“Should this exist?” is not typically a question that technologists ask themselves, Caterina Fake says. The Flickr cofounder turned investor says that most entrepreneurs and engineers will ask themselves, “Can this exist, could this exist, how can we gain the funding to make this exist? Those are the conversations we’ve been having for the past 15 to 20 years about technology.”
But that narrative in tech is evolving, Fake tells WIRED on this week’s Gadget Lab podcast, from one of ideation, optimism, and changing the world to a stark reality in which technology can do as much harm as good. The cracks are showing, and suddenly, Fake says, “people are asking, ‘Whoa, what have we done? Is this what we really wanted to build?’” That line of questioning was the genesis for her own podcast, Should This Exist?, a WaitWhat original series made in partnership with Quartz.
On this week’s episode, Fake also weighs in on IBM’s usage of Flickr as a database with which to train its facial recognition algorithms. Could Fake, or any other entrepreneurs who created new products in the early 2000’s, have foreseen the obsessive photo-sharing culture we’re now living in? Yes … but also, no.
Additional note: WIRED’s Gadget Lab team taped this podcast before news broke about a mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, that was live-streamed on the internet. At the time of publication, at least 49 people were reported to have been killed. WIRED will continue to follow this story.
Recommendations: Caterina recommends Lost Time: Lectures on Proust in a Soviet Prison Camp. Arielle recommends the Death Clock extension for Chrome, which constantly reminds you of your mortality. Mike recommends Esther Perel’s podcast Where Should We Begin? Lauren recommends the new HBO documentary The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley.
Send the Gadget Lab hosts feedback on their personal Twitter feeds. Our guest this week, Caterine Fake, can be found at @caterina. Arielle Pardes can be found at @pardesoteric. Lauren Goode is @laurengoode. Michael Calore can be found at @snackfight.
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