You could say that our entire existence revolves around fixing them once they come into our conscious awareness. Some are personal, some are not.
Most of our problems affect our immediate well-being, otherwise we would not identify them as problems.
Sometimes they are inconsequential: a Sudoku puzzle in a book, for example. These are the problems that we create for ourselves and love to solve.
Others carry extreme consequences, but we rarely take pause for them. They never became personal.
If we take a look at Maslow's hierarchy of needs, we can see that problems can be shelved into neat little categories. (He chose to put a positive spin on it by calling them needs rather than problems. The savvy entrepreneur takes this one step further and calls them opportunities.) If this is your first brush with Maslow, it should be no surprise that survival makes up the base: how will I feed my children, what will we do for shelter, etc.?
Depending on our individual situation, support network, and individual capacities, we may or may not be able to work our way up the pyramid. If we can go up, problems about food and shelter become problems about where to go to eat out and what movie to see.
The conclusion is simple. Even as our immediate needs are met, the influx of problems is constant. They simply take different forms: we all suffer equally but from very different things.
In my perspective, the objective reality is that we are all very interdependent on each other. It can be hard to observe and internalize this, but nobody is self-made. The media perpetuates an illusion that successful people are the ones that work the hardest; these people somehow deserve their success.
Hard work. When two people work equally hard, make no mistakes in their respective paths, make similar choices, but there can be “only one winner,” how do we accept that one is a bona fide success story that is worthy of a magazine cover and another deserves nothing? It is more a matter of birth lottery (right place at the right time) than hard work.
If all it took was hard work, we would not have people in poverty.
I believe that people that are struggling to transcend their immediate problems should not bare the sole responsibility for their circumstances. To assume otherwise is to believe that, for example, someone deserves to starve because they are “not working hard enough.” We can, and do, justify this fallacy because there is always someone “working harder” that is not starving.
The opening section either put you to sleep or was intellectually interesting. What does it have to do with edtech and Shift Sight?
Let's take a step back. This conversation has to do with technology in society. Technology is becoming increasingly personalized. By personalized, I am referring to algorithms that are operating on makeshift psychological profiles of you to manipulate you into performing certain actions, such as buying certain things or feeling outrage about inconsequential events.
The media is partially responsible for our perceptions of success and suffering, but personalized technology takes this a step further. By showing us the things that we want to see, modern connected technology shows us problems like ours. Did you get an ad about a yacht cleaning service? Yeah, me neither.
Clinically, connected technology and social media are shown to reduce empathy. One cause of this outcome is a reduced exposure to different types of suffering. We bond to each other by sharing problems that we have in common: it is how we relate to one another. In the echo chamber that is modern tech, we are less exposed to the unfamiliar.
Anecdotally, I have heard it proposed that a cure to racism and indifference is to integrate oneself into a different culture. By immersing ourselves in the problems and suffering of others that appear very different from ourselves, we quickly see that we are much more similar than different.
Connected technology is increasingly creating one-way bubbles that are isolating us. The purpose of connectivity is straightforward: make money via surveillance capitalism. (The especially savvy companies may even pit us against each other by attempting to coerce us into one-upmanship by knowing what we have purchased and what our acquaintances have purchased.)
This effect is trickling into connected edtech, since most of these products are slightly repurposed consumer devices. Some edtech builds psychological profiles of children which will no doubt be put into practice once said corporation(s) can positively identify that child on their consumer devices.
The concern, here, is that edtech primes the next generation to accept a complete invasion of their lives by technology. The problems that they experience will largely be artificial in nature, mostly designed to make corporations a lot of money. A wolf never appears in wolf's clothing.
Jade is being designed without Internet connectivity. I have written previously that Internet would ruin the experience. In this respect, Jade is absolutely rare: almost every company is rushing to connect their device. Connected toasters. Connected air conditioners.
In most cases, technology might solve our original problem while creating others. Some of these are personal problems (now that I have my first smartphone, I want one with a bigger screen!) and others are material (what are we doing to keep e-waste out of landfills?).
No external device can solve internal suffering. We all want happiness, but it never comes in a box or from another person. Our e-waste crisis is partially attributable to technology promising happiness. (Our divorce rate is from society promising us that someone else will make us happy.)
We all suffer. We all have problems. My problems may or may not be greater than yours, but if you are more affected by your problems, it is not my place to pass a judgment on you. As long as we are both doing as much as we can to lift up the less fortunate, we are moving in the right direction.
By prioritizing another's problems over our own, we tend to forget about our own problems. This is an aspect I am working into Jade indirectly. Collaboration is real-time, in-person, and not with an AI. (I have heard of companies developing AI to fill teacher shortages. Ugh.)
I want children to talk to each other (not text), appreciate their differences (no echo chamber), and learn to work together (collaboration, not competition). The problems need to be personal and immediate. Existing edtech encourages e-waste by obscuring it from view.
Sustainable engineering practices are not going to rely on unsustainable technologies: they are going to necessitate humanity trusting each other unconditionally.
After you finish reading this post, take another look at the image at the top. Do you see a problem with the leaf, or an empty space that needs filled?
See you next week!
Ty is a Founder of Shift Sight, LLC.