Technology will not fix People Problems

Posted — May 02, 2021

Technology solutions start out great, but eventually run into a wall of human problems.

Cashing in on Clubhouse

On what has changed with Clubhouse when it went from invite only to open for all:

Conversations are increasingly less about understanding and intimacy and more about amplification and influence. There are, after all, millions of active users, and just as many to sell coaching, courses, ebooks, and masterminds to. The undercurrent of commerce impacts conversation. Speakers introduce themselves with superlatives, citing awards and credentials. On an app where conversation already ran the risk of being performative, speakers now perform willingly for the crowd.

Oh. So like every other social platform once it goes mainstream? At this point, it should be clear this is part and parcel of human behavior. Pareto principle will apply. 20% of users will make most of the content and most of them will be hucksters. One solution is go algorithmic. That’s what Facebook/IG, Twitter, and Snap do. The clear benefit is that it can surface interesting content. The downside is the content will drive engagement KPIs and end up being emotional and toxic.

The other solution is users finding what they want to find. That is hard work users don’t want to do. A third option is limiting the number of connections. There used to be a social platform called Path, which limited each user to a maximum of 50 connections, an attempt to apply Dunbar’s number. But it never grew that fast, probably because of the limitation. The available options aren’t great.

The Precarious Life of Working for an Algorithm

The downsides of remote work, lack of connected-ness, and lack of empathy:

Her first story, in February, revealed how Postmates delivery workers were being scammed by phone callers who pretended to be Postmates employees. Since the workers had no relationship with anyone at the company beyond the instructions on their app, they had no way of knowing that the person they were speaking to was a fraud. Several Postmates workers told Dara that their accounts were drained after they handed over their usernames and passwords to the scammers. And then they couldn’t find a human to talk to when they needed help. “It sucks to go in there blind like that, and there’s nobody to help you,” Shaleece Green told Dara.

Shadow Bans, Dopamine Hits, and Viral Videos, All in the Life of TikTok Creators

A recurring social platform issue. What is driving this behavior? Is it again lack of human connection? Is it the emptiness from lack of meaningful work and crushing college debt? Is it the pandemic?

She said seeing those pings roll in on her videos gave her the dopamine hits that social media is known for. “It is definitely addictive,” Oyelowo said. “I would argue it’s not even the likes that are the addiction, it’s the validation and the feeling of being seen.

The Climate Solution Actually Adding Millions of Tons of CO2 Into the Atmosphere

Everyone wants to be data-driven, but we can take it too far. Almost perfect example of Goodhart’s Law:

“Our work shows that California’s forest offsets program increases greenhouse gas emissions, despite being a large part of the state’s strategy for reducing climate pollution,” said Danny Cullenward, the policy director at CarbonPlan. “The program creates the false appearance of progress when in fact it makes the climate problem worse.” “What we’re seeing is developers are taking advantage of the fact that the big stuff and the scrubby stuff have been averaged together,” Badgley said.