I come from a centuries-old village, that is part of a millennia-old culture, that is nestled within a million-year-old mountain range on the western coast of The Levant. I am stressed out that the Macromedia Flash games I made as a teenager no longer run after twenty short years.
Building systems that are long-lived and useful is hard to do, but I worry we’ve stopped trying. Or, worse, that we’ve never really been able to try at all. In the face of accelerating climate collapse and a rapidly destabilizing world the stakes for the future of computing and what it could offer humanity have never been higher. Yet all around us is planned obsolescence, short-term thinking, brittleness, ephemerality, waste. We intuit that a better world is possible, yet simultaneously seem trapped by, to quote the late Joe Armstrong, “The Mess We’re In” without understanding why.
I’ve spent the past few years researching the cultural baggage of computing and organizing alternative models of software labor. This talk builds on that experience to explore what a robust and sustainable future of our craft might look like and steps we can take in those directions today. We’ll look outside the industry and its established schools of thought to begin to appreciate exactly why such a future is so hard to build, what forces constrain and direct our action and imagination, and what we have to change about ourselves and our world in order to transcend.
Ramsey Nasser is a game designer, media artist, computer scientist, and educator. He is one of the founding worker-owners of the EMMA Technology Cooperative where he builds everything from interactive experiences to Lisp compilers for clients all across the world. He lives in Brooklyn with his partner and their big goofy dog, and when he's not tinkering on some computer shenanigans you'll find him riding his motorcycle safely under the speed limit.