Almost anyone with a WiFi connection can tell you technology has changed the way people behave and interact with each other, both online and IRL. It’s no mystery that social networks have had a profound impact on society as a whole. What’s not being talking about, at least no often enough, is how tech as a whole is changing many of the fundamental paradigms modern society relies on to function on a daily basis.
This thought-provoking article asks some good questions about the boundaries we’re willing to allow tech companies to cross. What are the implications of allowing the rules that help maintain order and equality to be broken ignored or rewritten entirely?
Facebook, for example, monitors users’ posts to detect indications of suicidal behavior and then stages interventions, such as calling the police, as Natasha Singer reported. However, by refusing to call this “healthcare” or, potentially, “practicing medicine,” Facebook is able to play by a different set of rules, like running experimental health research algorithms on unwitting users.
There are many more examples of how tech companies are avoiding the oversight and compliance that governs much of our daily lives.
As many of you who read this newsletter are people who build tech companies, this begs the questions:
What will we allow technology to do? How do we ensure the things we build truly enhance and provide value to the lives of our customers?
User Goals & Business Goals
Whenever we make design decisions about a product or service, we have to focus on the intersection of User Goals and Business Goals. Serving one without the other is problematic. Serving only user goals is charity (which is great, if that’s your mission). Serving only business goals is being a robber baron. To build a sustainable business you have to focus on both.
Will the unscrupulous practices of Uber, F***book, and the like ever be reigned in? Probably not by government, which moves too slow, and frankly, doesn’t understand tech well enough to pass effective legislation in the first place. The markets will have to correct their behavior, as they always do. Companies always submit to the will of the markets. They always have.