What if technology was optimised for harmony, rather than disruption?

Ted Hunt
Ted Hunt
Jan 2 · 9 min read

“Unless we design and implement alternative information structures which transcend and reconfigure the existing ones, other alternative systems and life styles will be no more than products of the existing process.”

“Editorial” from Radical Software, Berly Korot & Phyllis Gershuny, 1971

One of the prevailing narratives of technological progress in the first two decades of the twenty first century is that of ‘disruption’. Disruption has been increasingly glorified, morally justified, fetishised, and propagated as THE go-to strategy to deliver technological progress and change.

What if disruption isn’t in fact a force for good, and is merely a short-term brute force attack on delivering the impression of technological progress?

This is a question I have been exploring for some time through my work, and a question I will now try to unpack through an alternative to the dominant narrative of technological disruption.

If not disruption then what?

To start at the most obvious alternative to disruption we might simply consider its polar opposites; calm, order, peace, tranquility, and ultimately harmony. If disruption’s task has been to capture and exploit our attention, then harmony’s task should be to respect our attention and focus it. This simple organising thought is the basis for what I have speculatively called careos — a device and operating system based upon the ancient Greek notion of Kairos. The ancient Greeks had two words for time: chronos and kairos. While chronos refers to quantitative and sequential time (leading to modern chronology), kairos signifies qualitative time and the opportune timing for attention and action. We have seemingly holistically lost our sense of timing in the pursuit of capturing our sense of time within a single mechanical dimension. But this sense of kairos and timing, might be easily reawakened.

Say hello to careos — harmonising our habits

We don’t download software; we download habits.”

— Chris Dancy

careos is a device + operating system optimised for harmonious habits. By considering device based apps/OS as an extension of our internal habits (a view coined and advocated by Chris Dancy), rather than mere external tools we can fundamentally reframe our relationship to technology. Like all habits, our screen based habits can be good habits, bad habits, or somewhere between habits. Current technological criticism focusses on the bad habits we have been encouraged to adopt through our devices — and this reaction as a binary opposition hasn’t got much further than encouraging digital detoxing, and technological shaming. However, there has always been a third narrative to the paradox of benefits offset by toxins, the route of the conscious design and use of our tools.

“Our species will survive neither by totally rejecting nor unconditionally embracing technology — but by humanising it; by allowing people access to the information tools they need to shape and reassert control over their lives.”

“Editorial” from Radical Software, Berly Korot & Phyllis Gershuny, 1971


From the micro to the macro

careos is loosely designed in accordance with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, with ‘self-transcendence’ at the pinnacle of those needs which he described as ‘Transcendence refers to the very highest and most inclusive or holistic levels of human consciousness, behaving and relating, as ends rather than means, to oneself, to significant others, to human beings in general, to other species, to nature, and to the cosmos’. So let me explain careos to you on these six universal levels, from the micro to the macro.

Every operating system I have ever used is static, fixed in time despite the dynamic and fluid capabilities of its host environment. This to me has always seemed a lazy decision by the dominant technology companies authoring those OS’s (Apple/Google/Samsung etc). What if operating systems reflected the cycle of our day, what if they were choreographed for our specific needs and moods? By timing the focus of our attention of certain needs and requirements throughout the course of a day we might begin to live in harmony with oneself.

A matter of good timing..

In general, people move through the day in three stages: A peak, a trough, and a recovery. And most us move through it in that order. During the peak, which for most of us is the morning, we’re better at analytic tasks. That’s when we’re most vigilant, when we’re able to bat away distractions and concentrate deeply. During the trough, which for most of us is the early-to-mid-afternoon, we should do our administrative tasks-answering routine emails, filling out expense reports. And during the recovery, which for most of us is the late afternoon and early evening, we’re better at insight problems. Our mood then is better than during the trough. And we’re less vigilant than during the peak. That looseness-letting in a few distractions-opens us to new possibilities and boosts our creativity. The trouble is that often we often don’t do the right tasks at the right time. We think questions of “when” are less important than questions of “what,” “how,” and “who”.

— Daniel Pink, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

Belonging is essential to the human condition. We simply cannot live in isolation, either physically or psychologically. Social media is now one of our primary means to achieve belonging and conduct relationships, and yet mainstream narratives are increasingly exposing the negative aspects of social media; narcissism / voyeurism / filter bubbles / trolling / subversion of truth / debasing democratic ideals etc. A means to habituate the enduring needs of what Maslow categorised as the need for social-belonging and self-esteem might be to simply entitle them as such. By thinking of social media apps as a way to feel a sense of belonging, and to appreciate that others are also looking for that same sense of belonging we might de-escalate the negative tendencies found within the same tools. Concurrently thinking of messaging apps as a means to relate and conduct relationships might help us to live in harmony with significant others.

Beyond living in harmony with ‘significant others’, people we know or are in our direct sphere of awareness, lays the task of living in harmony with all human beings. An increasingly partisan world, and current affairs, has rendered this task increasingly difficult. The same technology that has interconnected a never before seen scale of the human population has seemingly also decoupled us from the understanding that we our one species. careos employs the pluralist perspectives found in the speculative search engine else (designed by the same author) as it’s primary means to achieve Maslow’s call for morality, problem solving and the acceptance of facts at a self-actualisation level. And so through broadened understanding and empathy for other points of view we might begin to live in harmony with human beings.

Our most technologies stop at the level of human connectivity, the fact that Homo Sapiens make up only 0.01% of the entire biosphere has been lost to the ambition of creating networks capable of accommodating every human on the planet. Indeed the ideas and ideals of the internet of things have taken us in the direction of adding the needs of non-human objects to the network, rather than the needs of non-human species. careos takes a fundamentalist approach to this issue — by directly harmonising with the circadian rhythms of daylight that act as an entrainment cue for nearly all living species. In this way the device itself can live in harmony with other species.

Beyond other living species is the entirety of nature, and the raw minerals and materials needed to create our technologies. To exist in harmony with nature itself careos would simply embed itself into Fairphone, the phone that cares for people and planet. By creating technology designed to last / significantly reducing e-waste / choosing fairer raw minerals Fairphone is creating a fairer future. Additionally Fairphone is one of the few, if only, devices to allow its owner to install an operating system of their own choice: allowing for a careos custom installation. In this way every careos owner could live in harmony with nature.

Finally, and fundamentally, is the existential task of living in harmony with the entire cosmos. Rather than shy away from this task, or worse still anthropomorphise it to the extent of Steve Job’s infamous ambition “We’re here to put a dent in the universe”, careos believes that the sum of the harmonious habits adopted from self/significant others/human beings/other species/nature will equate to true the transcendence to live in harmony with the cosmos. It is only be through harmonising with phenomenon greater than ourselves that we can achieve such transcendence; the appreciation of the nature of time (seen through circa solar designed by the same author), the long overdue acceptance of our dependence upon our climate rather than our dominion over it, and the temporal relationship between weather and climate that serves as the unseen coda of our immediate place with in the eternal spectrum of time.

“The mark of any profound transformation of the world corresponds to a radical transformation of time: Circa Solar stands like an open gate on the path to the next cosmological revolution.”

- Federico Campagna


It might be these ideas, or ideas like these, that resurrect our relationship to our technologies and evolve us from technology designed for disruption to technology designed for harmony.

“Only by treating technology as ecology can we cure the split between ourselves and our extensions.”

“Editorial” from Radical Software, Berly Korot & Phyllis Gershuny, 1971

Ted Hunt

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Ted Hunt

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