In the dark of night our Troll-in-Chief scrolls through his mentions. Reply, retweet, ♥. The world is trembling at his fingertips.
How did we get here? The pundits may say Russia, but technology is a big part of the answer. Consider the scale of Trump’s triumph: he led a revolt against the Republican establishment, then defeated a candidate who enjoyed a significant fundraising advantage and the nearly unanimous support of American business and media.
Technology helped create the conditions for this insurgency. Decades of deindustrialization, driven in part by automation, produced the sense of crisis, stagnation, and exclusion that Trump played to his advantage. Technology can be very unfair! Social media gave him a platform, and enabled his followers to find one another and construct a common identity.
And technology will help Trump pursue his agenda. He will casually deploy cruise missiles while he finishes his chocolate cake. He will use databases and algorithms to detain and deport Americans. He will use the most sophisticated surveillance apparatus in the world to read our emails and browse our Google searches. He will delete any data that contradicts him. He will use technology to punish his enemies and he will use technology to cover his tracks.
Trump needs technology to achieve his goals.
Fortunately, tech workers and technologists are fighting back.
They’re pledging to refuse to build tools for domestic repression and pushing Silicon Valley to oppose Trump’s policies. They’re staging protests and walkouts, building new organizations and growing existing ones. They’re spreading the gospel of encryption, and developing new tools for activists. They’re organizing as workers, to protect themselves and to transform the tech industry as a whole.
Tech Against Trump chronicles this rising tide. Those in power have a strategic interest in defining the tech worker narrowly—as the twenty-something Stanford CS grad who can code eighty hours a week without asking too many questions, because perks. But the growing tech resistance contains multitudes. The tech workers organizing against Trump aren’t just the engineers and the designers, but the janitors, security guards, cafeteria staff, and shuttle drivers.
Tech workers have a common interest—and thanks to Trump, they’re finding it.
Thousands of miles from Mar-a-Lago, a tech worker wakes up. Say, in Modesto. It’s still dark. He tiptoes. He has ten family members sleeping in the apartment they can barely afford, and does not want to wake them, especially not his cousins who spend nights working the graveyard shift. He will drive nearly two hours to the tech campus where he will drive shuttles or wash floors or serve coffee. The gas is a big chunk of his paycheck.
Another tech worker rides the shuttle in from San Francisco, where she lives with three roommates. The rent is a big chunk of her paycheck. She knows she’s lucky, but it doesn’t always feel that way. Say she’s a “highly skilled” foreign national on an H1-B visa. She’s totally at the mercy of her employer. She may not know what she’s working on, but if she did, she couldn’t refuse. It’s possible she’s writing the code that will someday help deport the man from Modesto who drives four hours every day to make her coffee. It’s possible the code she’s writing will be used to deport her.
A scientist worries whether her funding or her data will still be there tomorrow. Someone with a cell phone worries about everything she ever wrote to anyone and vice versa hovering in the cloud.
Almost everyone has something to worry about.
The trouble didn’t begin with Trump. While the Troll-in-Chief brings an unprecedented level of cruelty and shamelessness to his office, the dangers he poses are not entirely new.
America has been in a forever war since September 11. George W. Bush built a national security state that spies on everyone everywhere and uses military force freely. Barack Obama expanded it—and doubled down on a draconian immigration regime by deporting three million people. Spiraling inequality and stagnating wages go back much further.
The rot goes deeper than Trump, in other words. And the resistance is broader than can be easily summarized, even among tech workers and technologists. This book is a first sketch of the territory. We’ve drawn it because we wanted to document the current moment and show how emerging struggles are connected. We wanted to help good people find one another to take things further. But no one book could include them all.
We’re going to need a bigger map.
In the months after the election, the media focused on tech leadership. Who did or did not trek to Trump Tower? How much diversity of opinion was there in this room of white people? How far would they Lean In to fascism? Who cares?
We focus on the rank and file, because the reality is that meaningful change to the system that brought us Trump is not going to come from the people whom that system made billionaires. Meaningful change must come from below—from the workers who write the code that generates those billions to the workers whose service makes their coding possible.
The current arrangement might seem natural and immutable. But, as one of our favorite futurologists once said: so did the Divine Right of Kings.
This book is called Tech Against Trump but we are not just fighting against Trump. We’re fighting for the world we want. What will that world look like? The people in these pages have some ideas.