10 stories this week (w/e 14 Mar)

4:15-min read

Hello from 20 Minutes into the Future. Welcome to our weekend complement to the normal weekly commentary. Below you’ll find 10 links to stories that also take a critical look at how technology is shaping our lives today.

John Hanawalt is wise.

Designers pride themselves on empathy, but the limits of our empathy lie at the boundaries of our lived experiences. We can and should see past those boundaries through research, engaging with people outside our usual circle, listening, and receiving feedback. But we should never conflate our powers of imagination with someone else’s reality.


Steph Monette and her comrades helped make this happen. Celebrate their victory.

The company is the latest in a recent string of startups whose employees have sought to unionize. Most notable among them is Kickstarter, which announced the decision last month. The list also includes Spin, Instacart and Pittsburgh-based Google employees. Glitch will join the CWA Local 1101, as part of the Campaign to Organize Digital Employees (CODE-CWA) initiative, which was launched back in January.


⓷ So this might be the most now story this week: “the Chinese government is using a professional Mr. Bean impersonator to spread propaganda about its response to the deadly, COVID-19-causing coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.”

⓸ Lots of lessons to be learned from how Wikipedia fights misinformation. “There’s another piece of that that is quite sad,” he adds, “because it’s clear that part of being one of the most trusted sites on the internet is because everything else has collapsed around us.”

Not a subscriber yet? 20 Minutes into the Future is 100% ad free and always will be. Sign up for weekly commentary & related links to help you dig deeper into big tech behaving badly.

⓹ Fail fast is a garbage trope from a garbage industry. Thankfully we have queer writers, artists, and activists that have a different theory of failure we can actually learn from.

“The scarlet letter of failure manifests in different ways for different groups. It might be an inability to function “normally,” due to a brain that works differently or the physical marker of a wheelchair or an unruly organ that needs constant tracking and maintenance. It might be a “wrong” affect, a visibly queer way of moving through the world or a cultural modality out of synch with your surroundings. It might be living a life asynchronously to others, failing to achieve the temporal markers of financial independence, heterosexual romance and coupling, reproduction. For those marked by existential failure, it’s not possible to bootstrap your way out of a failed state and back into the flow of winning. Because in all these cases, failure is linked to an inability to be useful to capital: a sin punishable by rejection, exile, even death.”


⓺ Amazon is taking a minimalistic two-pronged approach to dealing with their warehouse workers and Covid-19.

  1. Anyone diagnosed with it will be entitled to two-weeks sick pay.

  2. Through the end of March workers have unlimited (and unpaid) sick days.

They could and should be doing more. And for more workers too (Flex, Whole Foods, etc.). This failure of compassion and leadership should come as little surprise given the same has lead to several deaths.

⓻ The Covid-19 pandemic further serves to highlight the gross inequities and inequalities of the gig economy.

⓼ Wired asks: is it ethically ok to order delivery during a pandemic?

The answer is more complicated than you might think. On the surface, it seems obvious to not do something that could compromise someone’s health, especially when officials are urging people to keep their distance. At the same time, independent contractors don’t get paid time off or sick days; not hiring them cuts into their livelihoods. Organizations like Gig Workers Rising have started petitions to pressure companies to offer more benefits to their workers, and over the weekend The Wall Street Journal reported many companies—including Instacart, Postmates, and DoorDash—were discussing ways to compensate gig workers. (WIRED confirmed Grubhub was also part of the discussions, but the company declined to elaborate.) Until they do, though, hiring gig workers is still an option for many people. It just requires being conscientious.

We of course wouldn’t be in this sort of ethical quagmire if the vulture capitalist startups weren’t so shitty to their workers in the first place. If your business model runs on worker exploitation then maybe you don’t deserve to be in business in the first place.


Sick and tired of big tech behaving badly? 20 Minutes into the Future is about holding the bastards to account. One way we can do that is by spreading the word of their misdeeds.


⓽ A good rundown from CJR about how the pandemic is playing out for right-wing propagandists like Hannity, Limbaugh, and Jones.

⓾ Shocking no one: Facebook’s Ad Library has “significant systemic flaws” that allow advertisers to side-step rules around political ads.

Dig deeper with these stories from 20 Minutes into the Future:

Thanks for reading 20 Minutes into the FutureHave a friend or colleague who'd like the newsletter? Invite them to sign up.  

Good night and good future, 

20 Minutes into the Future is a critical look at how technology is shaping our lives today. And what actions we can take for a better tomorrow. If you're not already a subscriber and found this newsletter worth your while then please sign up.

My name is Daniel Harvey and I write 20 Minutes into the Future. I’m a product designer and have written for Fast Company, Huffington Post, The Drum, & more. If you're pissed about the current state of tech and want to see us do better then you’ve found a kindred spirit.

You can email me at daniel.harvey@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter @dancharvey.