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Discussing Evil Use of Technologies with US Diplomat

My comments on a shared article By Noah Kulwin, The Internet Apologizes… Even those who designed our digital world are aghast at what they created. A breakdown of what went wrong — from the architects who built it.


to: Kevin from: Chance Jiang

hi Kevin,

I have a few more comments to add on the interesting article you shared,

“The advertising model of the internet was different from anything that came before…”

Unlike Facebook, WeChat is a prime example of lesser ads-driven but more action-driven design. It’s a tech service/platform that enables and promotes natural human interaction and transaction (and thus more ethical uses of the Internet). I built the 1st connected product using WeChat in 2012 and was very impressed with WeChat’s focus on utility instead of ads-driven bloated features (there was NO ads in its Friends section back then). I think being big, well funded and self-disciplined lead to WeChat’s success in avoiding the ads-driven user manipulations commonly seen in other social networks.

“How It Went Wrong, in 15 Steps” “Step 1 Start With Hippie Good Intentions …”

This has been how we invent new things with technologies.

“Step 2 …Then mix in capitalism on steroids.” … “Lanier: We disrupted absolutely everything: politics, finance, education, media, family relationships, romantic relationships. We won — we just totally won. But having won, we have no sense of balance or modesty or graciousness. We’re still acting as if we’re in trouble and we have to defend ourselves. So we kind of turned into assholes, you know?”

Religious faith such as Christianity leads to desire-management awareness among individuals of a society or civilization. We call this 修行/Self-enlightenment in Chinese culture. There is a new phrase in China lately, 佛系程序员/xxx (Programmers/Whoever with Buddhism-thinking). They are reviving traditional China ideologies dating back thousands of years and applying them in tech product design, and in personal lives as well. You have ‘In God we trust” in US dollar bills, but how many US tech giants apply it in their product designs? China has our % share of greedy product designs, too. Thanks to the new administration, we also have a new political agenda, 人民有信仰 (“The people shall have their own faith”) from the top.

“Step 4 …And we paid a high price for keeping it free. Freedom of (everything) comes with a price, as always. We need more political leaders to appreciate the market-driven approach, which tends to generate less costly solutions, as always. … Step 5 Everything was designed to be really, really addictive.

As product designers, it’s our Holy Grail to build useful tools. It turns out to be additive only for uneducated users. It’s our jobs to warn such users and such warnings shall be a product feature when necessary.

Step 12 To fix it, we’ll need a new business model …

We have an example, WeChat.

Step 15 …Unless, at the very least, some new people are in charge. If Silicon Valley’s problems are a result of bad decision-making, it might be time to look for better decision-makers. One place to start would be outside the homogeneous group currently in power.

Increasingly, you can find more such leaders in China, too.