the apocalypse; and the importance of sanitation workers (something I mentioned in last week’s newsletter). Superman and Batman make an appearance in one fun story. If you’re in SF, you can get a copy from the San Francisco Public Library. Highly recommended.

  • 🔗 Facebook Caves, Increases Salaries and Benefits for Contractors: Nice straightforward labour reporting by Bryan Menegus of Gizmodo. A combination of critical press coverage (like this great piece from the Washington Post) and internal labour organising has catalysed Facebook into raising pay for its US-based contractors, from the current minimum of $15 an hour to up to $22/hour in expensive metropolitan areas like DC, the Bay Area, NYC. It’s not much, given the absurdly high cost of living in these places (especially the Bay), but it’s a start.

  • 🎥 DSA SF’s short videos on homelessness: the San Francisco chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America has been doing important work around homelessness in the area. This series of 3-4 minute videos - on interactions with police, the housing crisis, and access to healthcare - is a useful introduction to the topic, featuring the voices and stories of some who are currently homeless. I would also recommend this NBC video about the proposed navigation centre along the Embarcadero, which really clarifies what’s at stake here, and makes it incredibly difficult to sympathise with the local residents who are attempting to block the construction.

  • 🔗 The automation delusion: why robots aren’t the biggest threat to your job: an important short piece by Hettie O’Brien for New Statesman questioning the validity of the automation narrative (47% of all jobs will be automated, etc etc) and suggesting that we should instead be worrying about how digital technology is deepening employers’ control over their workers. (I came to a similar conclusion in a fragment about a tech startup that does workplace surveillance.) The article concludes: “while anxieties over automation abound, the greater risk is of widening disparities between workers. Some will have every aspect of their labour measured and analysed, while others will have the power to avert this fate, Figueroa predicts. Dystopian visions of advancing robots shouldn’t distract from the more familiar struggles we face.”