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The Tech Industry Broke The World .

Hey, are you a decision maker in the tech industry, from those who decide the strategy and direction of an entire company through to those who decide if you’re going to put a semi-colon at the end of a line of JavaScript? You broke the world. Yes, You.

May 2, 2024 in Blog 7 min read

Why is a where computers and artificial intelligence have wrestled control of the world from humans easy to imagine? What has driven science fiction writers and movie producers to make the default assumption that robots are coming?

Why is this a readily available vision in people minds when they think about the current AI revolution?

It could be because history is littered with ground-breaking technical innovations meant to push us towards a utopian society but, corrupted by a lack of accountability and governance, caused massive societal ill instead.

Social Media, The Platform Economy and Cryptocurrencies all promised to elevate society to another level, re-distributing power, enabling new commerce models, and creating global connections.

But every one of these innovations has done as much harm as they did good. The tech industry broke the world. But How do we stop it?

Social Media

When social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube launched in the early 2000s, they promised to democratise media, connect, and reconnect disconnected people across the globe.

Quickly, the business development teams of social media platforms realised that to be profitable, these platforms needed to increase the amount of time a user spent viewing their content; The more content a user viewed, the more adverts they could be served.

The product teams quickly latched onto the ability for technology to be used to trigger dopamine responses in the human brain; the more dopamine that could be triggered, the longer users would continue to scroll, and scroll and scroll….

But this wasn’t enough. They needed to create engagement, so they set about crafting algorithms to present the most engaging content to its users.

With no human nuance or curated consideration, the algorithms presented to the user the two most engaging types of content, the content that aligned perfectly to their worldview that would create happiness, love and enjoyment. And the polar opposite, that would trigger anger, hatred, fear and rage.

The more polarising the content, the more engagement it generates. No longer would people debate to find a happy medium on social media, but battle lines were drawn on all topics.

You were either with us or against us. It started with the colour of a dress, and it ended with race, religion, gender and conflict. Social media was meant to be a fantastic tool for global connection, but it ended up being the tool that polarised and divided us.

Platform Economy

Airbnb, Uber, and fast food and grocery delivery companies trumpeted a new era of work. They promised a world where trade was decentralised.

Their platforms would decentralise commercial power, connecting the customer directly to the provider and removing the control of large corporations, all in return for a small service fee.

The power never shifted to the providers. For platforms like Uber and food delivery companies that traded in labour, the power shifted to the platform.

Fighting hard against local government and trade unions protection, these platforms stripped away the rights of workers and massively increased competition for working-class service providers.

Uber even took their brand of neuve-slavery one step further. By offering new drivers in developing countries loans to purchase cars to drive for them, they locked them into long-term contracts.

As the number of drivers competing on the platform increased, the ability of the early-adopting drivers to pay off their loans decreased, putting them into unsustainable financial situations.

AirBnB offered a different approach. It allowed property owners to unlock the value of their unused property.

Pitching it as a way to unlock the value of an unused spare room or a holiday home when you weren’t using it. Once against putting the power back in the hands of ‘normal’ people.(… though there’s a debate about how ‘normal’ it is to have spare property just lying around).

Realising it’s potential property investors in popular tourist destinations they stopped offering their properties for affordable long term rental for locals, and instead repurposed them as high margin holiday lets.

Even going as far as snapping up properties for these specific purposes. Properties that were sorely needed by locals as global overcrowding drives a crisis of property shortage across the world. Families living in areas for generations were priced out of their homes.

The platform economy promised to put the power back in the hands of the people who needed it the most, but instead, it punished them.


In the original Bitcoin whitepaper revealed by Satoshi Nakamoto on the 31st of October 2008. The first line of the abstract reads:

A purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution.

The opportunity promised by a decentralised payment system that allowed people to pay other people directly potentially unlimited possibilities where large financial institutions no longer controlled the flow of money.

The political intent of the technology wasn’t heavily hidden; the genesis block of Bitcoin included a reference to a newspaper article about the British government bailing out banks after a recent financial crisis.

Shortly after Bitcoin was created, so were Bitcoin exchanges, platforms that allowed the cryptocurrency to be directly exchanged for a hard, real-world currency.

Almost immediately, members of the financial institutions that bitcoin was meant to disrupt, speculative traders, realised bitcoin could be used as a speculative trading token, as more and more people pilled in to jump on the crypo trading boom, the value bitcoin, and all the additional “alt-coins” that came after started to become incredibly volatile.

This volatility meant much more potential gain and loss for the traders but sounded the death knell for Bitcoin being a functional currency for day-to-day life. Buying a pizza with bit coin could cost you 10 euros one day, then 30 euros in a weeks time.

Once again, human greed had corrupted a technology that had the potential to solve some of society’s greatest ills.

Why does this keep happening?

I’m not anti-capitalist. But I’m not majorly pro-capitalist either. However, one thing is clear: we “mostly’ live in a global capitalist society, and capitalism is a huge juggernaut that, left unmanaged, will plough through anything in its path.

The single goal of most companies is to make a profit. Profit for the company’s shareholders. We’ve known about capitalism’s “juggernautical” tendencies for a while.

There are people within these companies trying to steer them away from crashing through important things like humans, the environment, and society!

However, they are evidently forces that push capitalism to its primary goal that care little about the journey it takes to get there.

Some of the forces are system forces, the way that capitalism is designed, for example, and then some of these forces are evil humans.

It is evident in the examples of cryptocurrency, social media, and the platform economy, the bad forces won.

They are obviously people trying to steer these technical juggernauts towards good, but they outnumber entirely the forces of evil and the system itself.

So, who is responsible

And this is why I reach out to the individuals building the mechanics of the juggernauts.

The ones building these disruptive tech boulders that crash through our society, destroying things as we go.

Did you do enough? Did you provide a hand to try and steer the juggernaut in a positive direction?

Or were you too worried about the tech?

Were you too engrossed in choosing the correct front-end routing library while people bought elections with social media adverts?

Were you distracted by trying to work out how Kubernetes is meant to work while social media caused a loneliness epidemic?

Did you spend your time tinkering with your Big O notations while venture capitalists gambled with the livelihoods of your closest colleagues?

Will you be plugged into your Apple Vision Pro while the consequences of artificial intelligence tears through our society?

While people did their best to steer the juggernaut towards the correct path, were you sitting at the back of the room playing with your toys?


I know I used to be the one sitting at the back playing with the toys.

Then I moved into leadership, and I thought trying to help make the people play with their toys mode efficiently was helping.

But now, I think we need to start to become accountable for the technology we build.

It’s no longer OK to throw the things that we build, that have a very real impact on the world, into the global mixing pot and I hope that someone else will make sure that it does no harm. We need to start challenging, thinking, asking, how do we influence how the things we build at used.

If an arms manufacturer builds a gun, is it only the person who pulls the trigger that does harm? If technology is used for harm, should the people who built it take some kind of responsibility?