We are at the beginning of history.
In the 4.5 billion years of Earth’s existence, humans have been here for 200,000 years, far under one percent of the history of the planet. Further shaving down that fraction of a percent, modern civilization only formed 6,000 years ago, and the Industrial Revolution began under 300 years ago. The internet, in its initial form as ARPANET, is 53 years old, and the World Wide Web is 33. By every standard possible, we are only in the nascent stages of history.
Yet, when the past is all we’ve ever known and the future only lies in our imagination, we often forget the expansiveness of this timeline — our memories are short. Counter to our intuition, our bedrock institutions are contestable, and the processes that seem so deeply entrenched now can be reconceived in a myriad of ways. The future may look nothing like the world as we know it.
The news of yet another computer vision application built for state surveillance or developments in robotics technology militarized for autonomous weapons may lead us to cynicism. But every technological development, both in existence and yet to come, has the potential to be co-opted: nuclear power, social networks, genetic engineering. We cannot let this render us helpless.
As technologists, we have a responsibility to own our role in the technological transformation of our generation. We can chip away at structural problems through the tools we build or the policy that we implement, all without throwing our hands in the air in a rejection of technology or claiming that any of these strategies are panaceas. Kernel Magazine is a project in world-making.
Kernel Magazine situates itself between two ends of a spectrum: on one end, a fatalistic vision of the irredeemability of technology; on the other, optimism weaponized as hype where venture-backed bandages are presented as all-encompassing solutions. In opposition to these two extremes, Kernel analyzes technological progress and regress, while earnestly charting a path forward. Cultural change cannot occur without political change; social change cannot exist without infrastructural change. Change requires an orchestra of players, instruments, and movements. We cannot achieve this alone.
To that end, this issue of Kernel Magazine is filled with precisely that — the people, tools, and ideas that together create movements that drive material change. Last year, our inaugural issue asked, Where do we go from here? We know the future we want: a society of abundance where we are not just dividing a pie equitably but also the entire size of the pie has increased, where the market is not the sole determiner of value. Accordingly, in this issue we ask, How do we get there?
Our authors suggest answers: platforms can prioritize and protect their content creators with preemptive moderation policies; the open source community can hold its dependents accountable through equitable and representative governance; we can resituate tree planting as not a silver bullet but rather one vector of a climate response. Perhaps consumer culture can be appropriated for civic engagement, we can create new layers of governance that can lead us to a healthier political environment, and we can organize for legislation that protects workers from harassment and discrimination. Let the current moment not drive us to despair, but rather to action.
In our second issue, we place our authors in discourse and debate through deeply researched essays, personal narratives, poetry, fiction, and art. Our virtual expansion pack includes podcasts and audio recordings of our authors, published community responses, and more. As a publication by and for tech workers, our analysis is informed not just by theory, but also by our own experiences building, working with, and being affected by tech. But we do not profess to know all the answers, so we invite you to join this conversation — Kernel is not just a magazine, but also a community of people seeking answers.
Kernel Magazine is an honest articulation of how to maintain hope in our future and how to increase our agency in achieving it. I am truly beyond excited to share this with you.
Towards a better future,
Editor-in-chief, Kernel Magazine
Emily Liu is the editor-in-chief of Kernel Magazine. She is a writer and engineer based in California, and she believes that all meaningful things are done with friends.