My Why: Building Better Tech

two images side-by-side; the LHS is Snow White, sweetly singing to adorable animals. This is contrasted with the RHS image, of a wild-eyed dishevelled man pointing emphatically at a very messy whiteboard of diagrams, notes, and map lines
‘Building Better Tech’ expectation vs reality

The AWS re/start program, run as part of the Yapang Initiative, has been a no-holds-barred challenge from the get-go. I’m an Arts grad; I’m not a 1s and 0s person, I like flowery, verbose words, not logic and integers and floating point numbers (*Batman slap* THEY’RE CALLED DECIMAL, DAMMIT).

So why am I here? Because it’s time to put that humble little Arts degree to work and exercise my interdisciplinary muscle and get technical. Learn a new skill. Get into code and get into the cloud.

I have loved the internet since I first brought in an article I had cut out (LOL) from the newspaper (also LOL) and asked my school librarian to help me type in a geocities URL so I could explore an X-Files fanpage.

But, internet, in the ensuing years, shit boo you have done me wrong. And by ‘me’, I mean ‘everyone’. There are many great and fun and awesome and cool parts to you but geez, there is too much that is bad and hateful and polemic and wrong and dangerous.

I love you internet, but your behaviour has to change.

So what do I want out of this?

I’m learning about cloud computing because I want to work at building better tech for the future. For me, this means that I embed my new-found technical nous around ideas of humane tech, the attention economy, civic tech and human-centered design.

The more I learn, the more I want to recollect/re-introduce/re-consider ideas from Indigenous thinking/methodologies/ways of being/ideologies/ principles as part of this process. As a settler-coloniser on unceded sovereign Aboriginal land however, I am very mindful that this is an area that I have to navigate carefully. For now, this looks mostly like educating myself and listening to the knowledge already shared by First Nations’ people.

Twitter reply — original tweet is from @elonmusk and says “Am donating $100M towards a prize for best carbon capture technology”; @drmistercody replies and quote-tweets Elon Musk, saying “Congratulations to whoever invents forests.”
Not like this, Elon

My motivations are selfish. I am interested in these things because I have a deeply problematic relationship with the internet. Especially social media. I am addicted to my screen to the point of distraction. Distraction, though, is the whole point of the Attention Economy. I don’t want to live in a world where tech becomes a zero-sum game about who can suck our time from us the most in order to keep eyeballs on a screen or hands compulsively reaching for the back pocket for a smartphone. I want to…live in the world. I want to live in the world. Idealistic? Absolutely. But unreasonable? No, I don’t think so.

As the machinations of the attention economy become increasingly front of mind, the necessity of a framework such as Humane Technology becomes more apparent.

Humane Technology is about increasing awareness of the ways and responsibilities we have, as users and as a part of the tech industry, to use and make technology work for the betterment of humankind. For the many, not the few.

This kind of blew my mind when I first started learning about it. Humane technology found me at the right time: lockdown in Melbourne. Without invoking too much PTSD for the people here who went through it in 2020, it was a pretty dark time: indoors all day, no daycare for my kids (who were climbing up the walls at home), only one hour for exercise etc. It was the pits. Naturally, I was using my phone in increasingly unhealthy ways — to distract, to self-soothe, to check out of the everyday monotony, to numb. Then the social dilemma hit netflix and that’s when I jumped down the rabbit hole.

It’s important for me to note that while lockdown was something I found personally challenging (to put it mildly) I also have to express how privileged my experience was, while so many others globally dealt with — and are still dealing with — profoundly worse circumstances. It was hard, and I struggled, but it could have been far worse.

My goal is to push us to start thinking about these things as we embark or continue or pivot in our tech career paths, because at the end of the day, the tech industry is made of people, and last time I checked, we are people. We also have the potential to embed — or at least, start thinking about — some of the ways in which we can be part of consciously creating better innovations that affect our lives.

Humane technology challenges these issues by enabling and challenging us — tech and non-tech folk alike — through education, empowerment, and the radical notion that the whole system needs to be rebuilt…and that we are the ones to do it.

Write about what you like. Things I am interested in: tech! feminism! the environment! digital comms! empathy! psychology! post-capitalism!