Tech, Gov’t and Daesh

Re: Technology, Government and NoUI

I wrote a rather senseless piece on the time we lose waiting for machines to do our jobs and how that time builds up until we’ve spent, cumulatively, days of our lives watching a spinning circle or hourglass. But remember: I can only approach the subject of design as a naive, and view it through the lenses of my experiences.

As I started in the world of public policy and politics, whenever I hear that a technology or app is going to change the world, I can’t help but ask, “How?”

As someone who has an exaggerated response to injustice, I advocated for SideCar and its CEO Sunil Paul to negotiate with the city of Austin. (Uber has now become the main villain in this globally disruptive fiasco.)I want competition. There are far too few cabs in Austin. But the same rules must apply to cabbies, limo drivers and Uber/Lyft/whomever comes next. Fast food workers have to get a certification. Having your fingerprints taken — as some cities are demanding is upsetting Uber right now — isn’t very invasive or time-consuming.

See? I can’t help but view technology through the lens of good public policy, transparency, fairness and, well, political and community reality.

But I’ve read enough to have a rather dystopian view of Big Data, nudges, technological solutionism, algorithmic regulation and their ilk to be happy to read the word “ethical” in Golden Krishna’s new book when it came to the possible benefits of a world with fewer user interfaces but the collection of large amounts of data to personalize one’s experience of the world. While in this book, The Best Interface is No Interface, he, unfortunately, does not take a deeper dive into the possible moral, political, socioeconomic and other aspects of the data needed to fuel NoUI (and UIs).

Oh, and for those of you who don’t know the difference between an user interface (UI) designer and an user experience designer (UX), Golden gives a good, quick overview.

Re: Misty and the U.S. Digital Service (USDS)

According to the human resources guy at the OMB, in his email to Misty on Tuesday just before he shutdown for the holiday, she should expect an offer letter from the U.S. Digital Service‘s headquarters soon.

They want her.

I think it’s exciting. She’s definitely a bit more wary, especially having never before worked in the public sector. I’ve tried to reassure her that the people will be no different from the clients she dealt with in consulting and her coworkers will, likely, largely be from consulting firms. Her coworkers are supposed to be digital experts. Only this will be easier because she has the rank (literally) to get things done that normal employees can’t due to red tape. Granted, her (the USDS’) interventions may only last as long as they’re on site, but at least some design thinking will have been introduced and grasped for its usefulness. It isn’t easy to turn a ship full of bureaucrats.

would love it. To be able to — as mentioned earlier in this entry — use design and technology to improve citizens’ interactions with their government? Hell, yes.

I am proud of Misty, though. Landing a position like this (GS-15, no less) is stellar. It shows how much they value her skills, abilities, intelligence, creativity and past work. She interviewed with them probably either times and over 10 1/2 hours, and they hired her sight-unseen. Amazing.

She doesn’t have the offer letter in hand, yet, so we don’t know if that they offer will be sufficient (and my writing about it may have just jinxed the whole thing), but it looks like we may find ourselves on a new adventure in D.C. in 2016.

Re: Michael Ignatieff’s “The Refugees & the New War”

I disagree with Michael Ignatieff’s strategy for defeating Daesh spelled out in the current issue of the New York Review of Books. He seems to believe that if all the “allies” — Syrian rebels, the U.S., the Kurds, Britain, France, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, et al. — hug it out we can then coordinate our attacks on Daesh and defeat them. Or at least disperse them. Does anyone see this happening soon? So, I guess I should say that it isn’t that I disagree with him (a hug-it-out foreign policy would be interesting to witness), I just think he’s engaging in dangerous wishful thinking.

He covers a lot of ground in his piece, but one prediction now seems far wide of the mark — that Turkey will increasingly drift toward Russia. Somehow, after the downed jet, I don’t see that happening in the near-term either.

Look, there is no easy — or immediate — way to stop this. If we deployed troops, it would only be worse, and result in more American body bags.

Let’s be straight about one thing: Daesh is evil. I rarely use such superlatives, but it’s just true.


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