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Introducing a newsletter about the technology we have, the world that creates it, and the world created by it.
Welcome to THE TECH BUBBLE, a newsletter focused on the political economy of technology. Our goal is to provide commentary, reporting, and interviews on the financing, design, development, and deployment of technology, and to explore the ways in which it impacts our politics, social relations, and culture.
For the past three years, I’ve been a staff writer at Motherboard and focused on writing from a Luddite perspective that argues technology should prioritize socially productive ends over other goals such as maintaining market position, maximizing profits, or achieving social control. Broadly speaking, a Luddite POV argues that certain technologies should not exist at all, or that they should be more carefully planned and regulated rather than left to the discretion of those whose interests do not align with the public good.
The roots of technological development in this country and the world have historical roots that lend it to harmful ends, but since 2008 we’ve seen an explosion of particularly noxious and exploitative arrangements that cultivate precarity, ubiquitous surveillance, an erosion of democracy in our politics and workplaces, militarization, and systematically risky financial speculation. Critically understanding all of this is integral to charting a course out and pursuing alternatives.
All this does not simply boil down to opposing certain products or services, however. For example, while we may be uncomfortable with the proliferation of on-demand startups, the solution is not just to demand better treatment for gig workers. Instead, we should be working towards a system where people have reliable access to necessities like food, transportation, and housing without relying on a precarious workforce. To get there, we must consider why startups rather than political institutions or communities are providing these services, how our reliance on startups shapes our understanding of problems and solutions, what technologies are not being developed because they do not fit the business model of these startups, and what interventions are needed to challenge the incentives that drive this arrangement.
Imagining technology as an object that exists in a vacuum independent of history, politics, economics, and so on is a dangerous delusion entertained by the people who stand to benefit from the status quo. And so, to truly address problems of our day that overlap with various technologies, we must reform or overhaul the systems that use tech to reorganize daily life into more profitable forms.
Below are a few examples of stories I have written that align with this focus on critically examining technology and exploring alternatives:
Why SoftBank's $100 billion Vision Fund’s attempts to create a multitude of tech monopolies under the guise of the tech bubble have failed
Inside the consequences of Uber wasting tens of billions of dollars on turning a broken business model into a monopoly
A look at some of FTC Chair Lina Khan's more radical antitrust ideas such as structural separation
How Uber and Lyft’s attempts to avoid paying drivers a livable wage resulted in drivers sleeping in their cars, mass layoffs, and mental health crises
A deep dive into Axie Infinity, an NFT game built on crypto speculation and exploitation of Filipino workers that spectacularly crashed
Why crypto markets are rife with fraud and built on speculative bubbles
How effective altruism and longtermism created the moral bankruptcy that fueled FTX’s fraud
A first-hand look at crypto’s takeover of SXSW in 2022
On the rise of gambling across multiple sectors of the economy during the Covid-19 pandemic
The stakes of the debate over whether inflation was being driven by Covid-19 stimulus spending, supply chain shocks, or corporate market power
The reasons behind Facebook's desperate efforts to create the metaverse and a peek at social media’s deeply dysfunctional political economy
How technology development could be driven by the public rather than markets
How gig economy companies manipulate media coverage and undermine labor laws to avoid accountability
A look at why on-demand food delivery is fundamentally unworkable when privately-run for profit
My desire with this newsletter is to try and cultivate a community of skeptics and critics who understand that while there is little to be optimistic about in the tech we have today, there is plenty to look forward to in the tech we can have—but only if we fundamentally challenge and ultimately change how it's designed, developed, and deployed.