View this email in your browser

A Tech Origin Story

As a somewhat precocious five-year-old interested in everything that my brother and dad did, I always stared in awe at the giant Compaq monitor and tower combination in our house. The monitor by itself was probably the size and weight of my entire body at the time, adding to its grandeur. It had no access to the internet, so to me, it was a machine explicitly created for me to play games like Chessmaster 9000 and hone my skills against the computer so I could eventually beat my brother or dad at one of the few games that didn’t mind that I couldn’t read. 

I grew older and found new uses for computers, like creating Digimon fan art in Microsoft Paint, editing together Dragon Ball Z music videos with my brother, and creating websites to host my favorite Flash games. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I used the computer for media alone— creating and consuming art in various forms with people from around the world. In school, I would find myself volunteering to shoot videos for projects whenever possible, as opportunities to over-edit videos. A few years later, I watched The Social Network and was fascinated by the generative nature of building software. With a few lines of code and a couple of emails, Mark Zuckerberg set his campus ablaze. A few years later, the whole world. (I discovered that the movie misrepresented how cool being passionate about software when trying to make friends in my film classes.)

By the time I was choosing colleges, I had come to terms with the fact that studying art history wouldn’t take me anywhere and chose to study computer science instead, aspiring to continue to build the basis of new media. I was ecstatic about the potential of technology, trying to get involved with hackathons and startups and everything related. 

But as I learned more about how things worked and where the money came and didn’t come from, my rosy vision of the beauties of the technology industry began to fade. Learning more about inequality in the world made the insane valuations of each startup and their associated tech salaries feel markedly out of place. As venture capitalists poured money into inane companies that lacked any value or ability to make money (usually the two things you want out of a business), like Yo and Juicero, I grew suspect of the industry as a whole. It turned out that VCs were just trying to find the next cash grab and often startup founders were more often excited by potential acquisition than actually solving problems. Regardless of intent, the influx of cash into the Bay Area accelerated a housing crisis and managed to “disrupt” nearly every part of our lives.

Of course, I still ended up working in software. The world is a bit different from when I entered college. People have become more aware of the negative aspects of technology, shown prominently by the weekly data leaks by major software companies and situations like Cambridge Analytica. To work in software now and feel ethical, you have to weigh the pros and cons, which can often affect millions of people. After I worked on fast food restaurant websites and a quiz-focused media site, I realized that working on consumer products wasn’t for me, since they all relied on tricking people into things that weren’t good for them, whether it was eating a 1000-calorie baked potato or having them scroll for hours on end. Most consumer software products are a part of the greater attention economy, where your time is turned into ad revenue. 

Although my once bright view of tech has dimmed, I still hold a deep regard for the pieces of technology dedicated to media. Software has come a long way since I was messing around in Paint, with people able to make incredible pieces of design work for free in Figma, or beautiful songs in one of a million music apps out there, or bizarre and hilarious videos on TikTok (which is also imperfect). Although those pieces of software don’t get the giant valuations or dramatically change the shape of the world, they’re the pieces that I hope will continue to grow and evolve. In an ideal world, they’ll be the most important pieces of software, the ones that build the culture of the future. More than anything else, I hope kids in the future will be inspired by the incredible media and art that technology creates, and not just the ills it has brought.
The fight against systemic racism continues. With each day, we move closer to a more equitable world. Reminders:

Ways you can help

Anti-racism resources

Thanks so much for reading! If you're not already subscribed, I'd love for you to subscribe here.

Also, I'd love to hear your thoughts— you can reply to this email if you loved or hated the letter, or you want to tell me about how your day has been. I'm all ears.

Through sleepy eyes,

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

This email was sent to <<Email Address>>
why did I get this?    unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences
Nikhil · 325327 Georgia Tech Station · Atlanta, GA 30332 · USA

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp