Public safety protects the public—a collectivity worth shielding. It is a shared effort that begets a shared benefit. Some technological innovations, such as automobiles with lane-departure warnings or automatic emergency braking, help owners of the equipment along with those who surround them. But tech in the sense of Silicon Valley Big Tech has subtly rewritten our conception of the public. The industry has undoubtedly improved people’s individual, private lives—that’s the business model. But it has not necessarily benefited their communal ones. The vision of the future that firms such as Uber, Amazon, and Facebook have grown rich selling is a decidedly individualist one: Get a ride just for you, wherever you are, via Uber. Receive almost any product tomorrow, without leaving home, from Amazon. Hear from only the people and groups you choose on Facebook. Technology products can improve health and safety, but largely at the personal level: carrying a cellphone for emergencies, or wearing a fitness tracker to motivate regular exercise. Solving one’s own problems can de-escalate interest in solving communal ones. This libertarian individualism also grips the big-tech companies themselves, which pursue their private aspirations no matter the public cost.

From Technology Sabotaged Public Safety Without Us Even Noticing by Ian Bogost

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