Discussion on changing Community Mission Statement and Scope

At the end of 2018 I sent an email to @randy and @tristanh to notify them about our discussion in Reflections on CHT header image and slogan and the message it conveys and intent to change our slogan and mission statement to reflect a more restricted, manageable scope and clarity to (new) community members.

With permission and FYI I am copying that email thread below:


Hi Randy, Tristan,

Hope you are doing well! Notifying you on an important development in HT community.

Among moderators we have been discussing the need to clarify the scope in which we operate, and the requirement to restrict it. Having the same mission statement / slogan as the CHT until now: “Realigning Technology to Humanity’s Best Interests” is way too broad and vague, and hampering people becoming active in the community, we observed.

A thread that started as a discussion on that statement and the brand perception that comes with it, has turned to an interesting discusson on changing our mission statement.

I have given it some thought and just now came up with a statement that really excites me, and which I have just proposed on the forum:

"Bridging the Gap Between Humans and The Web "

And created an accompanying diagram to show how that all fits together:

I am curious what your take is on this Mission Statement and subsequent repositioning.

Warm regards,

Arnold.


To which Tristan replied:

Hi Arnold, really appreciate all the work you’re doing to continue to build out the community with such passion and vigor. I check in periodically just to see what’s going on, and have been blown away by how much you’re putting into growing this community and finding ways to plug people in. We would like more of that to happen and I hope you and Randy can discuss that soon.

I realize a lot of people have different grievances w/ what they perceive as what’s wrong with tech. We’re most concerned with the way technology is directly and materials impacting every layer of the social fabric, culture and world history… by creating autonomous systems that pull indiscriminately on the puppet strings of human nature (both accidentally w/ “slot machine”-like email, and intentionally, incentivized by the maximize-engagement model). The pen of history is in technology’s hands, and is increasingly steering elections, conversation, beliefs about ourselves, the world, and our friends, children… towards catastrophe in each domain.

Aligning technology with a more compassionate, sensitive and vulnerable model of human nature is what CHT is all about. So I would not include “the web” in that statement.

We’re planning a lot for 2019 and perhaps it would be great for Randy to run by some of the naming & framing work we are doing, because it will be critical to activate and recruit the CHT community around it as well with maximum resonance.

Thank you again for everything you’re doing - and I’m sorry I haven’t been responsive, we are all super swamped here at CHT.

Tristan
Co-founder
Center for Humane Technology


And my response:

Thank you, Tristan, I am glad you like what is going on on the forum :slight_smile:

I very much share your concerns in the fields that you mention. The TWS part of the equation is much less important against some of these other trends, and our democracies are in danger.

In the slogan the name “Web” is used to designate ‘the internet’ as a whole. It is similar to how Tim Berners Lee’s Solid applies it in “Re-decentralizing the Web”, which also encompasses the entire online world. I think the slogan has merit, especially in combination with the more broadly defined CHT slogan. But that argumentation goes a bit too far for an email exchange, I think.

Would love to discuss further on future plans and closer cooperation of community and center. Will probably have its start in 2019, as the year is running out. Give a shout at any time on the forum or by email, and we can set things up.

There is no need at all to be sorry about not being able to be more involved with the community. That is behind us, and I fully understand where you are coming from.

I wish you and Randy a very Merry Christmas!

Cheers,

Arnold.

PS. Do you mind sharing your email with the other active forum moderators? I’d like to keep them in the loop as much as possible.


Tristan’s response:

Absolutely

We also need a better term for “the good” we want to achieve besides TWS. Currently we’re focused on naming the problem - akin to “tech-accelerated social decay” - but the even more existential/destabilizing version of that arising from tech supremacy over the weaknesses in human mind. Otherwise “time well spent” doesn’t feel like an answer to erosion to democracy, mental health, children, etc.

Agree this is bigger discussion - would be best for you and Randy to regroup in new year. I feel we can better point our community at a more concrete problem statement and agenda out of which better self-organizing toward solutions can happen.

Yes fine [about sharing this text] - just know I will rarely be able to respond.

Happy holidays


And finally me again:

Happy New Year!

Back from a small digital detox and vacation. I agree on the shortcomings of TWS and see it as ‘just one’ of the many topics of Humane Technology. Still a very valuable one - an attractor of people to the community - but is not most prevalent.

Also very important in communication and ‘brand image’ (of the community at least) is conveying a solution-oriented approach and positive mindset (i.e. we have very urgent, yet actionable problems). I feel with all the ‘doom and gloom’ in the media (the ‘problem focus’) there is a risk of people getting apathetic to our tech harms, and - like with climate change - the issues become ‘too big to handle’ for the average person, and they decide to rather ignore them.

Let’s continue discussions on the forum, any time you and/or Randy are ready :slight_smile:

Cheers,

Arnold.

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This is an important point: how our reactions to problems can make bad things worse. As critics of big tech have pointed out, we’ve gone from being citizens to being consumers, and this degeneration of our intrinsic sense of right and wrong has weakened us or made us ineffective.

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Very insightful, I feel like this happens with Edtech especially.

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The division of the 4 strategic pillars between community and center as depicted in the image seems to be a very good one to me. It restricts the community’s scope and allows:

  • The community to be (mostly) political neutral, less involved in politics directly and more resistant to corporate lobbying
    • —> Preconditions to be fully transparent, working in the open on inclusive crowdsourced initiatives
  • We can be more outspoken than the CHT, less diplomatic, as we represent the public’s view
    • —> Strategic strength (public pressure) for the CHT in their advocacy to governments and corporations

The fact that community and center are separately positioned as independent entities is important to make this workable.

When discussing this with @patm she responded with these good points:

What occurs to me when I read this is the need for specificity and precision. If we can pinpoint what is wrong, we can focus companies’ attention–just as they try to focus ours–on particular things to fix.

And if we can speak respectfully as well as knowledgeably, perhaps we can get their cooperation without having to compromise.

Exactly. The pillar division is just the first part of scope restriction to attain focus within the community. I imagine a 2-dimensional grid. On the y-axis are the topics of humane technology, and on the x-axis is the ‘breadth’ or extent to which we’ll cover it.

The limitation to 2 strategic pillars restricts the breadth —> From Awareness to Improvement.
The knowledgeability that is involved increases going from one to the other. We make everyone aware (inclusivity) and on a journey to help find solutions. Their skills and interests determine where they help, along a ‘funnel’ with researchers and experts on the far end.

On the X-axis there are still too many humane tech topics. I think we should combine them into a max. of 3 different focus areas. Then we can effectively divide the community to these areas based on people’s primary interests (focus groups).

On ‘speaking respectfully’: That should be part of the community principles and philosophy. It is the norm. We do not compromise here and deliver honest feedback and criticism where it is due - just as we do with people presenting their own apps to the forum.

Now what could be the focus areas on the x-axis?

Just brainstorming, I am thinking of the following:

  • Digital Health & Wellbeing

    • Physical health, mental health, parenting, education, digital literacy, time-well-spent
  • Privacy & Freedom

    • Digital rights, privacy, freedom of information, censorship, surveillance (capitalism)
  • Civics & Relationships

    • Democracy, fake news, journalism, online political influencing, trolling, cyberbullying, cybercrime

Not so easy to find a good division, needs more thinking. Note also that e.g. ethics can be in each of the areas.

Finally, there could be a z-axis to make a division of the community audience in: Everyone and Children

Edit: Posted publicly to get community feedback, here: Changing community Mission Statement for a clearer, more manageable scope

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@aschrijver To note- pointing people to these three areas can guide them- like parents considering privacy issues etc… a brief user example to show children’s issues are found within all 3 areas actually…

Yes, the key is in ‘to point people to’ and children are involved in the entire spectrum of humane technology, as they represent the next generation that will inherit our mess and must tread a better path.

Doing some more brainstorming:

  • Our strategies in 1 sentence: From Awareness to Solutions

    • Raising awareness to trigger a cultural awakening is our biggest goal
    • Solutions already exist, or are being developed all around the world
    • Our community is on a solution-oriented quest to find them and make them accessible
  • Our scope is restricted to: The Digital Realm

    • The scope of ‘humane technology’ is too vast
    • We focus on the harms of technology that came with the rapid rise of the internet
  • Our focus areas more generalized and in single words: Wellbeing, Freedom, Society

    • We strive to expand these concepts to the digital realm properly
    • While rapid technological evolution (driven by capitalism) has warped their meaning
  • The role we envision for technology: Technology in service of humanity

    • Technology is not going away, it will evolve further, but it cannot be in the driver’s seat
    • Technology itself is neutral, and can be applied for both good and bad
    • Technological innovation can bring great improvement to human lives and the environment

So - going from the bold texts - for a slogan that could be phrased as follows:

Humane Tech Community

Spreading Insight on Digital Technology that Serves Our Wellbeing, Freedom and Society

The first part is still a bit long, but I like the second part. Some variations:

HTC - Spreading Digital Technology That Serves Our Wellbeing, Freedom and Society

HTC - Joining Forces For An Internet That Serves Our Wellbeing, Freedom and Society

HTC - Improving Wellbeing, Freedom and Society Online

or start with: Uplifting, Elevating, Embracing, Expanding, Transitioning

HTC - Helping To Expand Wellbeing, Freedom and Society To The Digital Realm

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@aschrijver looks good-

I like this one because it’s not just internet- and the freedom part is good. The freedom to choose perhaps- whether to participate- so people are not forced to make choices to function that harm their wellbeing. The digital rights statements talk about this- the freedom to be inefficient etc…

This seems like a good foundation to show the leaders to start.

Do we have a notes page of our most important thoughts? Like digital rights, our defining moments in articles we have archived?

When I go to board meetings I like to have our lists in order and defining principles ready.

Setting goals will be important as well- because it gives focus when multiple people are working together. Especially if we can’t talk everyday or every week. Then we ask ourselves- what I’m doing now- does this align with our groups goals? Etc…

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(Moved from conference call message thread)

Also, @aschrijver, you said something at the end of the conference call yesterday that I thought we should consider as a slogan or motto. I’ve made this image, changing a few of your words.

(notice to readers: I moved @patm’s post to this location and responding here)

It is a nice slogan in a way. Did you read my last post in this topic? Before I started in my head I had the slogan “Aware of a better future” to represent the strategy (and scope restriction): “From awareness to solutions”.

I think the slogan you propose comes with the same caveats the original one of the CHT has:

  • The scope of humane technology is too large. Our community will not be ‘building’ the future. We can only influence / contribute / help steer the direction on how mankind builds the future.

  • ‘Healthy’ is about as vague as ‘Humanity’s best interests’ and does not say on which aspects we are focused

  • The entire slogan may imply that we are about ‘digital transformation’ (technology-focused), and less about extending existing human values that existed for ages, to the digital realm.

I like the idea of a pyramid. It is similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. We could apply this concept to what our community is trying to achieve for the digital realm and bring our focus areas in that picture. So we could have a pyramid that from bottom to top has: Society, Freedom, Wellbeing

These 3 layers then constitute basic needs. On top of that we can define a 4th layer that does not need a focus group and is called Time Well Spent. Implying that if the first 3 layers are properly addressed (preconditions) then you have created a digital realm that is open to unlimited human freedom of expression, creativity, interaction, love, etc.

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A like the pyramid too (or it can be also a tower of layers), meaning each layer is the precondition to the upper one. What do you think of this slogan, which incorporates the three words we have in HTC:

For a more humane smart digital technology that helps us becoming a community of smarter human beings

I chose smarter instead of wiser, healthier, etc. to make a contrast with the smart technology that there’s before in the sentence.

Hmm. I get where you are going to, but I don’t feel that it is solving the scope restrictions and clarity we are searching for:

  • The slogan should fit well with the community name in one sentence: [Humane Tech Community] - {Slogan], which means that you have the word ‘Humane’ twice without explanation what it means

  • I think it is okay to have ‘Humane’ in our community name, but it is a bit of a vague term and should not be in the slogan. What does it mean? And are things that are not fitting of being humane then ‘inhumane’? Inhumane is a very strong word (makes me think of torture, slavery, etc.), and many harms of technology are not in that category.

  • Also the word smart is used twice, and has different meanings. When applied to technology it does mean clever / sophisticated and not necessarily better (AI is ‘smart’), and when applied to humans it can be read to refer to intelligence. Implying that humans are now somehow ‘dumb’ (which is technically true wrt humane tech, but has negative connotation and is less inclusive terminology).

  • Use of the term ‘community’ refers to mankind I presume, but is used in a different meaning than Humane Tech Community, And it is doubtful that humanity will ever form a true community (People that are different than others allowed to being different (freedom) is very important).

  • Starting ‘For a more …’ and the rest of the slogan does not express that we have the strategy of spreading awareness.

  • Bringing our focus areas into the slogan serves to clearly expressing the scope restriction further than only mentioning we focus on ‘digital technology’.

Yes, I liked this one the best too.

Rationale
Spreading Raising awareness as a strategic goal
Digital Technology Scope restriction of humane technology
That Serves Desired role of technology, and focus on solutions
Our Mankind or humanity, but without mentioning it explicitly
Wellbeing, Freedom and Society Scope restriction of digital technology topics to focus areas

Having only a short slogan to represent our Mission/Vision is not sufficient, I think. We should expand it e.g. as follows:

Name Who we are, i.e. Humane Tech Community
Slogan Summary providing clarity o mission, vision and scope
Mission A paragraph of text having Slogan as title, followed by 2-3 sentences that indicate direction, and method towards a (set of) desired objective(s). Mentioning our focus areas.
Vision A paragraph of text describing in 2-3 sentences the desired, idealized end goal. If we go with the pyramid concept, this can the Time Well Spent top layer.

Yes I understood your points. Humane and community were meant in the sense of humanity growing empathy one each other and cultivating human social activities vs being lonely in front of the screen in a pure individualistic way, repressing our more authentic ‘natural’ nature to live with others and with nature.

Yes, I understood them in that way too. But we are deeply involved in HTC already and this meaning may not be as clear to people who are complete outsiders.

Do you have specific issues with the other slogan (“Spreading Digital Technology That Serves Our Wellbeing, Freedom and Society”), that we may improve on?

Some concerns I myself can’t really express in a plain way. Something related to:

  • spreading ‘good’ technology seems to restrict too much our role (we can also help design new good technology)
  • serves our wellbeing, freedom and society seems to lack the sense of empathy and group activities among us and immersed in nature. It looks like (maybe it’s not like that) something that serves me (to keep me healthy, secure and free) and my society (something much higher and abstract I cannot individually be actively part of).

But as I said these are kind of retro-thoughts, I just want to express them to be sure of telling everything comes to my mind.

Yes, I get that. Good points to address.

I don’t see these points as being problematic for the slogan. Having a very short slogan text means you can only put so much in it, and have to focus on what’s most important.

  • Spreading good technology in no way restricts that we can be about creating good technology too (if we build it, we must spread it as well), but if you reverse it and mention ‘creating’ or ‘building’ you are implicitly excluding 1,000’s of (overlapping) initiatives that we can bring together. Alternatively we could make the slogan longer to encompass both, but IMHO that will not make it stronger.

    • Another aspect I really like in the word ‘Spreading’ is that it implies how we can help others. It can help build partnerships and cooperations between communities: “We help spread your cool tech-for-good initiative!”.
  • Regarding ‘empathy’ and ‘group activities’ - remember, the slogan is prepended by Humane Tech Community, which at least has ‘humane’ and ‘community’ to represent both. A change to the slogan could be to replace “Serve” with “Benefits” (more emphatic). After you land on the community pages we can immediately draw attention on the pyramid concept and the goal to get to the ‘Time Well Spent’ level where empathy, affection and doing things together are central.

So the slogan could be changed to:

HTC - Spreading Digital Technology That Benefits Our Wellbeing, Freedom and Society

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Ok, it seems good to me!

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Cool! I’ll await input from @patm and @healthyswimmer and will also invite our Open Leaders mentor to become member of HTC, so we can give her access.

I’d like to have community consensus on mission and vision and then discuss further with @randy and @tristanh on further matches / refinements.

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We might say…

“Spreading digital technology awareness that serves wellbeing, freedom and society”

Without the word awareness- we might infer we are actually spreading the use of technology- and some circumstances we are raising awareness about better use of technology. & We don’t have to say “our”, the words society and wellbeing encompass the given audience implied.

Perhaps awareness isn’t specific or goal driven enough though… maybe break out the thesaurus. We do need a word there because we are not actually spreading technology.