I recently started a job at Amazon and it’s been interesting to see people’s different reactions to what I do. There’s definitely a camp of people that are excited for me to be working at a company that is shaking up the way we think about the world and retail (and just working within FAANG and the perks that come with it). There’s another group of people that give me a side eye when I say I work on Alexa. They launch into a tirade about privacy and distrust about Alexa listening to their conversations. For the most part, my mantra in life is “to each their own” so I let it roll off my shoulders. However, I’ve been giving these comments a second thought, especially when they from friends and family who work at FAANG companies or large Bay Area tech companies working on very similar products.
This leads me to a question I’ve been thinking about for the last couple of years:
Do you save the world or do you enjoy the world?
And while this might seem like a dichotomous question, I believe that it lives on a spectrum. Saving the world in every instance might actually get you killed, especially since the world is not the kindest place to live in. Some amount of self-survival instinct is needed. The other side of the question is enjoying the world. This means that you may live in conscious ignorance of the news, of the truth, or anything else that may spoil the fantasy that you have woven in your content and happy life. Now, your position on this spectrum may change over time depending on your age, where you are in your life, and your personal, professional, and emotional priorities. However, it is a spectrum.
No one can be woke about everything. There are many people that come close I’m sure, but inhaling all of the information in the world is 1. probably not a sustainable career, and 2. physically and mentally impossible with the sheer amount and plethora of information in the world. We may criticize Facebook for changing the way we think about the world (and I can definitely see what the concern is) but it is a source of media for us. People may get off of Facebook (respect), but you will always turn to SOME media source to get information. Whether it’s your friends and family (that are on Facebook or not) or the local news channel (that potentially has fake news), there are influences and forces at play that one cannot always find, trace, and eliminate. This becomes a larger question of acceptance and how we choose to live in the world. Becoming a hermit may be the only way to resist any political influences but may deprive you of all social interaction (assuming that humans are social creatures).
And for those individuals that are at the bottom of the totem pole, enjoying the world is a rung on a step ladder that is aspired towards. There are studies that show that poverty zaps cognitive function. So why shouldn’t those individuals enjoy the world when (and if) you “make it”? Privacy quickly becomes the lowest priority in an endless battle called life.
With all this said, I’m not condoning that we give up all of our personal data and stop giving a crap about privacy. Not at all. It’s important for us to remember that we live on this scale of saving (wokeness so to speak) and enjoyment (hype so to speak). Depending on the circumstance, the situation, and the context, we have to figure out what works for us (and stand up for it). There is a boundary to our ethics. You cannot be woke about everything but you’re probably hurting yourself if you’re woke about nothing.
Other related articles:
Is it important that a designer agrees with their client’s morals?
Thomas Jefferson’s Contradictory Stand on Slavery
This blog entry was inspired by Hasan Minhaj’s Amazon episode and a lovely conversation with a friend.
I’ve been told to read Yuval Noah Harari who has very similar thoughts on some of these provocations.