Speaking of Accessibility

Elizabeth Patitsas has put together a truly awesome reading list on the social context of computer science education. It’s full of pointers to important works and ideas, but looking through it reminded me that “awesome” means “extremely impressive or daunting”. Most programmers are never going to tackle it, any more than they would tackle Smith, Marx, Keynes, or Tversky & Kahneman in the original.

I think that if we want Silicon Valley to change—if we want software developers to be aware of the broader impact of their work and care about it—we need something like Freakonomics, but for good. We need something that is accessible to people with technical skills, but who have no background in social science, that explains:

  • why racial discrimination persists when neoliberal economics tells us it shouldn’t because it’s inefficient;
  • why so many Americans think that being able to shoot children is an inalienable right; and
  • why taking race, gender, orientation, and other factors into account when hiring is not discrimination.

My attempt to crowdsource such a book failed, but I think it would have far more impact than anything I’ve done in the last thirty years.

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