By Mathew Mytka
In life there are many paths to go down and sometimes we cannot even see them until someone points it out. Paths are discovered and in this adventure we are on we need help in discovery…
Recently we decided to commit wholeheartedly to codesign in the work we’re doing at Tethix. A big part of this is going on an adventure with people. We’ve got a codesign principle of “Think Big, Build Tiny” and have started articulating our vision. It is big and there are many layers to peel back as part of this story 10 years into the future. But it connected to our reason for being:
“Tethix exists to provide a beacon of hope for humanity and our relationship with technology. To help collectively shine a light on the pathways to imagine and co-create a future where technology enables us to all flourish.“
Going on this epic adventure means many paths need to be explored. They need to be seen, mapped and playtested. They need to be discovered. To begin building tiny we really reinforced that we need to design with and have a clear view of who, what, why and how.
Enter the Pathfinder.
Pathfinder - the who is you
You’re a Pathfinder if you’re searching for the paths to better tech futures and actively pursuing these paths in the way you work, live and try to make sense of technology’s role in helping us all to live better lives on a hospitable planet. You are willing to explore and play with ideas. Be that big ideas of science fiction, ones about shaping the future of digital democracy or even playing with simple design concepts of a digital interface. You embrace ambiguity and seek to learn through the process. You get excited about new and emerging technology and the possibilities it brings to help people around you, communities you care about and humanity at large.
But you know you’ve been grappling with the real risks of technology while wanting to maintain a sense of optimism about what technology can do to create a better world we all live in. You sense and see paths. You desire to bring them to life with people that care about it as much as you do.
Let’s unpack what we mean by better tech futures.
Better tech futures - the what
As humans we are good at seeing problems and have a tendency to be overly fixated on the bad. It’s what is formally termed the negativity-bias. There’s a good reason for this wiring of our brains and how it influences our perception and ways we relate to the world around us. This little but very influential part of our brain called the Amygdala is the culprit. All our sensory data filters through it. It is our threat detector and it’s served us well from an evolutionary perspective. Enabling us to be scanning our environment for threats and playing this key role for us in developing skills in avoiding them. It’s kept us alive (thank you Amygdala).
This is all good and well but it also has been detrimental. For us as individuals, and collectively.
Culturally this bias is present in the stories we tell, the mythologies we’ve created, our movies and our professions. We see it in the cautionary tales of dystopian futures where robots take over the world. Visions where we end up as slaves to algorithmic systems for behaviour control in one massive Skinner Box. Or worse, are eradicated by the tech we created or just harvested for the biomagnetic energy we emit.
Our fears often get the better of us. They are very, very powerful motivators of our behaviour. This is always present but in this digital age the detrimental effects of it are accelerated. This negativity bias (amongst many cognitive biases) gets reinforced through news media or via algorithms in our social media feeds. Its dominance in our cultural media has infected our imagination. Like a wound on the creative genius that we actually are.
We have many black mirrors reflecting our fears, festering away and self-reinforcing, likely contributing to this sense of inevitability of it all. On the flip side of this we have less of the white, grey or rainbow mirrors. These visions of the future and imaginary tales that reflect our deepest desires for meaning, connection and realising our highest ideals. Ones where technology is the enabler of genuine human flourishing.
In this inter-disciplinary and complex domain of responsible and ethical tech we play in acknowledging all of this is important. We believe it is just as much about identifying the problems with the status quo of technology as it is about actively challenging it and asking the question of what living the good life is and imagining how technology might help us realise it. We need to learn how to do this together and it’s our belief that it requires new learning experiences for this to happen. Ones that emphasise imagination and play and are created together with the people the learning experiences are designed to support.
If a singular is about searching and pursuing paths, the plural is about doing this together. Creating space and time for you to identify and explore paths together with other Pathfinders and to take these new perspectives and skills out into the world through the work you do.
At this point you might ask, “but how?”
Pathfinding - the how
We can outline paths and create artefacts to play with. But our small team is not like the all seeing eye of Sauron. We believe that many paths need to be explored and they need to come from diverse people.
Here’s some examples of what Pathfinding might look like in practice.
We take a concept from a mini game and present it to you and your fellow Pathfinders, interrogate it and try to make sense of what it means. Together we might try to understand the consequences of taking this concept and building it.
- For whom would it fail?
- What of data collection and use?
- How does it connect and align to what we value, what we stand for and what we’d fight to defend?
- Extend it out, what might it look like in the bigger Tethix Learning Archipelago and meta game?
- How might we maintain a virtuous path while building it together in a world where what we value is not always reflected?
You might engage in some collaborative fiction and visual storytelling. Or sketching and wireframing in a workshop on ethical design. You’ll build a stronger sense of optimism and a keen eye for identifying ethical issues and mitigating risks that might come through different paths. You’ll learn about different tools and techniques that can support more ethical decision making and develop skills and competency in exercising your moral imagination. You’ll connect with people, ideas and have the opportunity to learn in a way that is unique, fun and challenging.
You, as a Pathfinder, will contribute to the Tethix path. You help shape the product we’re building and the DNA of the organisation we are slowly working to bring into being. Being rewarded through learning but also – as is our aspiration – through ownership of the organisation and power in shaping direction.
Pathfinding - the why
In mid 2021 we proposed to transition the organisation to a platform cooperative. It went through some early discussions and was an important path that is still open for exploration. We had an early proof of concept for a platform with Greater Than Learning but it was not fit for purpose. As part of the adventure you as a Pathfinder can explore what this means with us.
- What is a platform cooperative?
- What does it mean to own the data we generate?
- What is a data trust and how will this be governed?
- What is an active member and how will contributions be rewarded?
Questions and pathways we explore together.
We embrace the ambiguity of the process and are mindful that codesign is mostly non-linear. We go back and forth, two steps forward, one step back, and don’t always have clarity on the specifics for how something will unfold. But we define the why, collectively imagine the outcome, embrace the ambiguity and support each other through exploring the paths to continue on this epic adventure together.
The paths we find and choose to follow come through learning, imagination and play. But the learning goes beyond the boundaries of the space and sandbox we play in together. It will influence the way you see technology and the role it plays in society. The Tethix Pathfinding experience will shape your work, your relationships and the way you relate to technology and the world.
If you want to join us on this epic adventure, sign up to be a Tethix Pathfinder.