Growing up in the United States as a daughter of South Asian immigrants, I was taught to work hard and take advantage of opportunities that I had access to. I am grateful to have grown up in a privileged financial situation and it wasn’t uncommon to see people of the South Asian community pursuing prestigious careers as doctors, engineers, and entrepreneurs among others. Naturally, as children of those successful professionals, we were pushed to pursue these careers as well. Reasons for doing so were rooted in financial stability, and the ability to provide a nice life for yourself in the future. In general, parents tend to want their children to be able to exceed the standard of living they have been provided and the bar has been set pretty damn high.
I am currently an engineering student and I would be lying if the motivations of financial stability and high salaries weren’t a big part of why I applied for engineering programs in high school, but I am grateful that I have developed a greater passion for the subject in college. As a junior, I am knee-deep in the process of applying to internships some of which are at very prestigious tech companies that have done very bad things. After reading about incidents like Timnit Gebru being pushed out of Google for highlighting the unethical practices of AI in her research, I can’t help but think: “Why am I trying so hard for this anyways, who am I actually helping?”
When I think about people that put diversity, the wellbeing of marginalized people, and the planet at the forefront, I usually imagine people working in careers like social workers, non-profit leaders, or the squad in Congress. More power to these people but it’s not the right fit for everyone. We don’t all have to be working these types of jobs to care about important issues like diversity and equity, climate change, and a host of other challenges. I think almost everyone has supported a company that has unethical practices at least once in their life and many of us do this daily (I am literally typing this on Google Docs right now) but this doesn’t necessarily mean that we are bad people. It just indicates the amount of influence these companies have and how complex our world is, which creates unintended consequences for well-intentioned actions. In Season 3, Episode 10 of The Good Place, Micheal (Ted Danson’s character) said “Everyday the world gets a little more complicated, and being a good person gets a little harder” and I think this quote perfectly sums up the difficulty of making ethical choices in this day and age. Creating a sustainable, ethical, and equitable world requires systemic change with most of the work focused on those who have the most influence in our society (billionaires, large corporations, the government, etc).
But with that being said I do believe that we as individuals can make small changes to create the world we want to live in. Not only does this contribute to a better society but I believe it makes us feel better about our choices. Regardless of what career we pursue, or what company we work at I believe we can all do things like donating to organizations doing important work, mentoring children from underrepresented backgrounds, standing up to injustice in the workplace, voting, getting educated on issues we are passionate about, supporting small businesses, and so much more. While creating careers and lifestyles that are aligned with our values and the benefit of society is no easy feat (and I fully acknowledge that not everyone is able to do so) small positive changes can make a difference.
P.S: If you want to boycott Google in some way here are some ideas. To replace Google as your search engine, check out Ecosia, a free search engine that prioritizes privacy and plants trees with its profits. A great substitute for Google Chrome is the Brave Browser, which is built very similarly to Chrome but has built-in blockers for ads and cross-site trackers.