Apple legend Bill Atkinson, left, and Andrew Stone talk Steve Jobs, drugs and the Internet at AltConf 2014 in San Francisco. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
SAN FRANCISCO — At Apple’s WWDC developer conference, there are talks about interface design, writing code and fixing bugs.
Across the street at indie spinoff AltConf, the talks are concerned with spying on users and making choices between good and evil.
“We have had a hand in creating one of the most dystopian and undesirable societies imaginable,” said Andrew Stone, a veteran programmer who once worked with Steve Jobs, during a talk entitled “What Have We Built Here?”
It’s not the kind of stuff you’d expect to hear at a developer’s conference, but in an age of widespread government spying and cynicism about corporate slogans like “Don’t be evil,” AltConf highlights that programmers are often presented with moral choices. There’s a growing awareness in the coding community that although the activity of programming is benign, what’s created can be used for evil. Take Maciej Cegłowski’s talk last month in Germany, which has been widely discussed on the Web. Cegłowski argues — convincingly — that the utopian ideals of the early internet have been thoroughly corrupted, and the entire industry is “rotten.”
The Autographer puts photography on autopilot. Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac
CHICAGO — I thought I was boarding the train with a camera that gave me a cloak of invisibility.
But even before the train began moving away from the station, the eyes of a man with a handlebar mustache drew a bead on my Autographer, a tiny, continuous-shooting photographic device clipped to my breast pocket.
He furled his brow. He did not blink. What was he thinking? Could he see the lens? Was he wondering if that thing was on? Maybe some insecurity set in, but the vibe felt like he was suspicious.
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