My father likes to say: “Man gewöhnt sich an jeden Scheiß,“ which translates to something along the lines of “eventually, any shit grows on you.“ He often uses it jokingly and with a wink, yet there is much truth to it. As human beings, we are extremely good at growing accustomed to our current situation and the things that are happening around us, both good and bad. Even in the worst circumstances, we are still looking for something positive and for reasons to not change. We post-rationalize our decisions so that we perceive them as better than they really are. We start to like things better once we own them. We like to think that we, more than others, deserve the things and status we have earned. And once we have grown accustomed to it, we don’t want to give up what we have, even though we might not have wanted all those things in the first place or are worse off adhering to the past.
Somewhere along the way, we often forget how it was to not have those things we now take for granted. And we also forget that many people don’t have what we have. That it is a privilege to have access to clean water, food, electricity, and education, for example. That it is a privilege to own a computer or a smartphone that is connected to the internet with a fast data plan. And that is is a privilege to be able to design and code for the Web and publish your work without fear of being bullied, harassed, censored, arrested, imprisoned, or killed.
We all live in our very own little bubbles and circles of influence and often forget that our collective responsibility is much greater than our narrow perspectives, opinions, and world views. This is why we have to work hard every day to continually improve the world around us – and the Web – for those who are less privileged. Building inclusive, safe, performant, and welcoming spaces does not come easy, though, and is a constant battle against constraints of money, opposing opinions, and our own complacency to speak up and turn words into action.
The first step in making meaningful progress is to realize that we, the creators of the Web, are very much in the minority and that in order to create lasting change, we have to step down from our ivory tower and look at the world not as we perceive it but as it really is. In the West, we have to leave our predominantly white and male teams behind and hire for diversity. Not because we want to create same-ness or comply with a quota, but because only by embracing our differences, we will be able to reach everyone and create groundbreaking innovation. We have to get away from our high-resolution screens attached to high-end machines with 8-core processors behind fiber internet connections. Not because we shouldn’t use the best tools available to be “productive”, but because people in the real world don’t care if a product looks stunning and works well on your machine. People want the best experiences we can offer them, even if the majority of people don’t have access to vast computing powers. We also have to realize that, while we might be able to provide for a family with our work, others, like the many content moderators fact-checking social media, are less privileged. And some of them will be the first to be removed to increase productivity in the age of Machine Learning and AI.
There is a challenge ahead of us that is larger than anything we have encountered before. And, although most of us might not be responsible for and profiting from the climate breakdown, it will take each and every one of us to mitigate the impacts of climate change by changing and invoking change ourselves. The Web might be the most powerful tool mankind has ever invented and it will play a crucial role in shaping our future. But only if it stops to be a Web of the privileged.
This is the 17th post of my 100 days of writing series. You can find a list of all posts here.