Last year, the tech community was stunned by the realization that teaching a homeless man to code did not solve the larger issues of homelessness and American income inequality. Now, they've regrouped, and have a new myopic plan: let's strap GoPro cameras to the poor.
The name "Homeless GoPro" betrays almost everything you need to know about the project. It's stupidly uncreative, and yet somehow radically crass:
With a donated HERO3+ Silver Edition from GoPro and a small team of committed volunteers in San Francisco, Homeless GoPro explores how a camera normally associated with extreme sports and other "hardcore" activities can showcase courage, challenge, and humanity of a different sort - extreme living.
Just like Joel Q. Dropbox enjoys Bay Area sea kayaking or mountain biking on weekends, the homeless of Silicon Valley live a rugged, outdoors, extreme lifestyle. Only they can't go home at the end of the day, because they have no homes, because they are that fucking extreme. If they're victims of violence or die from exposure? Hell yeah, brother, even more extreme.
The Homeless GoPro project, turd-child of San Francisco ed-tech entrepreneur Kevin Adler, self-describes as an experiment in "empathy," an attempt to build understanding between the homeless and the techno-fortunate that ignore them every day. And what could possibly be more damning of the coding class than the idea that empathy requires a high-definition video stream? What kind of person can only feel for destitute strangers if they're provided a POV video stream of their lives? That's what it'll take for you to realize you're driving a wealth-consolidation wedge into your city? If this is what it takes to spur action, then let's just fucking give up on action.
What would Silicon Valley's homeless stand to lose from the personal attention of the startup overclass? It seems like every time a young entrepreneur considers the homeless plight around them, it results either in a degrading spectacle or an insulting tirade. Or, this:
The goal is to build empathy, enable the non-homeless to walk with a homeless person for a few moments, and to explore how a camera lens associated with "hardcore" activities like snowboarding and surfing can showcase courage and difficulty of another sort.
So, stop bothering. When you care it makes things worse. Don't teach the homeless how to code. Don't make startups to rethink poverty. Please, please don't attach consumer electronics to human beings. Above all, stop thinking we can innovate our way out of one of civilization's oldest ailments. Poverty, homelessness, and inequality are bigger than any app—thinking software and a portable camera can make a dent is nothing more than indulgence. Your tech isn't helping. Your worldview is missing the point. If you want to be helpful—and you should be—just give some money or time.