Foundations of Humane Technology - Course completed

Back in January (has it been that long!) I completed the Foundations of Humane Technology course from the Center of Humane Technology. You may have heard of them, they made the Netflix Documentary "The Social Dilemma".

If you haven't watched the movie, it's well worth a watch, delving into the often devastating impacts of Social Media.

The course explored how to build technology in a more responsible way to minimise the harmful consequences of the technology you build. It's perfect for technology oriented Product owners and developers like myself, requiring us to think about externalities and unintended consequences, and aligning our values with the products we build.

I was made to reflect on how technology has impacted me personally, and realised how my health, cognition and attention were impacted by technology overuse.

I was obliged to acknowledge that I am very privileged and lucky, I don’t have any major accessibility issues and my demographic allows me to avoid most prejudices. This led to reflecting on the injustices and oversights suffered by many and encouraged me to think about how I could improve my products to address these issues.

One section, Creating Shared Understanding, was particularly interesting in highlighting the role technology has had, especially recently, in dividing society. But this section gave the opportunity to think about how we can improve this situation moving forward.

For me the most compelling aspect of the course was the section on Minimising Harmful Consequences. Learning a lot about the consequences of various social media platforms, it was easy to conceptualise the problems that this course is trying to address. These consequences are numerous and are having significant long term impacts on society. I’d like to explore these topics in much more depth.

The course concluded with “Helping People Thrive”. Not content with just reducing harm and injustice, we were pushed to consider how we would actually improve people’s lives with the technology we build. And not just improve their lives by giving them better content to look at - of course - but to truly improve people’s happiness, wellbeing, and community.

By the end of the course I had clear goals for moving forward.

As a software developer working with AI platforms I want to build awareness around these systems, showing people how they work and what they are doing. AI is often (rightfully) criticised for its controversial applications. I want to continue highlighting the dangers while also alleviating concerns where they are unfounded. In the products I develop I want it to be clear what is happening with users' data, which parts of it are being subjected to AI analysis, why, and how.

I’m also keen to teach other developers and product owners about the harms of certain user interfaces (e.g. autoplay) and advocate for better security and privacy in all technology.

If you work in technology, I highly recommend this course. It’s free and took me about 15 hours.

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