Sign in

OneZero
The undercurrents of the future. A publication from Medium about technology and people.

Society

In OneZero. More on Medium.

No One’s Driving

The big boat may be unstuck, but our deeply technologized, infinitely complex economy is just beginning to get jammed

Welcome to No One’s Driving, a column by novelist and tech writer Tim Maughan about how to understand a world governed by systems and technologies that are spiraling out of control.

As I write this, I have an extra tab open in my browser, which has been open all week. It’s there so that I a captive of my increasingly frayed, exhausted attention span can compulsively check it at any given time. It’s a livestream of news updates from the Suez Canal, where the 220,000-ton Ever Given and its cargo of 10,000 shipping containers ran aground and blocked…


Contradictions abound in this place I live and love

Aerial view of Silicon Valley at dusk, with a portion of the San Mateo/Hayward Bridge visible, as well as Foster City, including the California headquarters of Gilead Sciences, Visa, and Conversica, California, July, 2016.
Aerial view of Silicon Valley at dusk, with a portion of the San Mateo/Hayward Bridge visible, as well as Foster City, including the California headquarters of Gilead Sciences, Visa, and Conversica, California, July, 2016.

When my wife and I flew across the country from Baltimore to the Silicon Valley in 2012 to present a then-fledgling robot project at a Python conference, I had no idea that I’d soon move to this place and never want to leave. Driving around Santa Clara near the convention center where the conference took place, I saw building after building adorned with the logos of services and products I had used all my life — Evernote, Cisco, TiVo — with the tracks of the VTA light rail wending their way through it all. It was thrilling.

We found ourselves…


Parents whose children disappeared decades ago are turning to the world’s biggest social network as a lifeline.

The first post Lilian Esperanza Alvarado ever made on Facebook was a plea: “i need to find two people.”

It was September 2012, and she’d bought her first computer and a pay-as-you-go modem. Typing at home felt strange, like she was living in an internet café, as she’d never had her own PC. She’d made these purchases for one reason: to find her son and daughter, Salvador and Dalinda, whom she had not seen since they fled during El Salvador’s civil war. In March 1988, her kids, then 7 and 9, had gone to the bus station with their father…


If only we’d have listened 30 years ago

Up until last month, I’d not “seriously” played any video games for nearly a decade. I’d quit after a frustrating career as a producer in the console games industry left me exhausted by the precariousness and working conditions, which in turn had tainted the whole hobby for me. I still kept half an eye on news and trends because as a tech-cultural phenomenon, it fascinated me, but gaming had started to feel like a relic of a past life, something I’d left behind. And then 2020 happened. Like many, I found myself looking for activities that let me turn off…


Big Technology

“We predispose ourselves into being vulnerable because we dismiss cults as crazy”

OneZero is partnering with the Big Technology Podcast from Alex Kantrowitz to bring readers exclusive access to interview transcripts with notable figures in and around the tech industry.

This week, we’re joined by Rick Alan Ross, a professional cult deprogrammer. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

To subscribe to the podcast and hear the interview for yourself, you can check it out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Overcast.

Community as we know it is in a state of decline. People today have fewer friendships than ever, they are lonelier than ever, and religious participation is at an…


These 21 books about technology and its impact on society are crucial to understanding our fractious future

A square graphic with the text “OneZero Best Tech Books 2020” placed over a background image of stacks of books.
A square graphic with the text “OneZero Best Tech Books 2020” placed over a background image of stacks of books.

There was a quiet but serious shift in mainstream thought about technology underway this year, even before everything went to hell. Most years, the release schedule for tech books is brimming with startup hagiographies, founder profiles, tech guru memoirs, and business and management tomes, with a few “critical” titles thrown in — your exposés and polemics and kids-are-using-their-phones-too-much tirades.

This year, which I observed from my high and mighty perch as editor of OneZero’s books department, the ratio seemed to be firmly reversed — the blow-by-blow accounts of tech world goings-on, like Steven Levy’s Facebook: The Inside Story, were considerably…


No One’s Driving

Vast systems, from automated supply chains to high-frequency trading, now undergird our daily lives — and we’re losing control of all of them

A photo collage of a shipping dock, a graph of a stock market activity, and an automated warehouse
A photo collage of a shipping dock, a graph of a stock market activity, and an automated warehouse

Welcome to No One’s Driving — a column by novelist and tech writer Tim Maughan about how to understand a world governed by systems and technologies that are spiraling out of control.

One of the dominant themes of the last few years is that nothing makes sense. Donald Trump is president, QAnon has mainstreamed fringe conspiracy theories, and hundreds of thousands are dead from a pandemic and climate change while many Americans do not believe that the pandemic or climate change are deadly. It’s incomprehensible.

I am here to tell you that the reason so much of the world seems…


Big Technology

The Incite.org founder and activist investor shares her view on how innovation should improve the lives of everyday people

OneZero is partnering with the Big Technology Podcast from Alex Kantrowitz to bring readers exclusive access to interview transcripts with notable figures in and around the tech industry.

This week, we’re joined by Swati Mylavarapu, a founder at Incite. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

To subscribe to the podcast and hear the interview for yourself, you can check it out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Overcast.

Swati Mylavarapu is a tech investor and activist who spent $2 million in the 2020 election cycle on Democratic causes, in partnership with her husband, Nest co-founder Matt Rogers. Mylavarapu…


Residents fear the gadgets will enable snooping — and much worse

About a year ago, Brian Davidson spotted a crew installing a 14-foot pole in the middle of his neighbor’s well-manicured lawn. When he walked next door to ask what was happening, he learned that his homeowner association’s board of directors near Dallas, Texas, was installing automated license plate readers (ALPRs) in order to prevent crime. “[My neighbor] had no idea it was even done,” Davidson tells OneZero. “No one was given permission … they just stuffed it in there.”

Davidson’s neighbor asked the homeowner association, called Bedford Stonecourt, to remove the pole from his yard, and the crew did. The…


A strain of science fiction called visionary fiction empowers activists, artists, and organizers to seed a better future

Science fiction is still regarded as the province of space opera and high technologies run amok — but at its best, it shines a light on the problems and possibilities of our world as it is. Visionary fiction, a practice developed by Walidah Imarisha, author and editor of Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, goes a step further, and actively asks practitioners to build better futures from the ground up. (We’re also publishing Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild, a prime example and inspiration for the form, in its entirety.) Given the rise of the police abolition movement and the…

OneZero

The undercurrents of the future. A publication from Medium about technology and people.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store