How I became a tech critic

Paris Marx’s journey from tech optimist to committed Luddite

How I became a tech critic
Paris Marx speaking a re:publica in 2023.

When I started writing about tech back in 2015, we were in a very different moment. It was long before the supposed “techlash” that started to take hold in 2018 and many tech companies could get away with outlandish statements and unethical actions that would be much harder to sell to a more cynical — and frankly, angry — public today.

It’s hard to believe that was almost ten years ago, and I certainly couldn’t say I emerged as the full-fledged Luddite I proudly identify as today. When the Apple Watch was released in 2015, I criticized it as a product that showed Apple was profiting from growing inequality given its exclusive $10,000 Edition model, though I’m sure next to no one read my critique at the time. The following year I had my first piece that got some traction when I called attention to how much the economic model of the gig economy depended on people’s desperation for The Bold Italic.

I was critical of how technology was being used in a capitalist economy, but for a while I still believed it could be a tool for liberation — that it might not be working for us now, but could easily be seized in the future for the common good and thus shouldn’t be the central target of criticism. But I no longer feel that way, and I believe that’s for good reason.

This is a bit of a different piece than I usually write for Disconnect, but after reviewing Kara Swisher’s memoir last week, I thought you might be interested in hearing about my journey to becoming the tech critic I am today and how my views on technology have evolved over that time. Maybe it can also help you reflect on your own journey and perspective on tech and the tech industry!

An early engagement with tech

I was four years old when the internet was privatized, and since my mother was doing a degree in computer science, I had access to a computer and later dial-up internet from a reasonably young age. I played supposedly educational computer games like Reader Rabbit and The Magic School Bus, and spent far too much time on a game as bad as Star Wars: Yoda Stories. Don’t blame me — I was a kid who dreamed of a galaxy far, far away.