The Shitty Tech Adoption Curve Has a Business Model

It is difficult to get a public procurement officer to understand something, when a vendor’s salary depends on his not understanding it.

Cory Doctorow
4 min readJun 11


A jail cell, seen through the bars. Bundles of US $100 bills are piled up on the floor of the cell.
Flying Logos/CC BY-SA 4.0 (modified)

In the “Shitty Technology Adoption Curve,” oppressive technologies are first imposed on people who don’t get to complain — prisoners, migrants, children, mental patients, benefits recipients — in order to normalize these tools and sand down their rough edges. Once the technology has been rendered a little more acceptable, it crawls up the privilege gradient, bit by bit, until even the most socially powerful among us are using it.

In other words: 20 years ago, if you ate dinner under a CCTV’s unblinking eye, you were probably dining in a supermax prison. Today, you’re likely just someone who bought some luxury surveillance, like a “home automation” system from Google, Apple, Amazon or Facebook.

From “bossware” and “repo-ware” to “ed-tech” and “landord tech,” each disciplinary technology starts with people way down on the ladder, then ascends the ladder, rung by rung, until it reaches you.

Case in point: the jails of Fulton County, Georgia, are fitting out prisoners with tracking bracelets from Talitrix, a prisonware company. These tracking bracelets give guards both realtime and historical access to every movement that every prisoner makes, as well as biometrics, down to the heart-rate of every prisoner.

Fulton County’s jails are in real trouble: “[Inmates] are sleeping on the floor in plastic trays. Cell doors hang off hinges, footage from one local news report shows, and leaked water pools on the floor in some areas. Last September, one person was found dead and covered in bed bugs.”

The funding to buy Talitrix tracking bracelets is part of an emergency cash infusion triggered by outrage (and litigation risk) over these inhumane conditions.

But the hundreds of sensors being studded throughout the county’s jails and the expensive tracking cuffs are obviously solving the wrong problems, like “how do we stop prisoners living under these inhumane conditions from erupting in violence, or taking their own lives?”