we are just little vegetables swimming in software soup
Software is popular because it has an agenda … it has something it’s trying to do.
If you write the software, you set the agenda.
Therefore, software developers are writing the script for the future.
Marc Andreessen: Why Software is Eating the World (Wall Street Journal)
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More (Joel on Software):
But Twitter is small potatoes. Facebook is where the action is. Facebook quickly copied Twitter’s idea of the “feed” as a mechanism to keep you coming back compulsively. But whereas Twitter sort of stumbled upon addictiveness through the weird 140-character limit, Facebook mixed a new, super-potent active ingredient into their feed called Machine Learning. They basically said, “look, we are not going to show everybody every post,” and they used the new Midas-style power of machine learning and set it in the direction of getting people even more hyper-addicted to the feed…
…Both Twitter and Facebook’s selfish algorithms, optimized solely for increasing the number of hours I spend on their services, are kind of destroying civil society at the same time. Researchers also discovered that the algorithms served to divide up the world into partisan groups.
What is the lesson? The lesson here is that when you design software, you create the future.
If you’re designing software for a social network, the decision to limit message lengths, or the decision to use ML to maximize engagement, will have vast social impact which is often very hard to predict.
As software developers and designers, we have a responsibility to the world to think these things through carefully and design software that makes the world better, or, at least, no worse than it started out. And when our inventions spin out of control, we have a responsibility to understand why and to try to fix them.