Can We Not?

by David Simmer | at Minnebar 17 | 2:50 – 3:35 in Theater | View Schedule

The Internet is now a user-hostile place. Advertising plasters every surface. Interfaces are designed to trick. Third-party scripts hoover personal data. We surf a web largely composed of content written by bots for other bots, and with the advent of AI-like language generation, we're about to go even harder into swamping our collective knowledge store with dreck.

All of these anti-human unpleasantries have been implemented by humans. Yes, humans with jobs, bosses, deliverables, and the need to earn money to live... but also sometimes humans who didn't think carefully about the consequences, who ignored their consciences, or who chose to optimize for moneymaking or popularity instead of what would be better for the internet as a whole.

I'd like to anchor us instead on what we can do less of, what misuses of technology we can avoid, and what we can push back on. We're all shaping the internet's future, especially those of us who are designers and engineers. Though our individual spheres of influence may be small, we can still guide clients, companies, and ourselves away from both immediate and long-term harms. Let's discuss both pragmatic and radical ways to do that.

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David Simmer

David Simmer is a designer and engineer with a couple decades of experience building for people who use the web. Homeschooled as a kid, and having shifted to working in tech as second career, he's had a weird and fortunate career journey.

David now works as a Senior Software Engineer at Netflix on the Engineering Experiences team (part of Netflix's Productivity Engineering org), working on GraphQL Federation, unifying UX across internal tools, improving the experience of software migrations large and small, and cross-functional projects that make other engineers' days better.

After five years away in California, he now lives in St Paul with his wife Cleo and two rescue dogs named Chuck and Greta. Among other hobbies, he plays piano, mountain bikes, skis, and is learning to build cabinetry.