It’s a teleportation machine, but for ethics
March 7, 2020 9:39 PM   Subscribe

Maria Farrell writes about the Prodigal Techbro
The Prodigal Tech Bro is a similar story, about tech executives who experience a sort of religious awakening. They suddenly see their former employers as toxic, and reinvent themselves as experts on taming the tech giants. They were lost and are now found. They are warmly welcomed home to the center of our discourse with invitations to write opeds for major newspapers, for think tank funding, book deals and TED talks. These guys – and yes, they are all guys – are generally thoughtful and well-meaning, and I wish them well. But I question why they seize so much attention and are awarded scarce resources, and why they’re given not just a second chance, but also the mantle of moral and expert authority.
posted by mark k (8 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
I have to declare an interest here in that I am a friend of Maria's but every word of this resonates.

Ethics are not a coat you leave hanging on the back of the office door only to pick up when leaving or, worst still, a heroic crusade that requires a heroic white male lead character in an Oscar winning performance.
posted by fallingbadgers at 10:13 PM on March 7 [10 favorites]

This is an excellent essay - thanks for posting it.

Would-be prodigals (and aren't many of us at one time or another) would do well to recognize the turning point of the elder son's story - his recognition of what he's done, his "coming to his senses" (or in some translations "he came to himself").

I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers

And this after effectively telling his father "I would that you were already dead."
posted by jquinby at 7:34 AM on March 8 [2 favorites]

We in the western world have a weakness for forgiveness stories, and tend to gloss over that what makes them stories is the act of repentance. That doesn't mean being sad about what you did, it means putting yourself in the service of those you've wronged until they see that your change of heart is genuine.
posted by Merus at 9:28 AM on March 8 [12 favorites]

The thing is, there are so many deserving people who haven't fucked up, for me it's like "you fucked up, you can sit down now, let someone else have a go." It's not like there's a shortage of non-white, non-cis, non-male, or non-straight people to do things.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:40 AM on March 8 [13 favorites]

This is a great piece, and unfortunately quite resonant in daily life as well as in tech. Someone with privilege suddenly understands a basic thing about privilege that the rest of us have known for 20+ years and everyone is either fawning over them, or is a jerk for not fawning over them.
posted by bile and syntax at 10:56 AM on March 8 [2 favorites]

Really good essay.
posted by medusa at 11:00 AM on March 8

Growing up Catholic (but no longer), as my morals developed and I went from being confused/rejecting to sort of roughly of accepting of the lesson and maybe as an adult understanding it under the rubric of restorative justice, it remains nonetheless frustrating the metaphor remain as poorly understood as the Immaculate Conception. There have to be better cultural referents to communicate "yeah, thanks, but we're not buying."
posted by 99_ at 11:48 AM on March 8

I clicked through wondering if the article would mention Tristan Harris, and the of course the lead photo is of Tristan Harris.
posted by migurski at 11:52 AM on March 8 [2 favorites]

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