The Shitty Tech Adoption Curve describes the process by which oppressive technology is normalized and distributed through all levels of society. The more privilege someone has, the harder it is to coerce them to use dehumanizing tech, so it starts with marginalized people.

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Asylum seekers, prisoners and overseas sweatshop workers get the first version. Its roughest edges are sanded off against their tenderest places, and once it's been normalized a little, we inflict it on students, mental patients, and blue collar workers.

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Lather, rinse, repeat: before long, everyone's been ropted in. If your meals were observed by a remote-monitored CCTV 20 years ago, it was because you were in a supermax prison. Today, it's because you bought a home video surveillance system from Google/Apple/Amazon.

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The lockdown has been a powerful accellerant for shitty technology adoption curve: the combination of an atomized polity that can't have in-person solidarity conversations and overall precarity has kicked off a powerful shock doctrine for tech surveillance.

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Pre-pandemic, work-from-home call-center workers (mostly poor Black women) lived under surveillance that transformed "work from home" to "live at work." The tech preserved the fiction that these misclassified employees were "independent contractors."

pluralistic.net/2020/10/02/chi

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Within days of the lockdown, this technological oppression raced up the privilege gradient in the form of "invigilation" software like Proctorio, cruel surveillance tools inflicted on university students. The company is pursuing its critics in court.

pluralistic.net/2020/10/17/pro

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Now, every remote worker is in line to get the treatment previously reserved for misclassified employees and college kids. Microsoft has rolled out on-by-default workplace surveillance for Office 365.

twitter.com/WolfieChristl/stat

The tool tracks every click and interaction by employees and presents managers with leaderboards showing relative "productivity" of each employee, down to how many mentions they get in workplace emails.

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As Wolfie Christie points out in his thread, the arbitrary metrics that Microsoft has chosen will have a hugely distorting effect on workplace behavior. Remember Goodhart's Law: "Any measure becomes a target, and then ceases to be a useful measure."

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goodhart

This is the quantitative fallacy on steroids: software can't measure qualitative factors like whether your work accomplished "soft goals" like "a better product" or "a conceptual breakthrough."

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So they blithely vaporize these qualitative elements and do math on the dubious quantitative residue left behind. It's the data scientist's version of looking for your keys under the lamp-post: "We can't do math on it, so we won't consider it."

It's a far cry from the early days of Microsoft, when Bill Gates mocked IBM for paying programmers by how many lines of code they produced, calling it "the race to build the world's heaviest airplane."

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I wonder if the programmers who built this feature are subjected to it themselves? And if not, I wonder when they will be.

I mean, they won't be in the EU. This shit is radioactively illegal under the GDPR. But Americans have FREEDOM.

Now, you may be thinking, "I bet the managers who use this tool will regret it when THEIR bosses start using it on THEM."

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You're thinking too small. Microsoft has ambition: they're not subjecting MANAGERS to this, they're subjecting COMPANIES to it.

Microsoft incentivizes companies to turn on an industry-wide comparison "feature" that sends ALL YOUR EMPLOYEE DATA to Microsoft and then gives you a chart telling you how your employees fare against their counterparts elsewhere.

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You get a chart. Microsoft gets fine-grained data on your company's operations - data it can sell, or mine, or you know, just lose control over and leak all over the internet. That's some unprecedented Shitty Tech Adoption Curve accelerationism right there.

Not since the day when Amazon convinced Borders Books (RIP) to use it for all digital ordering and fulfilment (giving Amazon 10)% access to all Borders' customer data) has a tech company offered a shadier B2B deal.

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Last year, Slate's Future Tense and ASU's Center for Science and the Imagination asked me to write some fiction illustrating the Shitty Technology Adoption Curve. The result it "Affordances," a story that grows dismally more relevant with each passing day.

slate.com/technology/2019/10/a

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