#mindfultech news of the week: Oct 12 📰

 
  Instagram’s new Kindness camera effect.

Instagram’s new Kindness camera effect.

 

This week’s news is all about emotions – Amazon trying to sell us products to change our moods, Mindstrong swears they can track our mood changes just by noting changes in our typing speed (big money and big skeptics abound), and if you feel overwhelmed by the feeling that the tech industry has gone off the rails, that’s because it has.

LONGER READS

The next tech frontier: our moods

Two pieces of mood news to talk about this week: Scientific American is seriously skeptical that the app Mindstrong –– which has raised tens of millions of dollars and has an impressive number of real-world partners –– actually works at all.

To be clear: the promise of the app is pretty amazing. But the lack of actual clinical trials and available data has a lot of people feeling a little Theranos-style skeptical. Some experts feel like changes in a person’s typing pattern just aren’t enough to make bold claims about their mental health changes. Time to prove yourself, Mindstrong! (Read Scientific American’s point of view.)

Speaking of moods, Amazon has filed a patent for Alexa to be able to tell your moods by your voice, and (of course) suggest products that might, I don’t know, cheer you up? As a long time student of Buddhism, I’ve always been taught that it’s important to feel our emotions (they are impermanent after all) but I suppose we could end up living in a world where our heartache can be delivered away within an hour.

I don’t mind the idea of suggesting cough drops for a sore throat, but I think I’m out at the point at which the Amazon overlords try to “solve” my “emotional abnormalities.” (The Telegraph has the overview here.)

By the way, we believe very strongly in not manipulating users – to let them stay in their own moments, to avoid sowing discontent or driving fear, and to not use things like gamification to try to make people behave in ways they otherwise wouldn’t. (Read about the #mindfultech anti-patterns here.)

This week’s must read

The headline kinda says it all: “The Future Where Everything Becomes a Computer is as Creepy as You Feared.”

“This sort of thing happens again and again in the tech industry. Audacious founders set their sights on something hilariously out of reach (...) and the very unlikeliness of their plans insulates them from scrutiny. By the time the rest of us catch up to their effects on society, it’s often too late to do much about them.

It is happening again now.”

This piece by Farhad Manjoo is a call to arms, and an imperative read for anyone who works in the “connected” world. (New York Times)

In related news, here’s another super-important take, this one from security guru Bruce Schneier – think internet hacking has gotten bad? We ain’t seen nothing yet. (NYT Opinion)

QUICK TAKES

Also in #mindfultech news this week . . .

  • Bias begets bias – but we have the power to stop it. Amazon just dumped an AI recruiting tool that was biased against women. Always, always remember: algorithms are programmed by humans, meaning our own hidden biases are written in. Computers aren’t prejudiced, but every single human has inherent bias. All of us. Let’s admit that and do better! Good for Amazon for (eventually) rooting this instance out.  (Reuters)

  • Let’s be honest: we are all shoulder surfers. I live in NYC, the “American capital of other people’s screens” and have seen way more than I wanted to on other people’s phones –– and I know for sure that people read along with me on mine. That makes me a human, and, according to the NYT, a thief … but not a creep. (New York Times)

  • Millennials (whatever that actually means) are both the most anxious and the most tech-savvy generation. It’s no surprise, then, that many are turning away from tech and towards meditation – Vipassana, specifically. My own anecdotal experience as a meditation teacher is that the “kids these days” are super open to the practice, and many benefit greatly. (Quartz India)

  • The BBC has launched Slow Radio and we’re way into it. (Mindful Technology)

  • Falling off cliffs, getting hit by trains – this is not a cartoon, these are some of the top ways people lose their lives while taking selfies. No surprise, the US leads the count with firearm-selfie related deaths. *sigh* (Ars Technica)

  • Instagram has introduced a “kindness camera effect” to go along with their “bullying comment filter.” Not totally sure if this will move the needle, but I’m always glad to see attempts to make the online world more civil. (Instagram blog)

SHAMELESS PLUG OF THE WEEK

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Anything else we should be talking about? Drop us a line, or shoutout on Twitter. See you next week!

Warmly,

Liza

ps. After getting fed up with posters on my block promoting violence, I created my own IRL filter. ;)

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Author: Liza Kindred