DeconstructSeattle, WA - Thu & Fri, July 11-12 2019

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[APPLAUSE] All right. Afternoon. My name is Nabil. And I'm here today to speak on computing, climate change, and all our relationships. So a few months ago, I traveled from my home in Brooklyn to Mountain View, California for a company on-site at the headquarters of the education tech nonprofit, Khan Academy, where at that time I was still working as an infrastructure engineer. And one of the activities that we had during this company on-site was the silly skit put on by a few of my then coworkers about a few social roles played by a few characters who inhabited some imaginary coffee shop.

One of them was the social butterfly character who asked the person-- the supposed owner of this fake coffee shop-- a question which I have not been able to get out of my mind ever since. How are all of your relationships? And at the moment, all of us in the room, we had a good laugh at just the silliness of the whole situation that we had set up going on here. How are all are relationships? It sounded so silly. But I was like, damn, you know. Wow. What a great question. There's so much that's just encapsulated in these few words. How are all of your relationships?

I thought about my relationships to the other people in that room. I was working remotely. And it was a valuable chance to build these connections with the people who I so often saw behind the screen. I thought of the work that I had been putting into my relationships with my friends and family and my joy and the improvements that I had seen there. I also thought of the wrong that I had done and the obligations that I had to try to repair that. And I thought not only of my relationships with people who I know, I thought also of my relationships with people who I have never met.

I thought about my relationships with the indigenous people of, for example, the indigenous Lenape people of where I live in New York. Or now I think of, what's my relationship with the indigenous Duwamish people of the land I'm standing on right now? And this idea about the relationships that we have with people we've never met is going to be a through line. I'm going to keep returning to this idea throughout this talk.

But I feel like before I can even get into some of that, there is an implicit question posed by the title of the talk that I feel like I have to address. All right. I talk about computing, climate change, and all our relationships. And so a question that I have to answer is, who is this We? How is this We-- this Us-- that apply the existence of by saying, our relationships.

I don't know how many people here are familiar with the Lone Ranger and Tonto. But they are two characters from a series of stories set in what is now the US West. The Lone Ranger is depicted at the left with the mask and the cowboy hat. And he's a white settler pioneer type. And at the right is Tonto, his Native American assistant, sometimes Comanche or Potawatomi in different versions of these different stories.

And there's one particular story where they're being surrounded by a group of Apache Native Americans. The Lone Ranger asks Tonto, what are we going to do? And Tonto replies, what do you mean, We, white man? And I'm not sure that this was intended to be a flattering portrayal of Tonto. Right? These are a very problematic series of stories in all kinds of ways.

But regardless of the intention, I actually think that there is a lot of wisdom contained in Tonto's reply. And it's something that I often identify with when people try to talk about some kind of we. And it's like, whoa. I don't even know you, you know. I think a great example of this comes a lot of times in the mainstream press in the US, which will have a lot of talk about our country, our democracy, our founding fathers, our constitution. And I'm sitting here like, these are the people who enslaved my ancestors. They never intended for me to be included in any of these things when they talk about, we the people, or any of these kind of things that many other people do identify with.

And I've had similar alienating experiences within the tech industry and within other, not only at my jobs, but at many of the other tech communities that I participate in. But for all that, I am still a part of those communities. I've been working as a software developer for the better part of the last five years. I'm one of the organizers of a conference called Bang Bang Con. I volunteer with a nonprofit called ScriptEd teaching programming to high schoolers, and so forth. I am a part of these communities of technologists.

And so I understand well that when I speak of we, I'm not speaking of a homogeneous group, by any means. I understand that we have different experiences, we come from different places, and we're treated differently even when we shouldn't be in all kinds of ways, whether because of our specific job role, whether because of race or gender or disability or nationality and immigration status or any number of other factors. But for all the differences between us, I do think that many of us are caught up-- all of us are caught up-- in the same systems. And so finally answer this question, when I talk about we in this talk, we is Global North Technologists. OK. That is the we that I'm talking about for the purposes of this particular talk.

But in answering one question, I've just immediately posed another. Right? It's like, what is this Global North? What is that? What are you talking about now? And so to help answer that question, I have a map. OK. So when I speak of the global north, I'm referring roughly to the countries in green. So it's primarily Western Europe and it's descendant settler colonies, such as the United States, Canada, and Australia and a few others, as well as just a few countries in East Asia, Japan, and the Republic of Korea. And the global south is everywhere else.

So the global north has less than 1/7 of the world's population. It takes home nearly 3/4 of the world's income. This leaves barely more than 1/4-- 27%-- for the overwhelming majority of humans-- 86%. And there is a close connection between these things that we'll explore throughout the talk. But for now, I just want to make sure that you all see at the top right here the legal for this map, the Walled World, which is a description that I believe is very apt.

In many cases, these walls are quite literal such as the case of the racist border fence being erected along the southern border of the United States with Mexico or the apartheid wall that separates Israel from Palestine. In other cases, we see the cynical weaponization by governments of natural barriers, such as the European Union allowing thousands of African migrants to drown in the Mediterranean as they attempt to reach the shores of Europe, or the thousands of asylum seekers that Australia has detained in various camps off of its northern coast. OK.

So obviously, such a crude binary division fails to capture many important dimensions of inequality in the world today. And I think it's actually a fact of the highest importance that we can sometimes see similar patterns in the divisions that exist within countries, within cities, or even within households, in terms of core periphery dynamics and which people get the lion's share of resources.

But for the short time that I have with you all today, I'm going to mostly remain zoomed out at this very broad view of global north and global south. And to give a sense of why that is and the connections to climate change, I have here a short video clip produced by Black Lives Matter UK, which was released on the occasion of their shutting down Heathrow Airport in 2016.

UK is the biggest per capita contributor to global temperature change and the least vulnerable. According the UNHCR, by 2050, there will be 200 million climate refugees.

7 out of 10 of the countries most affected by climate change are in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Climate crisis is a racist crisis.

Climate change is a racist crisis. To me, it is absolutely clear that the situation which we are faced with in the world today in terms of climate change would never have been allowed to reach the crisis point that we're at now if it looked different in terms of who was benefiting from the wealth associated with the extraction of fossil fuels and carbon pollution and all these other things versus who is suffering as a result of the same things.

And so this is the larger social context that I think we need to keep in mind when we ask ourselves, what kind of foundations are we building on as technologists? Now there's a lot of very specific work that's going on, which is very important and which I support about, for example, the biases that have been embedded in machine learning technology today. Or we think about the cultural biases of the ASCII character set.

I was very much influenced by a Brooklyn-based Lebanese programmer and artist named Ramsey Nasser, who created an Arabic programming language called Alb to explore a lot of the cultural biases that are embedded in coding. And I think this kind of work about our tools in a very specific way is absolutely crucial and should go on. But it is also part of a broader social context that we also have to understand. And I'm going to go through, very quickly, three examples, which could easily fill more than a talk. Right? Could fill volumes. But just to give a sense of some of the larger issues that are involved with the distribution of computing resources.

So I have here another map, which is one of the very few maps that I was able to find of any kind of supply chain for a cell phone. In this case, the Fairphone 2, which is produced by a company which, unlike most of these cell phone companies, has taken some effort to understand where their materials are coming from.

And so I would like just to particularly draw attention to the Democratic Republic of Congo which is a site of mining for many crucial metals which are contained in cell phones, such as the cobalt, which is a crucial component of smartphone batteries. And there's been a lot of reporting recently about the terrible labor conditions faced by miners in this work and who are, in many cases, child laborers sometimes as young as seven who are the ones extracting these metals.

So once the metals are extracted from the earth, shippers transport them to factories which are located primarily in Asia. In many cases, these factories are sweatshops typically staffed predominately or overwhelmingly by women working under very bad conditions to produce ordinary consumer electronics, such as the phone that I'm holding in my hand right now.

And so, when I come back to this question, and I ask myself, how are all of your relationships, I have to say that although I've never met any of these workers, I have relationships with them. Right? These things that I am holding in my hands pass through their hands before they reach me. And so, although these relationships are mediated by capitalism and obscured by these complex transnational supply chains that I have a very limited understanding of, these relationships are no less real for that fact. And we can choose to turn away, but that does not actually cause the relationship to go away any way anymore then you all go away if I turn back here, and I'm like, oh, my god, in front of here speaking about it in front of all these people.

To give another example perhaps more direct of how computing contributes to climate change, so I have here a graph-- and by the way, these slides are online. At the end, I'll give you a link. And that will include references for all these many things I'm speaking about and a graph which shows the share of global electricity taken up by communications technology, both from 2015-- the year that this work was produced-- with a few projections into the future depending on various assumptions about how energy efficiency might go.

And so, already in 2015, we see that it's about 8% of all global electricity usage associated with communications technology, which is an incredibly significant percentage. Data centers alone, according to the estimates that I found, consume somewhere between 1% and 2% of global electricity. And just to put these numbers in some kind of scale to give you some perspective, it's already been projected that within just two years, the electricity usage of computing is projected to outstrip that of aviation or shipping. OK. So all of the planes, all of the boats that are constantly going around, circling the earth, transporting people and goods. All right. We're talking about an enormous physical and material impact.

A lot of the metaphors that we use, I think, are very misleading. Right? We talk about cloud computing, as if our data is up here floating around with some raindrops or something or something like that. Right? No, no. The cloud is someone else's computer. It's a physical thing. It resides in a physical location. And it consumes physical resources, such as electricity.

Besides that, there's also the question of, what are we actually computing again, anyone? Now obviously, having worked as a software developer, I think that a lot of the applications that we develop are good and very useful and should continue to exist, without a doubt. But we also have to grapple and contend with the fact that computing has never been extirpated from its imperialist and militarist origins. Right?

I think it's well-known that the internet was originally a research project funded by the US government. It's perhaps less well known that phase 2 was Tor. We can go on and on with examples of this. And these legacies continue to have their impact today.

I have here another map which depicts the undersea cables, through which internet traffic among other types of data flow back and forth around the world. And I think one of the things that's most immediately striking about this image is the density of the connections between the global north compared to the paucity of connections between the global south despite the fact that the actual population distribution between the two regions is opposite.

So what this means in practice is that, let's say you're in Brazil, and you want to send a message to your buddy in Nigeria, it's very likely that this message is actually going to travel along-- it's actually going to travel north to North America before going across to Europe and then down before it can travel to its actual destination in Africa.

And some of the documents released by whistleblowers, such as Edward Snowden, reveal the significance of the fact, in terms of the surveillance that agencies such as the NSA and the GCHQ use in order to keep tabs on the behaviors of many internet users.

Finally, I'm going to choose just one last example before moving on from this discussion. This was a fact that just blew my mind when I learned it in the news late last year. And I think some folks here might be familiar with the reporting around the electricity usage of the Bitcoin network. Last time I checked, and of course, it's fluctuating all the time. But last time I checked, it was around 0.29% of global electricity just for this one network.

And there was a peer review study that just came out last Thursday projecting that it's actually going to reach 0.5% of all global electricity by the end of the year. So this map, which depicts, in orange, the countries which use less electricity than the Bitcoin network-- I think one of the things that jumps out right away is that only three countries in Africa actually are allocated a greater share of this critical global resource than the Bitcoin network.

And notable among the countries which is not one of those three is Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, which has a population of about 186 million people. So if you're interested in cryptocurrency-- if you're excited about smart contracts or the other applications of block-chain technology, I didn't come here to tell you not to be. OK? That's not why I'm here.

But what I will tell you is just to stay with this fact for a minute, when you think about, how are all of your relationships? Think about the fact that this one application is receiving a larger share of a critical global resource than all of the schools, than all of the hospitals, than all of the homes, than all the industry in a nation of 186 million people.

Now these examples from our field of competing are not just isolated factoids. Right? Again all this is embedded in a larger social context. And I'd like to choose a few examples from outside of our field to illustrate this. Now according to the first study ever done of global food waste, which was published in Scientific American about three years ago, at least 20% of food is wasted globally. OK. And as you might guess, a greater share of this waste takes place in the global north and countries like this as opposed to the global south.

Meanwhile, according to the statistics of the World Health Organization, at least 1 billion people are going hungry. All right. And that's according to the WHO. According to other measurements, the number is actually much higher. All right. So I think we can already see some of the similarities, in terms of how computer resources are distributed and how other resources are distributed, as well.

Here in the United States, there are six times as many empty homes as there are homeless people. All right. And so, it's like, well, why isn't everyone housed? It's obviously not because of a lack of resources, right? It's because of the way that resources are distributed. There's no reason that all these people should be sleeping in the streets when there are so many empty dwellings.

I think the crucial fact that we're going to have to contend with when we think about, how are we going to address these problems, is the fact that a few people are monopolizing the overwhelming majority of resources and leaving not enough for so many others. All right. The richest 1% of the world are wealthier than the rest of the worlds combined. And this is one of the main reasons that the kind of social issues that I just spoke about are not being addressed. And I think these problems are not getting better. They're getting worse.

So there are many ways to measure and inequality. There is the Gini index, which is itself not one thing. There is the relative Gini index and the absolute Gini index and all kinds of things I don't have time to go into. But again-- you can look up the citation later-- according to a measurement which I think is one of the most useful, inequality between the richest and poorest nations in the world has actually increased from a factor of 33 in 1960, which is sometimes called associated with the end of colonialism-- increased from that time from a factor of 33 to a factor of 134 in the year 2000.

And so I would say, when I look at this kind of distribution of resources, the world is as colonial as ever. And so when you think about the scale of these problems, the magnitude, the enormity of what needs to change and what needs to be done, I think this is one of the most natural questions, at least that comes to my mind. Right? Who are we going to go to? Who are we going to appeal to? Who are we going to talk to about all this and say, hey, like, this stuff is kind of really messed up. Who are we going to go to and talk to about this?

I think many people will want to go to the US government or go to the United Nations or go to some group like this, but I personally have no faith in any of these institutions. I look at the history of the United States government. I look at 500 years of broken treaties with the native peoples of this land. I look at the treatment of my ancestors and the lack of compensation that we've received for building the wealth of this country. I look at the interference that the United States government has been documented interfering with the elections of so many sovereign nations. I look at the blockade of Cuba which continues after all of these decades for that nation daring to take a different path than the one that the United States wants for it.

I think about the control that the wealthiest 1% have over the politics of this country of both parties if we look at the behavior of the Democrats, as well as the Republicans, if we look at some of the most powerful institutions, like the oil companies, that are the ones who are the most directly benefiting from and profiting from the extraction of all these resources. There was another very important document published in Scientific American a few years ago about how Exxon knew.

I don't know if folks saw this. Exxon knew. Exxon knew about climate change decades ago. Obviously, climate changes is of the highest importance to their business. They need to understand these things. So they employ scientists to study it. And they knew about these things quite a bit before the general public and were actually laying their internal plans.

Like, here's how we're going to sail into the Arctic and be able to get at some oil that we couldn't get at before once some of this ice melts. At the same time as they're funding public misinformation campaigns, trying to convince people, well, you know, the earth has been hotter and colder at different points in the past. We don't really know. So we can't really do anything about this climate change thing until more science comes in. This is the behavior of the people who are running the show now. And so I don't think it makes any sense to try to appeal to them.

This is a book, which is very important to me and my practice as a teacher, which is another type of work that I've done besides working as a software developer. And in it, there's this quote. "Dialogue cannot occur between those who deny others the right to speak their word and those whose right to speak has been denied them." OK. So this quotation gives some sense of who it is who I am interested in talking to and who it is who I'm not interested in talking to.

OK, I'm interested in talking to you. That's why I'm here. I'm interested in talking to my neighbors. I'm interested in talking to organizers and activists who are fighting against this problem. I'm interested in talking to climate scientists. I'm interested in talking to quite a lot of people.

But I'm not interested in talking to the wealthiest 1% and all of these people, OK? They have access to far more resources than I ever do. And they could have been doing far more about this for the entire time if they wanted to. They've been choosing not to.

And when I think about the direct opposition of interests that exists between these people and the rest of us, I think often of this simple quote at the top here. "Whatever is good for the oppressor has got to be bad for us." So this illustration is due to Emory Douglas, a revolutionary black artist who was a member of the Black Panther Party.

And so for those who are unfamiliar with their work, the pig was the symbol that the Black Panthers used for imperialism, not only for the police-- certainly for the police, which is the most common usage still known today-- but also for soldiers and politicians. And we have here-- so the pig rocket with the stars and stripes represents their view of US imperialism on the moon. And we have to pig overseers. One of them saying, hey, handle those slaves with care. We're going to need them for Mars, Pluto, and all the other planets.

The other one is saying, OK, goddammit. Don't take 400 years this time. And then one of the enslaved workers at the bottom is saying, I knew we should have stopped this shit before it got off the ground.

This is the image that comes to my mind when I think of Elon Musk. This is the image that comes to my mind when I hear Jeff Bezos say, you know, I've got this $100 billion fortune. And there's nothing better that I can think to do with it than space travel. OK. He was widely and deservedly mocked on Twitter for this by many people saying, hey, why don't you maybe do something about the water in Flint with all that extra money that you don't seem to have any idea what to do with?

And yeah, whatever is good for the oppressor has got to be bad for us. There is a direct opposition of interests. And so, to go back to the quote about dialogue, right. I think it's ridiculous to think that one of these warehouse workers sweating in these un-airconditioned warehouses to make Jeff Bezos rich is going to sit down and come up with some kind of rational solution with Jeff Bezos by dialogue. OK. That sounds to me just as ridiculous as the idea that one of my enslaved ancestors, such as Frederick Douglass, should have sat down and talked out their freedom with their slave master.

And so, as I return once more to this question of how are all of your relationships, I think there's an-- how are all of your relationships, right? We as technologists have to see ourselves in the broader context of these political struggles which have already been taking place. And so we have to remember that there are no purely technical solutions to political problems. As technologists--

[APPLAUSE]

As technologists, we most certainly do have our role to play, and we have our contributions to make, in terms of addressing all of these things. And I'm going to return to the discussion of technology in a moment. But we have to remember this. There are no purely technical solutions to political problems. And so, when I think about the different institutions that exist now and how I relate to different ones of them, I don't feel the same way about all of them. Right. I think one of the questions that I use to summarize my complex thinking about all these things, trying to understand how all of these different pieces fit together is this question. What must be burned, and what can be saved? And so I'll give one example from each category from some of my past work.

So back home in New York, I've done some organizing in the movement for Black Lives, mainly with a group called Millions March NYC. We worked with the family members of numerous people who were murdered by the NYPD. We started a campaign to shut down the racist torture chamber of Rikers Island. We had an encampment at city hall park, making various demands of the city government. And we did some other stuff.

And the political position that we arrived at over the course of this work was for police and prison abolition. The more that we studied the history of this country, as we understood that the police in this country are the direct lineal descendants of the slave patrols, as we started to understand the role of the 13th Amendment in actually not abolishing slavery-- if you read the text of it or if you know Ava DuVernay's documentary about it-- that prisons are plantations where people continue to work as slave laborers for the profit, either of some private corporation or a public entity, in many cases. They work for the profit of the state.

And so when I think about these things, I think there's absolutely no way that institutions like this can be fixed or reformed or saved. Because they are not broken. They were designed to be racist, and they work well. And that's why I say, fire to the prisons, abolition now, all right? I don't believe you can save institutions like this.

But there are many other institutions which also have very deep histories of racism, which I actually don't feel the same way about. So I mentioned before that I've done some work as a teacher. I've done that on a part time basis, on a full time basis, and on a volunteer basis, both in New York and in Arkansas. And despite the deeply racist and problematic history of schools and all the terrible things that go on every day, I don't think you can just set fire to all of them, right?

I don't feel the same way about schools as I do about prisons. And I hope that our field of computing might fall into this latter category, as well. That despite all the wrong and the harm that the technologies that many of us have participated in building have done, that there's also great beauty and youth that we can contribute to if we see ourselves with the people who need it and not with the Elon Musks and the Jeff Bezoses of the world.

So I'm not sure if people here are familiar with the work of Bret Victor. But he wrote an article called, What Can a Technologist Do About Climate Change, which has been an enormously valuable resource to me as I study these issues. There's a lot in there about the need for clean energy, for producing it, for moving it, all kinds of things. I do recommend reading it. But despite all that I learned from it, I do have to express my disagreement with the political perspective that he carries throughout the piece.

There's more of that than I can get into in the limited time that I have, but one quotation from it-- Victor writes that it's the role of technologists to create options for policymakers. Now I've already shared my view with you of policymakers. Right? You all already know what I think of these policy makers. So I'm sitting here, like, which way-- which policymakers are we talking about?

Global north policymakers are either the ones who directly caused this problem or utterly failed to prevent it, despite whatever good intention they may have had. So some of them, they may have been trying their best. Others of them are like Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon, who was the Secretary of State of the United States until two months ago. And meanwhile, Donald Trump has announced that the US is going to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accords which are already inadequate and are now going to be almost completely useless in terms of keeping the world below this 2 degrees Celsius climate target. And so I place absolutely no faith whatsoever in any of these policymakers.

I think that as technologists, we need to create options for the people. We need to see ourselves with the masses of people who are being affected by climate change and not mobilize as if for war. This is a metaphor that I see many people use, which I think is completely wrong. There are numerous quotes in this piece by Bret Victor, What Can a Technologist Do About Climate Change, quoting some of these scientists talking about the role that they played in World War II. And I'm sitting here like, did we learn anything, as a community, from these physicists? Are we going to build another atom bomb and put it into the hands of these people? I don't want to do that. I don't want us to do that.

And so due to the differing interests of these different groups, I think this question, how are all of your relationships-- I wish I was able to have a good relationship with everyone. I wish I could. I wish. But when I think about the clash of interests, it's simply not possible. How could you have a good relationship with an agent of the US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and also have a good relationship with an immigrant who they're deporting? Now what kind of sense does that make? How could you have a good relationship with a US soldier and also have a good relationship with the people who they're bombing? It just doesn't make sense. And so this question, how are all of your relationships, leads inevitably to another question.

Which side are you on? Which side are you on? Are you with the people who are-- there's already the greatest number of refugees in the world right now. 65 million. This is the world record, projected to climb even higher in the coming decades.

Are you with them? Or are you with the police who are at the borders trying to keep them out of where they're trying to go in order simply to live? Just to live. Just to live. There's a quote, sometimes attributed to an individual, but I'm going to attribute it to a group. "If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you've come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together."

There's another quote, which I will share with you all, which I think is very different in tone, but actually quite similar in meaning. "The coalition emerges out of the recognition that it's fucked up for you in the same way that we've already recognized that it's fucked up for us. I don't need your help. I just need you to recognize that this shit is killing you too, however much more softly." This is how I hope that we, as technologists, will understand ourselves and see our role.

So I don't know how many people here might read the environmental news website, Grist, but they were in a piece last a year which gave me nightmares, called Ice Apocalypse. And it was about a glacier on Antarctica that basically, because it's on land, if it melts, will contribute much more to sea level rise than pretty much anything else in the world. Scientists seem to agree that it will melt. The question is, when?

And of course, there's various possibilities for when that might happen, depending on the assumption that they make in their models, one of the most important ones being the level of carbon emissions. And it's projected that with significant cuts to carbon emissions, this glacier might still be mostly intact in the year 2,200. On the other hand, if emissions continue the way that they've been going, then this glacier might have already mostly melted by the year 2050. And this will contribute to about 11 feet of sea level rise, which would have catastrophic consequences, in terms of flooding in many major cities, including Dhaka, Mumbai, Ho Chi Minh City, and New York, where I live.

They wrote that if this 11 feet of sea level rise occurs, that there would be flooding on the scale of Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey twice a month. I'm like, twice a month. This is one of the worst I've had in a long time, and I read a lot of bad news. Twice a month.

I'm sitting here like, damn. I'm about to be one of those 200 million climate change refugees that the guy in the video was just talking about. And yeah. I don't know. I'm certainly not the worst off in this whole scenario, by any means. I have a lot more means at my disposal than a lot of these people do. But at the same time, I think, I'm not going to be going to Mars with Elon Musk. There's no way he's going to give an invitation to someone like me or my mom.

It's like, even if I was to somehow ingratiate myself into these networks, it's like, what about my community? What about my disabled neighbors who live down the hall from me in my building? What about my cousins? What's going to happen to them in this situation? I do think about myself. But I don't only think about myself.

And so, again, that's how I think. How are all of your relationships? We have to consider all these things when we think about the work that we do and how it relates to all of these larger issues.

There is another quote from my honored elder, Assata Shakur, who was also a Black Panther. She was railroaded by the US government and imprisoned. She escaped from prison and fled to Cuba, where she still lives free today. She said, "Nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them."

That's not how my ancestors freed themselves from slavery. That's not how the Haitians freed themselves from slavery. That's not how colonialists were expelled from Africa and Asia and all these other places. And I don't believe that's how the broad masses of people in the global south and those of us in the global north who see ourselves with them are going to overcome the issues of climate change and all these problems of the monopolization of wealth that we see today.

So this is the real question, right? What is to be done? What are we going to do about all this? And again, once again, for the purposes of this talk, the we that I'm talking is global north technologists. Right? There's a lot that a lot of groups need to do, but what kind of sense would it make for me to stand on the stage before a conference of software developers to talk about African miners need to do this and Asian sweatshop workers need to do that? I'm talking about, what should we do, as technologists? I think we have to organize among ourselves against imperialism.

I don't know how many people have been following what's been going on at Google, in terms of the open letter and the resignations against Project Maven. But I very much support what these Google workers are doing. I stand with them. I think the entanglements of Google with the military industrial complex are far deeper than this one project. But we all have to start somewhere. And I support them in this work. There's a lot more work of this type that could be done in many other organizations.

I think as technologists, we have a unique ability to share our knowledge and expertise with others in our communities about how we can counter high tech surveillance and repression. This might mean training other people to use tools like Signal and Tor. Or it might mean actually very low tech things, like maybe making sure people know to wear a mask so that they don't get recognized by official recognition, or put some gravel in their shoes so that their walk can't be analyzed by these gait analysis algorithms.

I think we can. And all this work is already going on. I'm going to highlight and lift up some of this work. We should be building social computing spaces to change our relationships so that people of diverse abilities, ages, genders, nationalities, and so forth can come together, explore their common and unique interests in settings which are designed to encourage popular knowledge of technology, and let it not be something which is held in the few hands of some small elite, which is something that which actually can be controlled by broad masses of people.

I think we can learn to design technology with ecology in mind. I've read the Bitcoin paper a few times. And there's a lot of discussion in there about who controls compute power within the network, and what are the security implications of collusion among certain groups? And the 50% attack, and this and that, and so forth. And there's really no discussion of, like, what are the actual physical resources that are going to be required to run this kind of thing?

And I wonder-- I studied math and computer science at college. And there was literally, not once, in any of my classes, any discussion of these kind of material impacts. And maybe that should actually be part of our curriculum. Maybe that would be part of how we, as a field, can think about our responsibility to address climate change.

I think we need to see reductions in consumption by well-off classes. I think a lot of times the discussion about consumption takes a very individualistic tone, which I think is not helpful. I think we do have to think of it collectively. But consumption ultimately is the flip side of production. And it's not only the 1% who are consuming an outsized share of global resources, there are many other classes within the global north, particularly, and even rich people in the global south who are consuming more than they really need. And that needs to be reduced so that more resources can go to others.

I think as technologists, who in many cases, are making quite a lot more money and doing financially a lot better than the majority, we have a duty to subsidize people who need the resources, in many cases, more than we do. And I'd like to take a moment to highlight the work of a group called Cooperation Jackson. Now Jackson, Mississippi is a mostly poor 80% black city in the deep south. And Cooperation Jackson is a group which is engaged in a whole range of initiatives around worker cooperatives and building a solidarity economy with the explicit goal of building socialism, despite all the hostility that you might imagine would come with a task like this in a place like Mississippi.

One of these initiatives is called the Community Production Initiative, where they're trying to acquire 3D printers and laser cutters and other high tech equipment, train people from the local community to operate it, and use it to produce goods directly for the use of the local community instead of being caught up in some of these transnational supply chains which do not have the interests of a community like Jackson, Mississippi at heart. I support this work. And I urge all of you to donate as they fundraise trying to reach these goals.

And I'd just like to take a moment to address some of the rhetoric around diversity inclusion, which is something that, in many cases, I actually don't support. I think we always have to question, inclusion in what type of system? I wrote an article last year called, Against Black Inclusion in Facial Recognition, where I analyze basically who controls this technology, and where are they going to use it for?

And I say that, given the fact that it's mostly the police who are using it to target and surveil members of my community, I actually don't want them to get better at that. And so, I don't think that we can always just say, you know, we need to make sure everyone is included in this. We need to make sure everyone's included in that. We have to put these questions into some kind of broader context.

And this is also one of the main political lessons that I took from the presidency of Barack Obama, the first black president who went into the White House, and then did the exact same things, basically, as all of his white predecessors. I don't support a change in the complexion of who is carrying out oppression. I don't support a black person bombing Somalia any more than I support a white person bombing Somalia. I want to see a change in our relationships. I don't want to see just a change in superficial things like this.

And I'm not going to dwell too long on what I think the consequences for us will be if we don't do these things. But I'll just say that some of the actions that we've seen so far, in terms of like blocking the Google buses and other things to make gentrifiers feel unwelcome in San Francisco, is extremely mild. It's just the beginning. If we look at the consequences that have faced collaborators in anti-colonial struggles, for example, I think we should really think very carefully about which side we're on and whose lot we cast-- which side we cast ourselves in with when we think about the desperate measures that many people may be forced to take simply in order to defend themselves and to get to just basic survival under climate change and these other scenarios.

And so, as I ask one last time, as I prepare to conclude this talk, how are all of your relationships, I hope that I have made my perspective very clear for all of you throughout this talk that I'm not asking for charity work-- that I am not saying, like, oh, how can we as privileged, well-off people help those poor unenlightened people over there? That is simply not how I view it. I view it very differently. And to drive this home, I leave you with the words of James Baldwin speaking in 1962, in a time, in some ways, very different from ours, in other ways, not so different. His words really resonated with me following the organizing work that I previously mentioned and the movement for Black Lives. And I hope that these same words resonate with you all today, as well.

I am tired of being told, well, not only to wait, but I'm tired of people saying, what should I do? They mean, what should I do about the Negro problem? What can I do for you? There is nothing you can do for me. There is nothing you can do for Negroes. It must be done for you.

It must be done for you. We must repair all of our relationships, not for anyone else's sake, but for our own. Thank you.

[APPLAUSE]