Writing an article on humane technology

Dear all,
I am a columnist for my university online magazine. The idea behind my articles is an attempt to see the “humanity underneath” (e.g. the gowns of healthcare workers during the pandemic). I’ve been following this community for a few months now, and every post has been an important learning experience and source for personal reflection.

I’m planning to write an article on humane technology, and I’d like to do so by collecting and sharing the experience and the point of view of people who are involved with tech.

If you’d like to share your opinions, your experience, the idea you have for a better use and design of technology and social media, please, comment this post.

I think this would be an important step to raise awareness in my campus.

Thanks in advance for taking the time to read my post.

1 Like

Some good resources for inspiration:

  • The Social Dilemma - Corporate interests disregarding the human.
  • New Public and Civic Signals - Imagining a new way to view public spaces and building public spaces online.
  • Prosocial Design Network - Technology design changes that promote the psychosocial health of the human user.
  • Bowling Alone - Details the drastic decline in social participation from 1950-1999 in the United States, since the book was published the problem has only gotten worse.
  • The Good Neighbor - Biography of Mr. Rogers, he was disappointed by the technology revolution he experienced when television was first introduced. Most of the content then, as now, were low-quality afterthoughts meant to push advertisements. Rogers was successful by genuinely promoting the psychosocial well-being of his audience.

Online, the heart of the problem is the monetization model of the social networks. There need to be social spaces online that genuinely promote the well-being of participants, this goal is fundamentally incompatible with an advertising based revenue model.

In media, the heart of the problem is the individualization of content, specifically the inability of people to relate to one another when the content each of them sees is incompatible.

In the real world, the heart of the problem is declining social participation. It is easier to watch a movie at home instead of going out, it is easier to play a video game than to organize friends for a sport, it is easier to post a comment online than it is to hold nuanced discussion with your neighbors.

I personally believe we need non-profit interoperable social platforms that are designed from scratch to promote users to engage their local communities. Instead of displaying a chain of videos that leaves the user mindlessly alone for hours display pickup games at the local park that are happening right now. Instead of removing context and sensationalizing national politics make it easy for users to participate in their own city-hall meetings. Instead of pushing cosmetic products to impressionable viewers promote volunteer opportunities that will build self-esteem and help the community.

1 Like

Two things I could share:

  • Perspectives on the Information Revolution – R&A Enterprise Architecture the page that links to a presentation given at the IASA Conference Architecting for the Global Good (40min + 15min Q&A). It addresses the relation between fundamentals of IT, fundamentals of human psychology/intelligence and how that makes IT hard and social media so destructive. One of the aspects has a rather engineering ring to it: engineers know that ‘negative feedback’ is important to build stable systems. The for-profit algorithms of social media do the opposite: they provide ‘positive feedback’ (they do not dampen, they amplify). That actually makes for a destabilising influence on society. So, one thing we need to do is make that `positive feedback’ illegal as it damages society.

  • Overlapping (with some differences in focus) a series of 4 articles: All that IT, what is it doing to us? – R&A Enterprise Architecture

Note that while big tech is a big problem, the fact that society is fragmenting is not purely a big tech thing. It is no coincidence that the countries where for-profit-amplificiation-of-lies hits so hard, those are the countries where lies were rampant in the first place. 40 years of propaganda through talk radio and Fox ‘news’ in the US and the tabloid press in the UK are definitely not big tech, but without them there would not have been such a fertile ground for the destructive effects of big tech.

And finally, what is happening now requires a rethink of human intelligence. It turns out we have to accept the fact that our species isn’t really intelligent (enough) — even your analytic philosophy professor is still mostly a gossipy primate (and so aren you and I) — and build society that takes that into account, a bit like dropping the naive ‘rational agent’ assumption in economics and take our psychology (decidedly not very rational) into account. We must hope that we are smart enough to accept the fact that we are not smart at all.

1 Like