🤖 Raiso pt. 1

Two halves of the ocean Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash

I started RAISO last November because I was concerned with the rapid growth of automation, and the future of business models based on extraction, and making commodities out of human behavior.

It was something that seemed like it had gotten out of hand - or, maybe something that had gone too far. But it was hard to pin down exactly why.

This was made more clear to me this summer when I tried to re-organize/ write out Raiso's values, or, reasons for being. It was clear in our initial efforts to form the organization that we had struck a nerve with people. This was evident with the initial growth and traction of the organization. But even after this, it was unclear to me the kind of organization I wanted Raiso to be. Is it squarely focused on social impact? Or, education? What about both? Does it have a large technical element? And, ultimately, why are we doing what we're doing?

The problem

After a month of research, and 3/4ths of a year of running Raiso, I've gotten a good understanding of the 'responsible' and 'ethical' technology landscape, and what Raiso's core values, activities, and vision aught to be.

Technology is eating the world, and in doing so, it's automating it. One of the core problems in this process has been the "individuation of information," or, the process of the information that you are exposed to confirming pre-conceived notions about the world.

For example, if I am skeptical of the covid-19 vaccine, it is likely that my newsfeed is not full of stories that help me think critically about this stance. Instead, it contains stories, from longform analysis to quick headlines, that confirm my stance and fill by brain with one-sided arguments that my brain subconsciously sees as the "way things are."

How did this happen? In the 2000s, we mainly got our news from single sources, separately from one another (Time, The New York Times, CNN, etc.). Later came RSS readers that aggregated those stories. Then something changed.

In the 2010s, the growth of social media, the mobile web, and massive advertising businesses effectively made RSS, and the "traditional" way of getting news, obsolete, as it lacked in analytics and technology. Powerful newsfeed-style UI's, powered by powerful algorithms (really powerful), and great design, won out. This has led to, in general, increased profits at the expense of human autonomy, and information discourse.

This is a massive dilemma. It's a system that's been good for business at scale, but in key areas it's made things worse for society. It's been said for years, if not decades, but this kind of culture and presentation of information has the potential to damage democracy and instil a mentality in people that the world is only the way it is through the lense of quick confirmation, and not through careful analysis. In some ways, the truth, and compromise, is not of value anymore.

The solution

We cannot un-bundle the news feed easily. Unless there is huge litigation against massive technology companies, this is not going to work at scale. "Responsible" and "Ethical" technology initiatives for the most part fail to realize that the behemoth that they are going against is not reason and rationality, but habits and behavior. This is not going to be solved with community and research on its own.

In addition to this this, we cannot be anti-technology. Like we say on our website, technology is amazing. I like to think of myself as a technology optimist. But a culture where we blame technology companies for this I fear also makes us reliant on them to change. And I don't think that is what we want.

So, what is the solution? What are the activities and programs that Raiso will feature that will be able to educate people on, and perhaps help to solve, some of these problems?

...we've got some ideas.

Pt. 2

I am working on pt. 2 of this blog post that will lay out out Raiso's specific programs. I will also be discussing an analogy for behavior change in this space that I'm proud of.