[Doctorow-L] "Affordances": a new science fiction story that climbs the terrible technology adoption curve

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Sat Oct 26 12:58:21 EDT 2019

"Affordances" is my new science fiction story for Slate/ASU's Future
Tense project; it's a tale exploring my theory of "the shitty technology
adoption curve," in which terrible technological ideas are first imposed
on poor and powerless people, and then refined and normalized until they
are spread over all the rest of us.

The story makes the point by exploring all the people in a facial
recognition ecosystem, from low-waged climate refugees who are paid to
monitor facial recognition errors in an overseas boiler room, to cops
whose facial recognition systems and risk-assessment scoring
institutionalize algorithmic racism, to activists whose videos of human
rights abuses on the US border are disappeared by copyright enforcement
bots deployed by shadowy astroturf organizations, to the executives at
the companies who make the facial recognition tools whose decisions are
constrained by automated high-speed trading bots.

It also explores methods of technological resistance, solidarity, and
activism, and how the flip-side of automated systems' inaccuracy is
their fragility.

The story is accompanied by a response essay by Nettrice Gaskins, "an
artist-educator who collaborates with AI," who discusses it in the
context of the "afrocentric counter-surveillance aesthetic," which is my
new all-time favorite phrase.


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