Perhaps Kalanick and others who backed Uber’s vision of a less car-reliant country didn’t mean it. Maybe they just wanted to make Uber sound virtuous.
But more likely, the lesson here is that technologists often don’t foresee how people will respond to what they create. Zuckerberg now says that he didn’t anticipate that Facebook would empower authoritarians and create incentives for the most radical voices.
Some of the same promises that Uber was making a few years ago are now coming from companies working on computer-driven cars, fast trains and other transportation innovations. I’m excited about these ideas, but also mindful what happened to the original hope of the ride services.
That track record calls not for cynicism but for healthy doubt and self-criticism. We need more questions asked, both by the technology companies and the rest of us. We could start with: What makes you think that? What if you’re wrong? What might you be missing?
It might also help if technologists answered, “I don’t know,” when someone asks them to weigh in on China’s gross domestic product.
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Geopolitics under the sea
I wrote in Wednesday’s newsletter about the blurry line between countries’ desire for technology self reliance and protectionism. Now I want to make the connection to undersea cables. (As regular On Tech readers know, I love boring technology.)