I just finished reading Geek Heresy (that’s now a lie as this blog post is based on a draft from 2015!! But it was true at the time), and I really recommend it to techno-optimists such as myself.
It was a very well written account of a point of view I had partially embraced previously. I’ve always thought that the only thing we should (and can because everything else fails) ‘export’ as a means of charity is training. The book expands on why technology itself will never solve any social problems.
Social problems being things such as the state of public schools in the US (One laptop per child will not even things out, it will just amplify good schools and make mediocre schools even worse). Same with health care e-records. They are not what we need to become healthier (they are not by themselves a good or a bad thing, they just amplify social tendencies). The same goes for foreign aid. There are some people who talk about ‘capacity building’ and that is relatively close to what the book advocates for, but still most of the resources in foreign aid are ‘things’ that we give to other poorer countries. It goes on to explain why even really simple things like vaccines will not cure a disease without other social aspects (A good example of how to eradicate a disease without a vaccine can be found here ).
It goes on to talk about how one should help train and finished by saying that mentor-ship, real mentor-ship not coaching or just plain teaching is what can help change the world. While some parts feel pessimistic I felt overall that it gave me hope that I can help make even a small dent in the world by helping mentor and ‘teach’.
That was where this post ended in 2015. The book and a post by a friend on Facebook is what got me to start being a big brother and to take part and help grow an internship program where I work. Since then I’ve taken part in hour of code and spoken to a few different classes about careers in technology. If you’re looking to make the world a better place, it’s often easy to focus on the really big things. But if you help mentor even just one person it might have a snowball effect.