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Morgan Ames: Why Techies Are Not Experts About Everything

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Morgan Ames is a techie. She majored in computer science at Berkeley and now works at the Center for Science, Technology, Medicine, and Society. She wants to convince you that techies know computer science, but we should not look to them for advice about child-rearing, education, or other social issues. Their range of expertise is narrow. It may make them very rich. But it does not make them wise in every field of endeavor.

in particular, she is critical of the media narrative that techies shield their children from early use of technology.

She writes:

“These articles assume that techies have access to secret wisdom about the harmful effects of technology on children. Based on two decades of living among, working with, and researching Silicon Valley technology employees, I can confidently assert that this secret knowledge does not exist.

”To be sure, techies may know more than most people do about the technical details of the systems they build, but that’s a far cry from having expertise in child development or the broader social implications of technologies. Indeed, most are beholden to the same myths and media narratives about the supposed evils of screen time as the rest of us, just as they can be susceptible to the same myths about, say, vaccines or fad diets. Nothing in their training, in other words, makes them uniquely able to understand arenas of knowledge or practice far from their own.”

Whoa. I disagree with Ames. Monitoring children’s screen time and allowing them time to read and play is one of the most important jobs of parents today.

I think Ames would have been on safer grounds had she criticized techies’ entrance into politics or other realms about which they are clueless, where they think their financial success makes them superior to everyone else and encourages them to scoff at democracy. Or where they think that their financial success gives them the right to “reinvent” education and scoff at democracy. Think Zuckerberg, Gates, and Mrs. Jobs.

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