What’s the motivation behind Dysrupts? Is it some kind of psuedo-altruism, a get-rich-quick-scheme, or something more genuine? After all, why would a person with an engineering background who has easy access to the internet and living a comfortable middle-class life care that half the global population can’t get online?
Perhaps it’s because I remember a time without the internet. Or more importantly how much richer my life became when we first connected the family computer to a modem and after just a few moments of electronic screeches was playing video games with my best friend who recently moved 2000 miles away.
Perhaps it’s because I have friends and family who are still disconnected. Living in rural and not-so rural areas of the U.S. and it’s still difficult to get in touch and if there were more options available maybe, just maybe, it would be a whole lot easier to find out what they’re up to.
Perhaps it’s because I believe in the fair and equal access to information. And while I know there are those who place other values higher, I believe a person is at their best when they can make an informed decision and able to interact with the broader world around them.
This comes with the realization that simply creating an ability for people to connect won’t solve all of our problems.
In fact, technology is almost always the easiest thing to do. The social impacts are the hard parts. What are the follow-on (possibly negative) effects? How can we actually use this as a force for good? How can we be culturally sensitive and responsible? If a billion more people all of a sudden had mobile phones, how will they power them and can they afford to? Who will dispose of the batteries and the heavy metals? How will they handle interpersonal relationships differently and what impact on their culture will this have? What other businesses would fail and create stress on a family’s ability to feed themselves? These are the truly hard questions.
Often times, when a startup finds a problem to solve there’s little attention paid to the the bigger picture, the negative impacts, and how to make sure that the ends outweigh the means. When I founded Dysrupts, it was with the promise and intention of doing good. It was under the belief that if we could just build the bridge, that bridge would bring prosperity and understanding.
One example of unintended consequences is the 2016 U.S. Presidential Campaign. Regardless of your political leanings, it highlighted that communication technology is an instrument and like any tool, it can be used in ways we didn’t foresee. Social networking, which was originally envisioned as a way to build communities and bring people together was the very instrument that ended up separating us. Giving us the opportunity to surround ourselves with information that only supported our individual biases ultimately polarized us and left each of us with skewed views. Of course there’s more to the story than this but the fact is, social network founders never believed their platforms would become a battleground where the wars to sway the political leanings of an entire population would occur.
Dysrupts is not a social network company, but the context we’re working in is very similar to one. We want to make sure everyone has fair and equal access to information and each other and we want to do this in a conscientious manner. It’s a responsibility that we don’t take lightly and while we can’t anticipate every unforeseen effect, we’re committed in every way we can to doing the responsible thing.