⚡ Today is Reboot's birthday!

A letter reflecting on a year of learning together

On April 8, 2020, I published the Reboot newsletter’s first post: “Welcome to Reboot.” The lineup I’d tweeted a week earlier contained a Canva graphic almost comically earnest in its design:

There was no guise of this being a serious project. My friend and co-creator Jessica and I were locked down at home, stuck in all-day Zoom classes, and spun Reboot up as an excuse to speak with some of our favorite authors. We were pleasantly surprised that these authors said yes to spending an hour with us, and even more surprised that we managed to convince some friends to show up to each session. This Substack, meanwhile, was little more than a ferry for Eventbrite links.

But like the pandemic itself, Reboot stuck around far longer than expected.

We still host author events — 19 of them, to be exact — but we’ve also published book reviews and shared link roundups. We’ve edited and featured 11 guest essays from young technologists sharing their visions for better technological futures. Just this week, we wrapped up an undergrad fellowship which spent 8 weeks on intensive reading and writing projects (I’m so proud of their amazing work, and you’ll see more of their essays featured in the coming weeks).

I feel particularly lucky to have worked with the most inspiring and thoughtful volunteer collaborators, from Jessica, Ben, and Deb on editorial; to Jordan, Em, and Jihad on community; to Matthew, Khoi, and Cassidy as fellowship mentors.

Reboot has now sucked up most of my non-work hours every week, but it’s the kind of work that energizes instead of drains. Through this, I’ve met so many people — students, activists, engineers, writers, educators — who care deeply about forging a positive role for technology and themselves, about distributing its benefits equitably and preventing its harms, about being critical and generative and idealistic and rigorous in imagining the world that could be.

Because of you all — not IPOs, nor tweetstorms, nor bigass language models — I feel vastly more optimistic about the future of technology than when I began.

It’s clear to me now that there’s an appetite for better writing and thinking about technology.

I used to get frustrated that everything I read in this space was articulated through the lens of value-neutral profit-seeking or abstract doomsaying. But most of our lived experiences are far more nuanced. Technology has enabled so much of my personal, social, and intellectual exploration; and simultaneously, it’s been the source of anxiety and distraction and fear. I’ve learned to embrace this grey area, to delight in humanity’s potential for both creation and catastrophe.

Reboot believes in technological optimism — not in the linear march of progress, but in our agency to build a better, more conscious, and more equitable future than the one we've been handed. I think this grand responsibility is something most young technologists already understand. I take pride in the fact that most of us are technologists and humanists, both thinkers and builders, both skeptics and idealists. Each of our guest essays first asks, what has been done?, then answers, where do we go from here?

Finally, the key word is we. It’s important to me that more of our content and programming is community-driven, that our work reflects the things you all are most interested in learning about.

If you could do me a favor — think of it as a birthday present — I’d love to hear 1) who you are and 2) what you’d be most interested in seeing from Reboot.

Just to get you thinking, here’s a grab bag of ideas I’ve mulled over. Feel free to comment on these or suggest your own!

  • Simple explainers on complex topics: ML fairness, DAOs, Section 230

  • Zoom workshops on topics like worldbuilding and values mapping

  • Reader discussion threads on controversial topics in tech ethics

  • Interviews with people in different public interest tech careers

  • Mixers and socials for Reboot readers

  • Spotlights of ambitious, mission-driven tech projects

  • Curated syllabi with the best books, podcasts, and articles on a topic

Let me know what you think in a comment on this post, or if you’re shy, just reply to this email. I really appreciate it.

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Thanks for a great year,