August 4, 2021
As a technologist, I’m optimistic about the potential of the systems we create to promote social change for the better. I think that despite the trolls, spin doctors, and haters who are so prominent on social media, the world is a much better place for having near-instant personal and mass communications.
There’s a good chance that we can continue to break down the geographical, cultural, and language barriers that have kept most of humanity in ignorance of each other for millennia. But that will only be possible if we have the courage to stand against those would censor those systems.
37 years ago, before the Web or widespread digital photography, photojournalist Steve McCurry used Kodachrome film to take a now-famous photograph of Pashtun refugee Sharbat Gula, one of many victims of the Soviet bombing of Afghanistan.
At the time, she was a child attending school in a refugee camp in Pakistan. While controversial (Gula herself never authorized publication of the image), her portrait has been used to symbolize the victims of that war, and to galvanize human rights for women in Afghanistan in recent years.
I wonder whether, if those events had played out today, the Eastman Kodak Company would be apologizing to the Soviet Government for giving a face to their victims?
We had Sharbat Gula on Kodachrome in 1984; we should have had #uighurs on Kodak Instagram in 2021.