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SFJAZZ Center –– Over 300 people, representing a broad and influential spectrum of leaders, decision makers and scholars from in and around the technology industry, gathered today at San Francisco’s SFJAZZ Center to hear Tristan Harris and Aza Raskin, Co-Founders of the Center for Humane Technology (CHT), launch Humane: A New Agenda for Tech – a powerful, more hopeful path for technology. Human downgrading is a systems-level explanation for how we ended up in the middle of a technology-driven existential crisis due to increasing the extraction of human attention. CHT’s new agenda calls on all technology creators to approach innovation to protect a deeper understanding of our basic human nature and focus on benefitting rather than “downgrading” humanity.

To help catalyze this Agenda with urgency that matches the globally accelerating scale of the issue, CHT announced a number of steps to engage the technology community in a positive direction forward:

  • A new and shared “systems-level” language and diagnosis that accurately describes the entire surface area of the global crisis connecting issues such as information overload, addiction, social isolation, outrage, polarization and election hacking, which downgrade our attention spans, relationships, children’s development, mental health, civility and democracy.
  • Public events leading up to a Humane Technology conference in the next year.
  • Design guides to facilitate assessment across human sensitivities and social spaces to help guide designers in redesigning their products.
  • Launching “Your Undivided Attention” –– a new podcast hosted by Tristan Harris and Aza Raskin with interviews from some of the most sophisticated experts in human nature, giving us all new insight into how to diagnose and accurately address human downgrading.

Human Downgrading

While our technology has been feverishly and profitably upgraded, humanity has been downgraded

While most conversation around technology and AI was concerned with when it would surpass human intelligence, we forgot to think about what would happen when it surpassed human weakness. We are in that moment today. CHT’s New Agenda for Tech posits that all human beings are born with the same root vulnerabilities and that when they are exploited across billions of people over decades, the result is widespread systemic failure: addiction leading to depression and suicide, polarization leading to isolation and radicalization, election hacking leading to untrusted results, loss of attention, loss of ability to think critically, sleep disorders, etc. This is human downgrading.

A system-level understanding of the problem brings unified language to set a new course across every discipline informing tech and human interaction:

  • Policymakers — create policies that incentivize humane technologies, recognizing the limits of human nature and protecting citizens from human downgrading.
  • Designers — instead of extracting attention by exploiting human sensitivities, design to protect our minds from manipulation and repair our shared social fabric.
  • Technologists — hold their employers accountable for human downgrading.
  • Media — create surround-sound public pressure to discuss and reverse human downgrading.
  • Researchers — accelerate a unified study of how attention extraction and human downgrading harm society.

“As a lone Product Manager and Design Ethicist at Google in 2013 trying to get a few people to pay attention, I had very little hope,” said Tristan Harris, Co-Founder of CHT. “Thanks to people like CHT Advisors Roger McNamee, Sandy ParakilasRenee DiResta, our Co-Founder Aza, brilliant storytellers like Max Stossel, scientists like Guillaume Chaslot, and far too many others to name who’ve come forward with similar knowledge and experience, the conversation has dramatically shifted to holding tech’s feet to the fire of its deep accountability. The Center for Humane Technology is very excited to move beyond the cacophony of minor product grievances and to build a broad movement of concerned technologists setting a positive, hopeful path forward.”

Humane: A New Agenda for Tech was live-streamed on CHT’s newly-updated website humanetech.com, and was attended by icons, founders, VCs, CEOs, designers and innovators from across the industry. A replay of the event will be available on CHT’s website soon at humanetech.com. For more information about how you can get involved in our Humane Agenda, go to humanetech.com.

 

SOURCE Center for Humane Technology

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