If you are anything like me (and I think you are), you have a deep passion for building things, for tinkering, and for changing the world… but your underlying goal is to make things better.
It’s one of the things that has gotten lost in the conversation: we’re not just trying to get money, we’re trying to help. It’s just that… sometimes… things get away from us.
If you want to know why good people, hoping to improve things, have always struggled with the consequences of their work, I have a story that you need to hear.
Engineering for a Humane World Starts with Compassion
To build better technology, we must first reconnect with our own humanity.
We need to be willing to look unflinchingly at the world we have brought about, and take responsibility for the power we have acquired.
This is uncomfortable work, so we tend to avoid it in the pursuit of clearer goals.
We know how to solve problems, set parameters, and we like the apparent certainty of measuring things. We work in a field and with a worldview that loves quantitative evidence. But, “We don’t know how to measure it,” is not a good enough reason to avoid prioritizing our values.
Who am I to be saying this?
I have always wanted to understand the world deeply. But I’m what you wind up with if your toddler never stopped asking, “But why?” and kept going to grad school to answer the question.
After three decades of searching across the disciplines, I know how to help you.
I know why we struggle as individuals and as groups.
I know how to solve technical problems, I know how to solve human problems, and I understand the nature of emergence that happens at the boundary between those things.
Most of all, I know how to help you keep taking action in the world in the face of huge uncertainty. Even though it’s uncomfortable.
What’s the Gist?
The skills we need to solve problems are about narrowing our focus. The skills we need to observe our impacts on the world are about opening up to the entirety of systems. They are different ways of being and interacting with the world, and they are not interchangeable.
The first way of interacting gives us enormous power.
But the second is absolutely necessary if we are going to bring wisdom, caring, and humanity back into our decision making.
For the most part, our technical educations so emphasized the skills of narrowing our focus and problem solving that they left the need to monitor the broader impacts largely outside of scope. Those issues were stuck in electives and afterthoughts, frequently cloaked in the fear of becoming the outcast whistleblower.
If we want to reclaim our power to make the world a better place, we need to start from a deep understanding of the nature of technology and the role of tech professionals and tech companies in shaping our culture and environment.