March 22, 2012

What Tech Wants: A People Agenda

Category: Equity
large group of people waving hands in the air

I loved Kevin Kelly’s book, and especially loved the message I heard from it. What I heard was that tech wants us to become more humane, not less. What I heard, was that tech wants us to get to know ourselves, each other, and the world around us, even better than we ever imagined, for good.

This, to me, is about communication. It’s about changing up the conversations we have. It’s about spreading and sharing good ideas. It’s about intimate coffee house conversations on local-global as well as a global-global scales. It’s about exposing tacit knowledge. It’s about exposing love. It’s about spaces where we all feel like we have nothing to prove, but instead, realize we have something of extreme value to offer: ourselves.

We are getting ready for our first TEDx in my home town. In picking out the three main TED talks to show during the course of our 7-hour TEDx, the ones we’re settling on seem to address this whole issue of what tech wants.

Our first session is on the potential. The TED we are picking is Deb Roy’s “Birth of a Word.”

The intended message, the potential, if we use tech to look deeper into ourselves, and allow tech to share what we find, is that our communities, our cities, will thrive. I believe one of tech’s greatest gifts is that it democratizes us. It levels the playing field. As amazing as tech can be, and as geeked out as we can get with it, nothing is more spectacular than its ability to create equity (one reason I’m so interested in ways to promote/create digital equity is my friend Kosta who is working on; the potential of creativity when there is equity, is going to blow us away. Imagine rhizomatic spaces and connections. Shared.

Our second session is on the challenge. The TED we are picking is Chimamanda Adiche’s the “Danger of Just One Story.”

The intended message, as she so eloquently portrays, is that a rich culture (not just monetary) allows for the sharing of that culture’s diverse stories to be told. Again, the democracy tech allows us is incredibly humane. It allows us a different conversation with self, a different conversation with others. It allows learners to be eclectic. It doesn’t help us out of the box, it erases the box. It erases labels. It let’s us see past stereotypes and biases. Imagine rhizomatic currency, the value of each person, now. The value we’ll unearth as we assume goodwill.

Our third session is on the promise. The TED we are picking is Bunker Roy’s “Barefoot Movement.”

The intended message, the promise of breathtaking brilliance, when we call into question the current ways we stamp our approval on things, the current way we think we need to do things. Imagine what tech wants, as it exposes us, and our capabilities when we collaborate and participate, rather than judge, manage and approve. Imagine credentialing through our cities/communities. Imagine rhizomatic expertise and learning.

But that said, as more and more of a person’s life becomes available online, the need for certification will diminish, as people acquire reputations of their own. A person’s standing in a community can be recognized by members of that community, and is acquired through months and years of participation in the work of that community. Where certification is granted, people presenting certification without having acquired a reputation for work in the community will be viewed with suspicion. – (Stephen Downes 2008)

If we zoom way out, and really get a broad picture, a broad narrative, of what tech wants, I think it’s wanting us to connect. It’s wanting us to see we were made to connect. Tech wants us to see that we are connected.

Tech wants us to change the conversation. It wants to free us up for more pausing, and listening, and breathing. In a sense, tech is giving us an incredible mic and mirror, to talk to ourselves about whether what we are doing matters. It’s giving us an incredible kitchen table, (AI-infused conversation so we can hear each others’ hearts) to talk to others about whether or not our gatherings in a space or room, matter.

We get to decide what tech wants. We are the people after all. We can spend our days debating good vs evil. Or, we can spend our days choosing good. We can start by unpacking a quiet revolution:

one: conversation with self

two: shared spaces

three: connections

four: facilitating curiosities

Banner image credit: Steve Crane