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Response: Breeding the tech elite

09 Feb

Issues surrounding gentrification, and ethical dilemmas involved with joining the ‘technical elite’ are excellent topics to be discussed. UC Berkeley is one of the best places to host such a debate, given our proximity to Silicon Valley, our acclaimed Computer Science programs, and our history of activism. However, the Daily Cal’s recent article about “breeding the tech elite” does nothing to begin such a conversation.

Briefly:

1. The author’s descriptors are highly offensive. 

“disheveled, slightly nerdy types”

“computer majors look geeky, not like they’ll be making six figures”

In what way is a subjective judgement of someone’s appearance relevant to the discussion?

2. The author vacillates between glorifying and villifying technology, and users of it. The author’s own apparent anxiety surrounding technology indicates a level of discomfort with the subject matter that does raise questions. Unfortunately, these questions are about the author’s own relationship to technology rather than questions regarding the relationship of technology to the rest of society.

“I wandered out of the meeting imagining what I’d do with UC Berkeley’s Google glitterati. We’d discuss code (do you discuss code?) over breakfast and debate Facebook and Google Plus while marching to Pimentel Hall. Maybe, with some time, I’d even end up on a Google shuttle myself.”

“As an English major who uses even Google search with a hint of anxiety”

“As quickly as James brought me into his world of high-tech gadgets, seemingly secret societies and computer science whizzes at UC Berkeley, he just as quickly and violently rejected me.”

Along with my fellow CS major Jesca Wong (who wrote her own, excellent response), I work hard to encourage everyone to explore the world of programming. I am extremely disappointed in the hostile and stereotypical portrayal of my fellow Computer Scientists. This was lazy writing at best, and deliberate sensationalism at worst.

As for the actual issues at hand, I am interested in participating in a real debate on the subjects at hand.  Namely:

  1. Gentrification, who it affects and how, and whose responsibility it is.
  2. Use of public space by private companies, and question about whether (and how) the industry has a responsibility towards creating a public space that is actually public.
  3. How individual choice regarding what company to work for can play a role in what types of companies are successful, and how an educational institution can encourage thoughtful consideration of these issues.
  4. How those with less understanding or experience with technology can feel alienated, and questions of how to create a positive learning environment for people new to the field.

 

Let’s start an actual conversation.

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Posted by on Sunday, February 9, 2014 in fractally weird

 

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