I am fairly slow (unless prompted!) to bring up political material in a church context. I am equally slow to bring up idle IT industry matters in same. I’m not completely sure why, but part of it is because we are primarily followers of Jesus, not defenders of a particular ideology or worshippers of technology. In fact, I think technology gets far too much cred and power in schools, businesses and other places, displacing a lot of human stuff that we humans need. Anyway, before you stop reading my waffle I’ll get closer to my point.
Actually now that I’ve moved this from a church list email to a blog post, I’ll probably waffle some more.
Surprisingly I’d not heard of Tim Bray before last week, but he used to be a VP and Distinguished Engineer(?) at Amazon Web Services (tech-heavy sister business to the book one, both sources of Jeff Bezos’ monetary wealth… along with the Washington Post, I’ve just discovered). He quit on 1 May 2020, protesting the treatment and firing of workers and some climate activist reasons. I will leave the description as simple as that and let you read more for yourself:
If he had stopped writing his blog entry about half way, I probably would have been mildly impressed, but still regarded him as a privileged Canadian man who isn’t earning quite as much – right now – as he used to.
He didn’t stop though. He spelt out some of what appears to be Amazon leadership’s thinking, linking some behaviours over a long period to more recent ones, talking about why firing whistle-blowers is bad, about toxic company culture and power imbalances. He pays some respect to some improvements they are making, but doesn’t let up about the human cost they cause, and the fact that it is not inevitable in business – all the way to this gem:
Only that’s not just Amazon, it’s how 21st-century capitalism is done.
Is done. Not “must be done”, not “inextricably linked to the notion of capitalism”, not “benefits everyone the most”, just the way it is. I want that to change, and I hopefully think he does too.
I do wonder what I would be saying now if I had been offered that AWS job in Sydney back in 2010. I wonder what all of the other tech workers at AWS are saying – they have a bit of power after all.
Meanwhile, regarding another tech business I have followed, Kickstarter is heavily cutting its workforce due to current conditions. That’s terrible, but perhaps understandable in current conditions. The element of this that stands out to me is that last year, I was hearing about how badly Kickstarter were treating some of their organising workers. Unions in the USA have a long long way to go (see Tim’s capitalism comment), but maybe, just maybe things are changing in the tech industry. Fast forward seven months, and Kickstarter United has not only formed, but had a big job to do: Negotiate on behalf of a workforce where almost half are being fired. In simple terms, they did it.
Miss Rumphius fictitiously said:
make the world more beautiful
I think these people are doing just that.
Thanks for indulging me.