A developer’s take on ethical technology

ethical technology
This guy just lost four hours of his life mindlessly surfing the web. Can we do better than that?


How do you feel after browsing the web these days? I mean, how do you feel after stepping away from your computer, or putting away your smartphone?  Would you use words like “empowered”, “enlightened” and “energized”?  Would you ever say that you felt “refreshed” after interacting with the web? Or might you use words with a more negative connotation like “lethargic” or “depressed”?  “Anxious,” even?  

I’ll bet that your experience skews toward the latter because a lot of the most popular websites are specifically designed to hold you captive, exploiting the compulsive and addictive tendencies of our brains. Research suggests that some of the web’s most popular websites, like Twitter, for example, actually make people feel bad, and can contribute to an array of destructive personal behavior (anyone who has seen the comments section of almost any website can surely attest to this). Other studies suggest that people generally stick to a set web ritual, rarely venturing outside one core group of domains in any time period. The above conditions true, it sounds like most people spend their Internet time on websites that make them feel and do bad. Why would anyone choose that?


How the web’s origins can inform its future

When the World Wide Web was originally conceived by the scientist Tim Berners-Lee in the late 80s, it was intended as a system to share information, namely scientific research, between computers that had diverse configurations and often incompatible data structures. While Berners-Lee was specifically designing the web for scientists at CERN in Switzerland, he also had his eye on a loftier implications for humanity: a new and unprecedented way to help share information organically amongst huge numbers of people.

I’m not such a curmudgeon to demand the web be reserved for humanity’s grandest projects and high-intellect alone; I acknowledge a joy and catharsis to be found in sharing your cute kitten photos.  I am concerned, however, when websites like Twitter have teams of people whose sole job it is to figure out how to make you more addicted to their content. If using Twitter made you younger, happier and wiser and legitimately closer with your friends, I would be liking your selfies until the cows come home, but most research suggests opposite outcomes. In this way, I think a lot of the original intent of the web has become perverted to suit the needs of a few large companies.


Hope for the future of the web

To me, IdeaScale captures much of the original spirit and excitement of the web: the idea that, together, with our diverse ideas and various expertise, we are empowered and enriched by the brains of others.  IdeaScale’s software isn’t perfect, but from my perspective, it provides the best platform for collecting and refining ideas to completion. The results are clear:  Ideascale has facilitated an enormous, diverse and inspiring portfolio of projects.  From helping businesses develop amazing new products and promoting a culture of innovation, to engaging citizens in municipal processes, to supporting an array of positive social causes, IdeaScale’s use-cases are truly awe-inspiring.

From a return on investment perspective alone, IdeaScale helps organizations and communities save countless dollars, but the intangible benefits, like boosted morale, engagement and feelings of inclusion, are helping to strengthen bonds and build better teams, from Berkeley to New York, to Europe, Asia, Africa and beyond.  I’m proud and excited to work for a company that’s using the Internet and the web for good.  So here’s my plea to lay off your Twitter addiction, and come check out some of the incredible ideas we have brewing on IdeaScale.  I think you’ll feel the difference.

This blog post is part of a series authored by IdeaScale employees. It showcases how they’re thinking about crowdsourcing and innovation as part of their daily routine. Feel free to ask questions or make comments.

This post is by Alex Rivadeneira, Associate Developer at IdeaScale.

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