5 Concrete Changes to the Tech Industry

Companies like Facebook and Twitter are admitting they need to make big changes. Here’s where they should start.

1. Rebuild Products around Social Wisdom

Most social problems online (trolling, hyperpartisanism, harassment, outrage, political polarization, clickbait, child sexualization, fake news) are due to a breakdown in the capacity of individuals to operate according to their values (honesty, openness, generosity, etc). Our values are a repository of wisdom about what has helped us get along in social environments. Understanding this historic social wisdom is the best way to design social systems that work at many scales and exhibit macro-features like civility, anti-fragility, etc.

2. Use Metrics about Meaning

Adopt metrics about meaning and non-regret (time well spent), rather than engagement metrics or woo-woo notions like ‘wellbeing’ or ‘receptivity’ (eww) or vagary like ‘a healthy public sphere’. Companies should report progress with these metrics publicly.

3. Avoid Retreating to the 20th Century

Both corporate and political groups prefer to “control the narrative” and to amass the largest audience possible. But to live meaningful lives, people shouldn’t be following one narrative or participating in one audience. The great challenge in 21st century media is to find a way we can all learn from one another, without forming a giant audience.

4. Create New Internal Roles

Put employees capable of thinking about social outcomes in every product team. Create specialized, social-analysis-capable versions of PMs, Designers, and Engineers. Train them and put them everywhere. Change internal processes to empower them.

5. Build Academic Discourse about Methods and Metrics

The relevant metrics and methods should be subject to strong academic discussion. Organizations should create conferences where they can be presented and debated. The details of concepts like Facebook’s “meaningful social interactions” and Twitters “healthy public sphere” should be held accountable to a broader discussion.