DEI Grieving and AI Skepticism

IYKYK DEI in tech is all but dead. If you’re an outsider, it’s important to understand that employee-led efforts to make workplaces less racist – which began in earnest at the onset of the Obama years – have been steadily blotted out since Trump. The Tech aristocracy has decided to abandon DEI budgets along with other workplace perks. As @betsythemuffin notes (in the thread I’ll be referencing below):

DEI is seen by a sizable chunk of the funder class as an allowable luxury to keep the peons happy.

It has been tragically hard to swallow this defeat. @betsythemuffin again:

Regret that we didn’t do more to build material power when we had the chance.

And yet, as the movement has regrouped and recentered to reposition the struggle, some have begun to take note of a problematic adaptation in the techy left’s rhetoric. @danilo started a thread on Mastodon that points out a new-born form of absolutist skepticism for emerging technologies – notably AI (of course). Regardless of why the left slips into what @glyph calls a problem of “semasiology” around the term “AI”, point is, the hurt seems to be cutting so deep that the movement has retreated into an unproductive preservationism.

The abject and understandably heartbreaking defeat of DEI-type progress in tech has moved most leftist critique of the space into a technological conservatism built on denialist, magical thinking.

You can’t successfully advocate for a dead end when the other side is investing in roads that lead to helpful places.

You can’t win against technologies people find useful by pretending they aren’t useful.

Check out the rest of the conversation. There are smart people in here thinking through this “AI” moment. The underlying question seems to be how we can continue the fight without completely disavowing what might be practical revolutions borne out by this albeit early phase of “AI” that is “finally bearing serious fruit.”

If you’re wondering on what side of the line I fall, my major beef with the LLMs is their wanton extractive consumption of human labor without citation or, god forbid, recompense. Of course, a time honored tradition of slave traders and capitalists. Here is Marc Andreesen with a recent plea written to the US copyright office, hopeful we can just all ignore this blatant theft for the common good of the funder class. This is class warfare:

Imposing the cost of actual or potential copyright liability on the creators of AI models will either kill or significantly hamper their development.

I hold that citation is feminist since it combats the authoritative mansplain that obscures collaboration, hardens selfhood, and hoards ideas. Ergo I consider the de-linkified, referent vacuum of effluvium produced by ChatGPT et al as patriarchal in its presentation of “knowledge” and preoccupation with mastery. I’m scare quoting because philosophically I’m confused about what this content even is, so unhinged. Although I recognize that the interplay of this text with the reader and their investigative context does produce meaning.

UPDATE (minutes after the writing the above): heh, Danilo actually expounds generously about the left’s false critique of AI in a long-form piece on his blog.