I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of stressed. Judging by a recent survey, many of you are pretty stressed too. So rather than collecting the hottest news on any one thing, I thought I’d pull together some longer reads on a single topic — something meaty for me, and maybe you, to dig into this afternoon.
My first read, on the collapse over at Medium, is what got me started on this theme. Part of Medium’s problem is that, in addition to not figuring out how they were going to make money sustainably, they failed, in the end, to treat employees and customers with dignity and consideration. Medium employees came back from the holidays to find out they were fired, some of them through friends or other media organizations.
Botched layoffs aren’t exactly rare news and neither is a tech company forgetting the human factor. But it’s a subject I’m endlessly fascinated by.
Here is your Friday Five:
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Wasn’t Medium supposed to change journalism forever? How did it end up firing a third of its workforce and rethinking its purpose? This is a fascinating read on how a startup can go wrong between the great idea and the great payoff.
This piece is part profile of Reverend Cecil Williams of Gilde Memorial Church and part examination of how the tech industry continues to gentrify and disrupt San Francisco neighbourhoods. It’s become his mission to “heal the gap” between the city’s most and least privileged. He says: “I’ve discovered a brokenness in the tech community. They’re not always good at creating humanity.”
This is a really interesting read about the tendency to read cities as “programmable and subject to rational order;” or put differently, our tendency to see cities, complicated, messy and unreducible, as analogous to computers. Back in December I recommended an article that examined the tendency of engineers, artists and some biologists to think of the human brain as being computer-like. This comparison of city to computer suffers from the same problems — it doesn’t make sense (a city functions nothing like a programmed city simulation, in truth) and it leads to bad policy.
Earlier this week, Elon Musk claimed that humans would have to become cyborgs to compete in an increasingly fast-paced workplace, where AIs and robots are our competitors. I’m… not really sure that’s the answer, Elon, but ok. This piece from the New Republic looks at a tech subculture that’s obsessed with the augmentation and transformation of humanity