Words by Sebastian Rumore
At a recent address to a packed auditorium, Apple CEO, Tim Cook, criticised Silicon Valley tech companies for a failure to take responsibility for damage that technology has caused. Cook said technology isn’t only positive, it “magnifies who we are, the good and the bad.” As Cook sees it, people who work in tech need to take responsibility for any chaos they create.
Every company is a tech company
Tech use in business is so widespread that every business is becoming a tech company. And, though the average small business person doesn’t have the same responsibility as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg or Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, we all still have to acknowledge part we play in, “the chaos”.
Here are a few examples of how modern young professionals can think about the way they use tech and its impacts.
The internet removes traditional gatekeepers (like publishers) giving millions of bloggers the freedom to publish anything. The downside is that checks and balances, which protected
truth, have been removed as well, leading to widespread misinformation. Even bloggers with the best intentions might accidentally misinform their readers if they are careless.
To avoid the damage that untruthful information can cause, bloggers can use good research practices, like using trusted sources and hyperlinking, to help readers separate the real news from the fake news.
Designers make our lives easier in subtle ways that most of us don’t even notice. To make it possible for designers to improve our lives, a designer must have a deep understanding of what consumers want and how people operate. But with great power comes great responsibility.
In the past, some companies have used “dark design” to exploit the psychology of their customers. A common example is using unnecessary count-down timers to cause stress and make people purchase more quickly.
A number of companies have been criticised for used dark design, from Amazon to ticket reseller ViaGoGo. Designers should consider the effect that their work has, using design to help
people, instead of using dark design to chase short-term sales.
Without those who code, modern society wouldn’t be possible. Now, over 50 per cent of the world’s population is now online, but not everyone has the same experience. Visually impaired people experience the web with assistance from screen readers, that help them navigate and understand non-text elements, like images. Other disadvantaged users may not have access to high-speed internet, recent technology, or devices with large screens.
When the web is built without these people in mind, it creates frustration and excludes people from the most important technology of this generation. That’s why developers need to think about accessibility when they code, to make sure that the freedom that the internet offers is freedom for everyone.
Because these aren’t just issues for a few of us. They are human issues that we all must face together. As Cook puts it, “it’s our humanity that got us into this mess, and it’s our humanity that’s going to have to get us out.”