I recently completed Technically Wrong by Sara Wachter-Boettcher. Let me start by saying that I’m glad that Ms. Wachter-Boettcher wrote this book. The tech industry has a lot of issues which need to be brought out into the open and it is definitely a positive development that people such as Ms. Wachter-Boettcher are bringing these issues to the forefront. It really is only recently that people are discussing the continuous erosion of privacy, misogyny in the tech industry, lack of diversity and many other issues. Whilst I would not deny any of these issues, I felt Wachter-Boettcher’s analysis was somewhat lacking and didn’t really get at the realities of working in the tech industry. Wachter-Boettcher cites numerous examples of tech gone wrong, such as a smart scale telling a two year old that he needs to lose weight, FaceBook denying a Native American person an account because it felt that their name was not legitimate, and the abhorrent use of proprietary, black box algorithms to make parole recommendations.
Again, it is definitely a positive development that Wachter-Boettcher and others are writing about these issues, but the alternatives and solutions she proposes seem a bit simplistic. While she doesn’t state this directly, much of the book seems to suggest that all of technology’s woes are caused by the lack of diversity in the tech industry. Specifically that “white guys” from elite universities are running everything. I don’t have an electronic copy of the book, but after about half way through this, I wanted to count the number of times the phrase “white guys” appears in the book. Sometimes this phrase includes Asians, sometimes not.