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Google boss quits, writes satirical novel

The novel is said to be so far-fetched that it captures the environment
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Jessica Powell Recently, we’ve looked at a number of complaints about the way Silicon Valley is acquiring too much power over people’s lives, at home and abroad, and reaching deep into the compulsory school system as well. Many who work there don’t like it, including Google’s former PR head Jessica Powell, 40, reporting directly to CEO Sundar Pichai. She took some unusual steps, only the first of which is speaking up:

In one thinly-veiled attack, she accused them of using the sheer size of their platforms as an excuse not to fix problems.

She said: ‘You can’t go about telling your advertisers that you can target users down to the tiniest pixel, but then throw your hands up in front of the politicians and say your machines can’t figure out if bad actors are using your platform.’

Google has been widely criticised for allowing jihadists, far-Right extremists and other hate preachers to post content on its YouTube video platform. In some cases, it funnelled cash from advertisers to the extremists posting videos. Katherine Rushton, “Former Google boss launches scathing Silicon Valley attack urging tech giants to end the delusion that it’s making the world a better place” at Daily Mail

When she quit in August 2017, she told her bosses she was going back to university to study creative writing. She has since published an  essay at Medium and a satirical novel, The Big Disruption.

The Big Disruption Book Cover From the essay:

“You can’t buy up a big bookstore and then a big diaper store and a big pet supply store and, finally, a big grocery store, national newspaper, and rocket ship and then act surprised when people start wondering if maybe you’re a bit too powerful.” Jessica Powell, “Why I Left My Big Fancy Tech Job and Wrote a Book” at Medium

The Big Disruption is satire, the publisher (Medium) assures us:

Something is fishy at Anahata—and it’s not just the giant squid that serves as a mascot for the world’s largest tech company. A prince in exile is working as a product manager. The sales guys are battling with the engineers. The female employees are the unwitting subjects of a wild social experiment. The VPs are plotting against each other. And the yoga-loving, sex-obsessed CEO is rumored to be planning a moon colony, sending his investors into a tizzy. Is it all downhill from here? Or is this just the beginning of a bold new phase in Anahata’s quest for global domination?

From a review:

… like others who have recently left the comfortable confines of big tech — for instance, the founders of WhatsApp or the activists behind the Center for Humane Technology — Ms. Powell has been liberated to offer a detailed and critical perspective of a cloistered industry. Her book’s subtitle explains how it should be read: “A Totally Fictional but Essentially True Silicon Valley Story.”

It’s the essentially true bit that gets attention. Farhad Manjoo, “Silicon Valley’s Keystone Problem: ‘A Monoculture of Thought’” at New York Times

From an excerpt, courtesy Wired, “A Prince Goes on a High-tech Job Interview”:

“Arsyen Aimo?” the recruiter read from a sheet of paper.

Prince Arsyen, Arsyen silently corrected him. More.

The proceeds from the book go to development groups:

Powell is donating the proceeds from her collaboration with Medium to #YesWeCode, an organization dedicated to helping underrepresented groups access opportunities and achieve success in the tech sector, and to Book Trust, which helps children in low-income areas build their own home library.

See also: Senior Google scientist quits over Google’s censorship in China