Relationship to Center for Humane Technology
For my talk with David Jay on Thursday Feb. 14 following our Community Team introduction, I have sent an email to David (CC to Tristan and Randy) outlining some interesting ideas for future cooperation and affiliation.
The relationship has been unclear since the foundation of the community, but recently we started discussions about it. In this intro I’ll quote from recent mails between me and CHT, first this from David:
I see CHT and HCT as separate organizations which share values and and have strongly (though not perfectly) overlapping worldviews. Your pyramid is a fantastic articulation of what HTC stands for, and one that aligns very well with the conversations that we’ve been having about our work. I think that we’ve been particularly focused on what you’d call the Alignment triangle: thinking about how to move towards products that are aligned with our humanity rather than exploitative of it.
I had previously stated where we are with our community, and important criteria that are part of our philosophy:
Community philosophy (which I have communicated and promised us to follow) state that:
- we work fully in the open
- all information is in the public domain (CC-BY, properly attributed)
- all code is open-source (MIT, GPL or even copyleft)
- the community is grassroots organized (forms itself organically)
- all community activities are crowdsourced
- we work with full transparency
- we practice on highest ethical principles
- we are volunteers and free
- we work with mindfulness (speed depends on activity and that is fine)
- participating should be fun and rewarding (some selfish motives are okay)
—> in short: we will be an exemplar of humane technology
HTC is positioned as a separate entity from CHT to allow it freedom to act on member-driven initiatives, and acting myself as its facilitator, but “Any member can strive to occupy any ‘official’ role or position they want, if they earn it by activity and perserverance”.
Proposal of future relationship
I see great potential in a very smart cooperation between center and community. Earlier I had proposed dividing the 4 strategic pillars between our 2 entities, and I have updated the diagram which depicts that:
I think this division makes a lot of sense. CHT has top-level access to legislators, the workfloor up to boardroom level. The HTC would be the community that acts independently spreading awareness and putting the pressure up (in a hand-over to CHT) and be an information hub where solutions are collected, organized and spread about. Solutions that are in large part stimulated by CHT by promoting their widespread business adoption, and having employees create and contribute to them. This separation of concerns would allow a HTC organization where corporate interests cannot take a foothold and the philosophy I outlined below are 100% guaranteed. While CHT is necessarily involved with politics and business diplomacy, the HTC can be freed of that and position accordingly. HTC could be intentionally more critical (though entirely polite), helping CHT bring policy solutions, fostering adoption, i.e. ‘smooth’ things out.
Besides that CHT could focus most closely on ‘the West’, especially US - where most of big tech (still) is - and HTC with a more worldwide perspective, focusing on tech consumers globally (there are huge regional differences, e.g. in Italy in education, tech is under-used, while in the US too much edtech that is thrown at students poses a real problem).
The advantages of separated operation from HTC side, is that it will allow people to join without distrust that we ‘have been compromised’ by corporate interests. Something that will definitely be a thing when having paid CHT employees directly at the top, leading things. I’ve told you before that there is huge discussion in open-source circles, about Big Tech sponsorships and involvement, and the biggest experts, activists and advocates for change in these fields are slowly turning away from established internet foundation groups (W3C, WHATWG, EFF, Mozilla, etc.) and talking about erecting alternative bodies that don’t allow that to occur. There is an opportunity here, to be part of that from the start.
What does this proposed separate positioning mean for community-building? I think there can be effectively two communities that are closely intertwined / cooperative yet acting separately. One is HTC that is focused on a very broad audience educating about harms and how to solve them. The other community is organized around the pillars of the CHT, rallying technologists and researchers as their main audience and organizing meetups, conferences, hackathons, etc. to envision and boost the solution space, and there is the center itself that brings the regulators into this play.
David, if you (and of course Randy, Tristan and the others in your team) find this appealing, we could create a division along these lines. We could formalize the relationship of CHT as the ‘strategic advisory body’ to HTC, and providing the core HTC team with ‘early access’ developments on the regulatory front (also a ‘reward’ to active members), and at the same time instruct HTC how best to apply their activism efforts to exert the proper type of political pressure for Center activities. Organization-wise for HTC I’m thinking of adopting a variation of the ‘Snowflake model’ (as used by Obama in his campaign, but organized around a concept / vision / set of principles) - a tip from
@laurex - for the Awareness track, and adopting concepts from Spotify Engineering Culture - a tip from
@Mndctrl - for the inner group of the community, and on the Solutions track.
To be continued…
PS. In the text above I have left out personal details about my own possible role in relation to CHT.