Engine problems versus Crime Scene problems

Anand Giridharadas:

What rich people don't like to do when they solve problems is talk about who did it. There's always this thing when I'm at every event I do, it's always like, "Okay, great. Yeah, yeah. But what are the solutions? Let's just move forward." [...]

I make the following analogy to people, which is, some kinds of problems are like engines that need to be tweaked. Right? And there are many problems that are analogous to that. You turn this dial, you turn this, you tighten that and you fix the engine. Other types of problems are like crime scenes. A crime scene is a very different kind of problem than an engine that's not working.

You don't show up at a crime scene and say, "You know what? Let's just move forward. What's done is done. Let's just solve this." Right?

That's a preposterous response to a crime scene.

A crime scene, it's entirely for the larger sake of preventing it -- for various forward-leaning goals -- you have to first look backwards. "Who did this? How did this happen? Where is the person who did this? How do we help the person to whom this has been done?" [...]

Kara Swisher:

I just had this long argument on a podcast with Mark Zuckerberg, right? I kept saying, "And how do you feel about what you did?"

That was painful. Four times. [...] Four. We didn't edit anything. It was four times that I asked the same question.

"How do you feel about the deaths in Myanmar and India based on your creation?" "What we really want to do is fix the problem. We really want to get to solutions. I think getting to solutions is important."

I was like, "Yeah, I got that. But what was your fault here? What did you do wrong and how do you feel about that? How do you feel about people dying? Right? Dying?" "Well, you know, solutions are what is important to us. I think whenever there's a problem, there's a solution."

"Well, you caused the problem, so how do you feel about causing that problem?" And it went like that, it was four to five times. Finally, he goes, "What do you want me to say?" I said, "I want you to say, 'I'm sorry and I cannot believe that what I made did this and I feel sick to my stomach.'" I said, "You might start there. Not to give you any cues about what it was."

But the point I wanted to make there is they can't get there, they cannot get to that idea that they are at fault or take responsibility and contemplate what went wrong. They don't want to do that. [...]

It goes against the positivity that the elites like, the relentless positivity. And one of the things, I think asked Sheryl Sandberg onstage, "Who got fired for this?" She couldn't answer. "Well, we don't look at it that way." I'm like, "Why? People get fired for all types of things when they fuck up, and it seems like this is a fuck-up. Looks like a fuck-up to me."

And she wouldn't answer... Not wouldn't, couldn't. They don't think like that. "Well, that's not how we wanna... Well, let's just move forward with this." The concept of "The bill always comes due" never occurs to people.

Anand Giridharadas:

It's hard to hear Zuck call Facebook a company. He always calls it a community. Like they're like a drum circle [when] nation state is closer to the reality. It's not just a verbal tic or a clothing thing. They understand completely what they are doing. By not being seen as power, they get to behave like babies. [...]

Emmett Carson said something very interesting. When he was at other foundations, he always talked about social justice and inequality, and those were his buzzwords. He gets out to the Valley, it's made very clear to him, very quickly -- I mean, he's a counselor to Zuck and all these others -- it's made very clear to him very quickly, drop this language. Social justice doesn't work, inequality ... You gotta stop talking like this. Talk about opportunity.

And I said, "What did you understand by having to cater and dance around these people's needs in the Valley?" And what he basically explained to me was they really want to help people, as long as, as you say, they're driving the ship. The help is voluntary. It's not the government compelling them to give money for programs the government decides about. It's them deciding where their money goes. They like to feel useful. They like to feel involved.

But can I tell you what those are the values of? Those are the values of a feudal culture.

This is feudal giving, right? I mean, to go back to where we started, when I used to travel to India as a child, the thing that strikes you is all these affluent families, they all have servants. And they all tell you, "Oh, our servant is just like family to us." The problem is the servant sleeps on the floor. There's no restrictions on their hours. They're not subject to any labor laws. Their passport is usually kept in a lock and key somewhere, which is the definition of human trafficking.

Pretty sure I have more regret for my prehistoric role in enabling the existence of Facebook than Zuckerberg ever will.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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34 Responses:

  1. Karellen says:

    I remember once, reading something, actually, when I was in India, about how one way to define the health of a society is, is its middle class a poorer version of the rich or a slightly richer version of the poor?

    That sounds like a really interesting way of thinking about that issue.

    • M.E. says:

      I've seen this type of attitude at all levels, though. Like, when you worked in software, did you have a manager who gratuitously fucked up? Not a rich guy, just a middle class guy whose job it is to administer developers. When he fucked up did he admit it and apologize? Or did he say, "Well, who knew? Anyway, let's move on..." I'm betting it was a lot more of the former.

  2. Doctor Memory says:

    I keep hoping that someone, somewhere, with pretensions of actually being a journalist will actually do a deep dive on the links between Facebook's hilariously creepy and broken internal culture ("feedback is a gift" lolololol) and the reactionary positivist gobbledegook of the Landmark Foundation, nee EST. It's like someone looked at the mortifying horror that was Cafe Gratitude and said "...but what if we applied this bullshit with a trowel to the single most powerful company on earth?"

  3. Konrad says:

    Well, they even enshrined that philosophy at Facebook: Move fast and break things. They want to move so fast as to dodge any responsibility, and they don't care about people getting hurt. They actually encourage that.

    How does moving fast dodge responsibility? Processes of determining who is at fault take time. So when that answer comes around, they're already at a completely different place. They want to outpace responsibility; "Yeah, that was in the past, but we are no longer the ones who did that, so why should we have to bother with it?"

  4. Elusis says:

    "This is feudal giving, right? I mean, to go back to where we started, when I used to travel to India as a child, the thing that strikes you is all these affluent families, they all have servants. And they all tell you, "Oh, our servant is just like family to us." The problem is the servant sleeps on the floor. There's no restrictions on their hours. They're not subject to any labor laws. Their passport is usually kept in a lock and key somewhere, which is the definition of human trafficking."

    Reminds me of an article I read recently* re: Bezos etc. and the "let's propose that individual rich people solve systemic problems" mentality, which concluded "Dignity isn't something you deserve by virtue of being born a human being; dignity is something we'll award to you if and when we feel like it and can take credit for it."

    *Switching computers several times in the past couple of weeks means my browser history is useless. It wasn't this one but this is good too: https://editor.currentaffairs.org/2018/09/companies-that-mistreat-their-customers-are-mistreating-their-employees/

  5. rakaur says:

    Programmers have always been completely incapable of even considering the remote possibility they be at all held responsible for anything, ever, and yet still insist upon bring called "engineers."

  6. jrs says:

    "How do you feel about the deaths in Myanmar and India based on your creation?"

    That question bothers me. Do we ask the same question of Tim Berners-Lee, Marc Andreessen, Al Gore(snark, 'cause I'm not sure who invented the internet)?

    Is the inventor responsible for the people misusing the invention?

    How about in a different industry? (Henry Ford, Igor Sikorsky, Mikhail Kalashnikov...)

    Yeah facebook is a cancer, But to claim that Zuckerburg is personally responsible for people misusing his communications platform is several sorts of wrong.

    • jwz says:

      Read it again, man. It was not an accusation. It was a question he flat-out refused to answer. Is it because that's what his lawyers told him to do? Is it because he's a lizard-person with no sense of empathy or consequence? Who knows. But he couldn't even manage to spit out a vaguely-human sounding answer.

      As I said in my comment at the end, I feel NOT ENTIRELY GREAT that something that I worked on played a part in fucking destroying democracy. That's super-duper not what we had in mind. And I feel NOT ENTIRELY GREAT about that.

      See how easy that was?

      • Leonardo Herrera says:

        My opinion is that his responses are 100% designed that way. But I also feel that he rationalizes the idea of Facebook being just a tool and probably doesn't feel guilt at all.

        You won't get him on record saying he's sorry for something that was facilitated by Facebook.
        (On other news, water is wet).

      • margaret says:

        Relevant: 'I Fundamentally Believe That My Time at Reddit Made the World a Worse Place'

        But you don’t think that growth solves the problems?
        No, absolutely not. It’s just gonna keep getting worse. I fundamentally believe that my time at Reddit made the world a worse place. And that sucks, and it sucks to have to say that about myself.

    • relaxing says:

      Kalashnikov is on the record expressing remorse over his famous invention.

    • Aristotle says:

      “If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith.”

  7. Lloyd says:

    there's a lot to regret. I personally would regret selling addictive drugs. But Harvard regret is special regret.

  8. Wil E. Coyote says:

    To play devil's advocate here for a moment, who cares about what Zuckerberg's feelings are? He's just one guy. If he suddenly started feeling really bad about stuff, would the problems he helped to create be magically solved?

    This is one of my pet peeves about contemporary american culture: this focus on people's "feelings", including powerful people. Lying about feelings is easy; Rupert Murdoch, Kanye West or whoever organized that Fyre Festival thing can say that they feel "really really sorry" about their fuckups, as if that somehow absolves them. We read articles about how this or that millionaire is really good-hearted and actually cares about people, and that somehow is supposed to make us feeling better about them.

    Personally, I don't care about how Zuckerberg feels. I want to know whether he's going to make amends... but of course, he can't (won't) do that either, because the solutions to this problem would be antithetical to Facebook's business model.

    • margaret says:

      Three paragraphs on how you feel about how we shouldn't care about what others feel. Tell me more.

      • Wil E. Coyote says:

        Let me put this way: if George W. Bush came out tomorrow and said that he feels terrible about all the dead caused by his Irak war, would it make any difference?

        • jwz says:

          Yes, it would. Because in that fantasy-land, he would then have become someone with a loud voice and the ear of powerful people saying, "Hey, maybe let's not do this again".

          Learning from history gives me the sads, let's just move on.

          • Wil E. Coyote says:

            All this sounds too "Great man theory" of History to me, dunno. More than a few powerful people (Brent Scrowfoot, Robert McNamara) were against the Irak war, and look how much good it did.

            Coming back to Facebook, the structures and incentives under capitalism are what they are, and how our corporate overlords personally feel about them doesn't really change the game. I mean, I believe you made that point yourself in one of your writings 20 years ago, when talking about Jim Barksdale and AOL's acquisition of Netscape:

            https://www.jwz.org/gruntle/aol.html

            • jwz says:

              Suuuuure, it wouldn't be newsworthy or influential at all if Dubya suddenly came out against the war in a country you can't spell.

              Hang on, I'm gonna go look up some stuff you wrote twenty years ago to play "butwhatabout" with.

              • Wil E. Coyote says:

                I wasn't trying to play "gotcha" with anyone; in fact, believe it or not, I found what you wrote really insightful, and it informed how I think about corporations and capitalism ever since then. Oh well, I guess it serves me right for taking you as a voice of authority.

                As for "Irak", it's how it's spelled in my mother language, and yes, I deliberately wrote it this way. Didn't know you were the type to go around yelling "speak English!" to foreigners, but I suppose I was wrong about that too.

                • Philip Guenther says:

                  If you're looking for the voice of authority try out Fenway Bergamot (c.f Laurie Anderson's Homeland and others).

                  Regarding spelling: lacking the context of your mother language, you are implicitly operating here in a context where intentionally misspelling particular words carries a subtext. If don't want your words to wear that subtext (or simply distract from your content) then you'll need to make people aware of your context up front (a nice parenthetical at first use?), or avoid all those contexts and use the standard spelling.

    • Elusis says:

      who cares about what Zuckerberg's feelings are? He's just one guy

      It's like the old joke, ""Where does an 800-lb. gorilla sit?"

      Z isn't "just one guy." He's one guy with his hands on the levers of more power than most people prior to (the election, Myanmar, World War III) ever conceived possible. When he gets a cold, democracy gets Ebola.

      It's not being all touchy-feely 80s EST-seminars/Forum-speak to say "Mr. Zuckerberg, if you dig down a little, might you want to leave the comfort of the Iron Throne for a few minutes and join us here on the mourner's bench as we all contemplate our capacity for human frailty?" It's trying to stave off the immediate arrival of the worst parts of the grim meathook future.

  9. Nick P. says:

    It seems you're mad Zuckerberg is letting his service hurt people out of apathy or personal gain. Then, you're trying to get him to change that or morally outraged or something.

    I'm confused because that’s the model Facebook is supposed to follow. It’s called capitalism: each party being as selfish as possible maximizing its own gains externalizing all loses and otherwise not giving a shit. Something like half of America votes in favor of capitalism every year. Most of Facebook’s users, esp after many news articles, that know it’s a for-profit, publicly-traded, scheming, surveillance company are supporting its evil behavior by using it. I predicted Facebook’s incentives, forced by prioritizing shareholders, would ensure they always scheme on users more over time to increase per-unit/user profit. They have with ever increasing numbers. The moral solution is to simply avoid Facebook as much as possible in favor of more ethical providers.

    There’s always been more private or morally-assuring ways to communicate. The market, both paid and free, massively votes against those providers in favor of scumbags like Zuckerberg. The choices of consumers and voters have collectively led to his dominance and wealth. As a rational capitalist, he should continue paying lip service while letting other people suffer or die. As utilitarians minimizing harm, jwz and I should be using Facebook as little as possible (necessary evil w/ family), putting as little personal info on there as possible, and sending messages through ethical, private services. Even if contacted on Facebook, we should reply back in another app if possible. This maximizes benefit to providers acting morally while minimizing (our share of) profit to evil providers like Facebook. It's called acting on principle.

    This is what I do with being off Facebook having had an enormous, social cost to me. Lots of missed stuff with family and friends. I’m actually going to have to get back on in future using it in ultra-minimal way as stated just to spot important occasions and events. Still, I’m standing up for my principles instead of just talking about principles. jwz whining that a capitalist running a publicly-traded, surveillance company should care about people more is just a foolish, publicity stunt. Even if Zuckerberg improves, jwz and pal's actions will make such an evil company look more desirable to current and future users perpetuating the evil instead of supporting non-invasive, ethical alternatives. It logically follows that jwz and others doing this are hypocrites if they aren't pushing people off Facebook or to minimize it. Also, all the time they spend whining about Zuckerberg is time he could be promoting alternatives like Mastodon, Signal, or maybe even Ghost.

    • jwz says:

      What precisely am I "trying to get Zuckerberg to do" by posting some quotes I found insightful from someone else's article?

      I find it horrifying, telling and morbidly entertaining that, as powerful as he is, with as many handlers as he has, he still seems incapable of even feigning either introspection or basic human decency. It's like his media team is not even trying. That's unusual for nation-state-level corporations.

      jwz whining that a capitalist running a publicly-traded, surveillance company should care about people more is just a foolish

      Yeah, well, choke on a bucket of cocks.

    • tobias says:

      America is worse than facebook. You pay American taxes.

  10. Nick P. says:

    "What precisely am I "trying to get Zuckerberg to do" by posting some quotes I found insightful from someone else's article?"

    Well, it seemed like one I countered that you put on your blog was trying to do. Assumed you supported their effort or stance. Looks like a bad assumption on my part. Just mentally shift that comment toward them or anyone doing that stuff as that's where it was aiming.

    I agree with your stance it's "horrifying, telling and entertaining" that his response was best he could do or would do. I'm not sure if it's a natural part of how much shit he's in or maybe something else. I got a hunch: he's just not a good politician. He was in Silicon Valley where they mostly just let him get away with anything worshipping him as an innovator or genius with media occasionally blasting him about privacy choices. Since numbers kept going up, he could just bluff past or ignore a lot of that. In mainstream media and in wider politics, he will have to calculate his every word and impression. Way more than he used to in a way that might even scare or overwhelm him.

    Dare I say most, successful politicans spent a lifetime working on that skill practicing as far back as high school or college. Zuckerberg has two choices: learn it all really fast without screwing up too much or just look stupid/emotionless/inactive. Latter is what many use, even pro's, since it often works as a fall-back. George W. Bush was master of playing dumb or simple to point many folks thought he legitimately was stupid. I saw him in debates when he was younger, though. Just flowed with the counterarguments and bullshit thinking lightning fast. Unlike him, Zuckerberg is trying those tactics without the skill to wield them properly. The contrast between his former arrogance and such reactions is friggin' hilarious to me.

    "Yeah, well, choke on a bucket of cocks."

    Keep your hobby. I'll pass.

    "I was the accidental impetus for Netscape's decision to release the browser source code, and I was one of the creators and curators of the Mozilla Organization during the first year of its life. We coordinated the open source development of the browser, which eventually became Firefox."

    Although I had to rush my comment earlier, I did want to come back to thank you for your part in any of that. Browser companies are all sketchy a bit. Even Mozilla makes money off surveillance. It's easy to turn that off, though, with DuckDuckGo or something as alternative. They and Firefox have been mostly positive... hugely positive... impact on the world. Firefox's portable runtime was also one of main options for cross-platform, desktop apps. Now, they're doing with Rust what Ada was unable to achieve in terms of uptake. Only gripe I have with Mozilla is their management throwing away all kinds of opportunities or sometimes existing users. Incompetent is still better than scheming, evil bastards. That's mainly Microsoft but Google is becoming them it seems.

    So, since I try to be fair, thanks again for your great work on that. And I love your site design, too. Old-school, hacker style. We need more stuff like that in the era of sites with text, a few images, and some JS that would crash a computer I used to run Half-Life on. I mean, seriously...? Haha.

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