When you think of the tech industry nowadays, you think of the next shiny geek toy coming out, or the newest social media platform like Instagram or Snapchat, etc etc... You think about the consumerism of the industry, the next shiny thing you'll want. However, under the surface of it all, the best thing about this industry is the ability to enable social change. That's what wakes me up in the morning. That's what gets me to work.
Think about it. On February 3rd, 2003 the concept of a social network didn't exist in the common corpus of knowledge. When it launched the next day, the world changed. Staying in touch over long distances became commonplace. It became so easy in fact that now when your friend in a different time zone doesn’t message you back within 24 hours, you start to get worried. Our social networks are very powerful, not just from a technological perspective, but from what they represent. According to a 2003 study (Social Network in Humans) the most frequent social network size is 100 people. I have way more "friends" than that on Facebook, but I would agree that I only really stay in touch with around 100. However, this phenomenon has some interesting correlations. A post election report found that a "get out the vote" message in 2010 caused around 60,000 people to go to the polls (The power of social networks).
The current state of the internet allows us windows into worlds we once could only dream about flipping through a National Geographic. Truman Burbank, that wonderful character people followed in the 1998 movie The Truman Show, dreamed about going to Fiji. However, all he had was a couple posters in the travel agency to go off of, as well as what was in the library. Today, if I google "fiji", google returns to me 336,000,000 in half a second! The Wikipedia article was updated yesterday. If you went to the library, you'd be lucky if the book was updated a year ago, considering it had to be written, edited, published, printed, distributed, and shelved before you could read it. Moreover, the growth of human knowledge is exponentially increasing, and we are on the uptick of that curve. Currently, the corpus of human knowledge is doubling every 13 months (Knowledge Doubling Every 12 Months, Soon to be Every 12 Hours). THINK about that. Next year, we will know, as a human race, twice what we knew about the world right now. This has profound implications for medicine, technology, education, --INSERT THING HERE--.
But these are big picture things. What about down on the ground. What about in the neighborhoods of the poorest people in our society, where recently there has been a spotlight on the racism, segregation, and discrimination in our societies that seems to be having a resurgence, but in my opinion never really disappeared. Last year, the death of Michael Brown led to the discovery of rampant police brutality in Ferguson, MO. Walter Scott was murdered by police in North Charleston, SC just last week. We saw whisperings of this three years ago during Occupy Wall Street, when their peaceful protest was subjected to police brutality. Now, I do not begin to understand the specific issues of any of these examples, but I WAS there when the Boston Police Department used excessive force after the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, resulting in the death of Victoria Snelgrove.
It is undeniable that there has been an increase in discrimination between the have and have nots in our society as this rift becomes greater and greater (Income Inequality in the United States). The one shining light of this issue is that I have yet to run across anyone who condones the use of lethal force by police when non lethal options are avalable. Well, technology has answered this call to. There has been multiple recent efforts to release mobile apps with the specific purpose of assisting their users in documenting police violence, or assisting in case of arrest. The Mobile Justice App from the ACLU's Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oregon chapters allows users to record and automatically submit video and feedback about police incidents to the ACLU.
Recording things in public is a constitutional right, photographic, video, audio. Stranger, police, federal employees. It is your first amendment right. In case you need a reminder:
I wake up every day knowing that what I do is making a difference. While these changes take time, and my contribution falls into the noise of the tempest, it's still there. It still is part of the solution.