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Liberatory Technology

Valhalla Weekly - Security, Software, and All Things Research
Valhalla Weekly - Security, Software, and All Things Research
Technology has massive potential. The question is whether we use it to oppress, or to liberate.

Well it finally happened...
Last week was nuts, and after like 11 issues I finally missed a week on the newsletter. Worst part is, it was done, but I wanted to have one last editing pass and ended up getting swamped by the chaos of last week.
All it means for you: you get two Valhalla Research Weekly newsletters in one week! Sounds like a good deal, right?
Liberatory Technology
I think a lot about what I’d work on if I didn’t ever have to worry about money.
If you had an infinite amount of cash, what would you do?
I think for me it would be spending my time working on liberatory technology, technology that fights systems of oppression, pro-privacy technology or pro-freedom of speech technology, just things that really help uplift the downtrodden. I spent a fair bit of time thinking about that last week, what that would look like and how I can get there, and what it really means for technology to liberatory.
One of the most formative books I read when I first got into tech was The Net Delusion by Evgeny Morozov. The Net Delusion spits in the face of the utopian idea that technology is inherently liberating, using examples like China’s massive surveillance state as key examples in displaying the oppressive way that technology can be used.
We have plenty more examples to choose from. The Snowden revelations revealing both large-scale collection of revealing metadata to concentrated, warrantless targeted surveillance of US citizens at home and abroad was a watershed moment in privacy awareness for a lot of Americans. The growth of surveillance capitalism, as Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff details, has added profit motive to the outright destruction of our rights to privacy and security.
… Is it all bad, though?
Luddites will have you believe that surveillance and surveillance capitalism are reason enough to burn everything with a microchip in a collective bonfire and return to a simpler, primitive world. I honestly can’t say I blame them, especially with as bleak as things look more generally in the world.
There is a better answer, though.
Underneath the endless war, near-death of privacy and collective numbness to newer and newer technologically enabled scandals and crimes against humanity, there is an admittedly small group of builders, makers and breakers that are using technology for good. EFF and CitizenLab take a privacy and security approach to building a better society by defending against human rights abuses in the privacy domain, hacking operations targeting activists and journalists and support, both legal and technical, for groups and individuals seeking to make the world a better place.
There are developers working for organizations like Signal, who is building privacy-centric communications platforms, activists mapping out the locations of surveillance cameras and even political parties (one of which, the US Pirate Party, I am a member of) who are running for office on privacy- and security-centric platforms.
So, as always, it’s a cat-and-mouse game. It is the powers of evil against the outgunned and out-person'ed powers of good. This power imbalance, the billions of dollars that Palantir has at their disposal compared to the paltry budget that EFF and CitizenLab wield as an example, means that none of us have much of an excuse not to join the fight. We all have a responsibility to, at the very least, support causes monetarily that support liberation instead of continued oppression. We have a responsibility to join the fight if we can, whether it be joining protest movements, political parties or privacy-centered organizations. We have a responsible to build for liberation, not for profit or for fame but for a better world.
If you’re wondering if I’m talking to you, I am.
I don’t have much of a call-to-action here, only that you start thinking about the impact you are making in the tech space. Are you supporting liberation, oppression, profit or passion? What direction are you pushing the world in? Do you have a cause you think you should get involved in?
As for me, I have a plan. Or, at least, a plan of plans. I plan on building liberating technologies while getting politically and monetarily involved in the fight for liberatory technology and adjacent movements. It’s loose, but it’s determined. My only hope is that you close this newsletter today and make your own plan.
Until next week!
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Valhalla Weekly - Security, Software, and All Things Research
Valhalla Weekly - Security, Software, and All Things Research @valhalla_dev

The intersection of security, software and politics. All things research, some things software.

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