A photograph of a person working.

A time-motion study by Frank Bunker Gilbreth and Lillian Gilbreth from the early twentieth century.

Disruption: A Manifesto

The Editors

Everybody wants to tell the story of technology.

Technology is a scourge!, technophobic scolds tweet from their iPhones. Technology will fix it!, techno-utopians proclaim on Medium. Indistinguishable middle-aged men tout indistinguishable products in front of a press all too eager to write gadget reviews indistinguishable from ad copy. Companies tank; companies IPO. Legacy media editors commission lifestyle pieces about CEO sneakers and office cafeterias brimming with lacinato kale. Press releases are distributed and regurgitated on TechCrunch. Academics write screeds against Facebook and post them on… Facebook. We can’t stop watching. We’re so, so bored.

Tech is magic. Tech lets us build worlds and talk across oceans. Whatever kind of freak we are—and most of us are several kinds—tech helps us find other freaks like us.

But most tech writing is shallow and pointless. It’s nobody’s fault; everyone is just doing their job. Communications teams feed reporters winning anecdotes about their founders that explain exactly nothing. (“One day, Chad was eating a ham sandwich and realized…”) The reporters are overworked and underpaid and need to file a new story by EOD. Who can blame them for taking the bait?

Editors are desperate for shareable content, which too often means some kind of caricature. Tech is either brilliant or banal, heroic or heinous. The best minds of our generation are either curing cancer, or building a slightly faster way to buy weed. The robots will either free us from drudgery or destroy civilization. Hate-click or like-click, the stories tend to be about a handful of people. The pasty boy genius. The tragic token woman. The fascist billionaire. The duo of white dudes dueling to lead us to Mars.

We deserve a better conversation. By “we,” we mean you, because everyone uses technology. We are all both its subject and object. Tech is how you find the place you live. It’s how you turn your car into a taxi or your spare room into a hotel. Tech lets you see the faces of the people you love from thousands of miles away. It helps you buy clothes, and track the steps you take trying to fit into them. You use tech to order your dinner, find a date, or at least stream the video you masturbate to when you don’t have the energy to go out.

Someday, when you do swipe right on that special someone, and they swipe right on you—it’s a match!—tech will shape how you flirt, how you define the relationship, how you plan and brag about your wedding. When you have children, you will use tech to track their development and find a babysitter. By then, maybe the babysitters will be robots, and school will be software. As we grow old, tech will help you find a caregiver. Your children will manage your physical decay remotely via app. When you have a bowel movement, they will receive a push notification. They will know what to do. They will have been on Instagram since they were a twinkle in the first fetal ultrasound photo you posted. The NSA will have been spying on them since before they were born.

The stakes are high, is what we are saying. Like you, we are both insiders and outsiders. Luckily, this is exactly the position you need to be in to observe and describe a system. In the social sciences they call it “logic”: the rules that govern how groups of people operate. For engineers, “logic” refers to the rules that govern paths to a goal. In the vernacular, “logic” means something like being reasonable. Logic Magazine believes that we are living in times of great peril and possibility. We want to ask the right questions. How do the tools work? Who finances and builds them, and how are they used? Whom do they enrich, and whom do they impoverish? What futures do they make feasible, and which ones do they foreclose?

We’re not looking for answers. We’re looking for logic.

This piece appears in Logic's issue 1, "Intelligence". To order the issue, head on over to our store. To receive future issues, subscribe.