Possible intro. Not sure if I like it. Seems like I need a story to start with. Maybe nice to compare technology progress in a different decade. How did people think about the technological progress around the Second World War? That a lot of our technology is harmful in 2021 doesn't mean that it always will be like that. Maybe something like GPS is built as a way to track the enemy. Nowadays its an extremely useful technology. A lot more to dig here....
It’s 2021 and I have a confession to make. I’m a bit disappointed by the overall state of computers. We’ve come a long way, but our technology is loud, so so loud. As Adam Wiggins describes: "In pursuit of connectivity, computers have come supremely good at begging for our attention. Red badges, notifications, inboxes, and feeds are baked into every operating system and most apps."
It looks like that the smartest minds of our generation are working on products that harm people. Phones have become little attention monsters that scream for our screen time by applying all sorts of non humane growth hacking methods.
Most services and apps that I label as harmful started as new positive ambitions to change the world for the better. Instagram began as a well-built photo filter app, a way to share your life with friends. I'm pretty sure that the founders didn't anticipate that it would turn into a dopamine indulging app of self-centeredness. How did this happen, and what is the difference with software that doesn’t harm us?
In this piece I want to talk about where we stand with our software. What drives apps to become harmful, addictive or slightly evil? More so, I hope to shine some lights on software that is positively influencing our day to day lives. Rather than pointing a lot of fingers I want to celebrate the many apps that are choosing the right route. I’m a tech optimist by heart so celebrating the good rather then concerning the bad seems like the only way forward.
Software makers should ask themselves, if their incentives are aligned with those of the users. For a lot of the modern day apps, the incentives are fundamentally misaligned. That's why I'm so interested in models where this alignment is present.