Martijn Catz will dedicate 2019 to “Boosting Humane Technology”​

Ok, that’s it! Did you know that 1 out of 3 people even check their phone in the middle of the night?  #wtf #butnosurprise

I would have never thought that I would be publicly sharing my resolutions on LinkedIn, but this year I just have to! So here we go: 2019 will be the year in which I will fully dedicate myself to help tech (related) companies to become more humane. Let me explain you why!

For the last 2 years I have been interested in humane technology, which is technology that actually serves and not leads people. I took a deep dive into the topic, joined the Centre of Humane Technology Forum and just watched every possible talk of Tristan Harris. However, today’s few but powerful tech companies still just haven’t stopped fighting for the most precious thing we people have: our attention.

The attention economy

While using your device, supercomputers are tracking every single thing that you do. Liking, scrolling, tapping, swiping. The whole shebang. And by continuously collecting and capturing your data, algorithms are able to identify unique personal patterns (yes, also yours). Creating a unique personal understanding of who you are and what you are interested in. Ultimately leading to systems that are already capable of predicting and influencing your behaviour, just to keep you hooked. Result? An average mobile screen time of more than 4 hours a day (2018), in which we feed this so called attention economy, while filling tech companies’ wallets.

Our minds can be hacked

And we are not there yet, because here’s what really got me thinking: all our minds are primal and can be persuaded. No matter the IQ or the experience, all our brains can unconsciously be tricked. Tristan Harris, founder of the Centre of Humane Technology, compares it to magicians, who’s magic tricks just work on all of us.

Still not very surprising, I agree. But now imagine the potential impact of combining the power of magic with smart behaviour guiding algorithms. Digital magic at its best. Or should we say digital hypnosis…?

This digital persuasion in its most basic form can be best explained by a simple A/B test. An experiment in which you run two for example landing pages simultaneously, measure people’s behaviour and ultimately conclude on data that (in this case) a green call-to-action button converts better and will better persuade people to click on B in the future.

No big deal of course. But when executed on a super large scale, monitored by powerful computers and collected in huge data centres, that’s when you get what Facebook and Instagram are like today. Fun front-ends, sneaky back-ends…And that’s why you sometimes ‘wake up’ after having scrolled an endless social timeline, accidentally… (sounds familiar?)

And with technology rapidly getting more intelligent and with ‘user engagement’ still being Silicon Valley’s favourite currency, I just believe we should start turning that tide, today.

Spend your time well

For the record, I’m not anti-tech and I even worked in the digital space for the last 5 years! (yes, I also have Instagram, just not on my phone). But what I do think is that technology should be a facilitator, and not a dictator. It should therefore always be controlled by its users, and for me that’s a crucial requirement that’s already at risk because of intelligent big data usage and our vulnerable primal minds.

Therefore my main driver to fight for more humane technology is not because I want people to all necessarily be more ‘present’, ‘mindful’ or ‘spiritual’. No, I would like people to just be in full control of their technology. Not spending any unwanted time on their devices, while paying big tech companies with their own privacy and valuable personal time.

Time that can be spend way better. Right?

So, if you’re keen, let’s all devote this year to collectively create and request digital solutions that are humane and that are fully controlled by their users. And if you don’t agree, that’s totally fine, but if you are interested in teaming up or discussing the topic? Send me a message!

Must visit: Distraction by Design in the Attention Economy – Amsterdam 21 Jan
Must watch: Tristan Harris (Centre of Humane Technology) and Yuval Noah Harrari (author of Sapiens) on How Humans Get Hacked
Must join: HumaneTech Amsterdam Meetup
Must read: Stand out of our Light by James Williams