Avner Shanan

Mentorship, Software Engineering, Maintenenance and Care

Out of Context: Logic School

First, some news: I was accepted into Logic School! Logic School is an online, experimental school for tech workers, broadly defined. It’s run by Logic(s) magazine, a fantastic publication that looks at tech with a global and critical lens. This is the second cohort, and I’m super stoked to be a part of this community. There are some great speakers already lined up, including Mother Cyborg and Timnit Gebru. We had our “session 0” last week, going over community agreements and generally getting to know each other a little bit. A lot of my reading time will be going towards Logic School assignments for next few months.


Why Is It So Hard To Build Safe Software?

A good article outlining some of the difficulties around building safe software. The author, Kevin Riggle, lays out five factors that he believes make designing safe software systems more difficult than designing safe physical systems:

  1. Software is leaner.
  2. Software is [sic] moves faster.
  3. Software is more complex.
  4. The geography & physics of networks are different.
  5. Consequences for adversaries are lower.

While I agree with him on all five, I think his first point, “Software is leaner,” is missing some critical analysis. Refusing to dedicate resources to safety is a choice that corporations make and are allowed to make by governments, and it’s worth naming both of those.

Point four, “The geography & physics of networks are different,” is a keen observation on the materiality of the Internet, and it is by far the most interesting to me.

His observation that “it’s very hard to make things not be effectively adjacent on the Internet,” has pretty clear implications in the context of InfoSec (i.e. the adversaries mentioned in his fifth point), but it also has implications for social media safety. People with marginalized identites in social media spaces are often harassed, but context collapse, e.g. when viral content hits escape velocity and finds audiences beyond those it was originally intended for, exposes them to even more harassment. That social media companies mostly shirk their responsibility to keep users safe is both predictable and an indictment of the people in charge.

For Logic School



iNNERMiSSiON is a new release from my friend and serial colleague/layoff-victim, Duke Greene. It has gotten its hooks in my brain and will not let go. Duke’s playful lyricism, skillful storytelling, and densely layered winking wordcraft unfold over solid beats. Like Babe Ruth, Duke calls his shots the whole way through, and as far as I’m concerned this album is a grand slam. It’s an EP, a tight twenty minutes that covers an enormous range while managing to capture some of the intimacy of an open mic or small show. From swaggering intro to cave-based diss track to heartfelt explorations of self-destructive impulses and the terror of the creative act, it’s a well-tuned album that is best listened to in order and end-to-end. As someone who has also “been on a teabreak”1 for a few minutes, seeing some of my own struggles represented in iNNERMiSSiON has been a real balm, and had me reaching for a few other tracks that filled a similar purpose:


Everything Everywhere All At Once

Been meaning to watch this for a long time, and was happy we managed to get to it just before the Oscars. I thought it was great, and I fully expect it to benefit from repeat viewings.

This feels kind of obvious in retrospect, given the title, but this is absolutely an ADHD movie. The frantic pace, the way Evelyn’s life was littered with failed ambitions, her INATTENTION at critical times, Jobu Tapaki’s existential struggle, it’s all there. Also, apparently writer/director Daniel Kwan’s research into ADHD while writing this script is what led him to get diagnosed.

The Legend of Korra

My wife and I just finished a rewatch of Korra, on the heels of another run through Avatar: The Last Airbender. I liked it more this time than I did the first time, I think. One thing it does really well, in spite of being a kid’s cartoon, is dealing with generational trauma. Being a sequel series to Avatar gives them a lot of room to play with, lots of consequences they can tease out, and, if the characters are lucky, resolve.

Between Korra, EEAAO, and some of the prompts for Logic School, I’ve been thinking about the work of generational healing lately. During this latest rewatch I realized something new: how much I identify with Aang. That realization didn’t land until Korra because I think it is in the adult version of Aang that I see bits of myself. In Avatar he is both a literal child and too focused on survival and/or defeating the Fire Lord to get more than glimpses at how the trauma of being the Last Airbender will shape him. In Korra we mostly see the aftermath, how his trauma informed his kids’ childhoods, the various ways he passed his trauma on.

My grandfather on my dad’s side, Sava Yoel, may his memory be a blessing, spent years running from the Nazis before ending up in the Bergen-Belsen camp. He survived, obviously, but none of the family he’d left behind did.

When I engage in politics I carry him with me. When I vote, knock doors, protest, I carry him with me. When I point to rising fascism with alarm, sharing stories from folks like Sarah Kendzior or Sydette Harry documenting how the fascists sharpen their knives on the most marginalized folks first2, I carry him with me. And I carry the ghosts of those who did not make it, too. Like Aang, I feel the weight of an almost successful ethnic cleansing, a responsibility to rebuild. And that is a lot, no doubt about it, but I am grateful that Judaism also provides tools for understanding this kind of generational work.

The modern Jewish conception of social justice is encapsulated in the concept of Tikkun Olam. Tikkun Olam, literally “world repair,” is rooted in the idea that God started the creation of the world, but did not finish it. We, all of us, have a responsibility to continue that work of creation, by working to repair the broken world we live in. That sounds like a tall order, but as Rabbi Tarfon says:

It is not your responsibility to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it. (Pirkei Avot 2:16)

It is not reasonable or possible for one person, one group, even one generation, to completely undo the trauma of genocide, to fix the broken, racist, sexist, ableist, transphobic system we live under. But that is also not what Judaism asks of us, only that we participate in the generational work involved in doing so, that we work to leave things better than we found them. To heal our selves, our communities, our world.

A big thank you to Deana Rutherford for editing this post.

  1. Intro to HiGHFUNCTiONiNG. – we were both laid off from our mutual employer back in January, along with 20% of the fulltime staff. 

  2. Black Women have been under attack for far too long, immigrants in the US are still being grossly mistreated, and the attacks on trans folks have been stepped into high gear in the last year or so. Not to mention the ways these attacks intensify when marginalized identities intersect.