The Future is Caring About the Human Experience
With excitement buzzing about web3, how can the tech community start to explore how this and emerging technology will impact the human experience?
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Last year we started to see some folks in the tech world get super excited about Web3 and the Metaverse. It kick started in the fall with all of these announcements and, more specifically, Facebook's announcement about Meta. Chatter about Blockchain and Web3 had already been picking up but when 2021 closed with a reported 26 venture investment deals in web3 startups, with a total of $100 million or larger, according to Pitchbook's Emerging Tech Report, what the tech community already spoke of and had a hunch on was validated: the future is Web3.
I must admit, a decentralized internet is really exciting. As an advocate for data & community ownership and a fan of Silicon Valley, I am looking forward to all of the opportunities this emerging tech can catalyze. Even with all the numbers, activist groups with DAOs and opportunities for ownership I still am left with questions. Most of my questions are related to Web2 and where social media has left us and if we have learned any lessons to bring into Web3. Of all of my questions the biggest one is: can Web3 alter how we design solutions for the human experience?
First, let's define human experience
So, what is the human experience? We know that we are the human species and through a series of actions, thoughts and collective collaborations we make up our experience, right? The human experience is a little more than that. Everyday, us humans are focused on making a million little choices and over the past twenty years the amount of choices that are related to digital solutions has exponentially increased. Our work, personal, family and social lives have dramatically changed as a result of several waves of technological innovation.
As such, the human experience has changed because it is so intertwined with the digital experience. This is not to say that everyone has a digital experience – we should note that the digital divide exists and many people do not have access to the internet. However, access to the web, digital tools or, lack thereof has an impact on our collective lives, whether you are on the internet or not. In a 2019 report, Deloitte identified this and noted, "If you have empathy, you can better design for the human experience because you intimately understand how your stakeholders find meaning and belonging in products and services."
For most companies, they are identifying and quantifying this experience to better understand a multitude of problems from how we can have access to driverless cars to the aforementioned decentralized web. Again, all exciting, but if we cannot get to the core of some of our biggest social issues globally and locally, then are we truly being innovative?
When it comes to numbers, we can crunch them. But how can we progress from numbers to stories that contextualize the human experience – stories of people with and without access to the digital realm? As a global society, we focus so much on quantitative analysis that our ideas and our excitement get obsessed with things like big data, even though most big data models are completely ineffective.. But the depth is what we're truly missing most of the time.
So how can we get better at the depth? How can we actually get better at understanding one another and is this possible with Web3? And why does this even all matter?
Especially if we can have a world where we can exist inside of a Metaverse, an Oculus with an avatar, and communicate with people across the globe, well then we should be able to solve simple social issues, right?
Getting Better Requires Quality Data
Well, I hypothesize that we can't get around to solving them because we have yet to fully fundamentally understand one another. Therefore, I think the future is actually caring about the human experience. It is this understanding of our social, behavioral and neurological nuances that will bridge the gap into the next "new wave of the digital realm," not Web3.
If we can approach what we've done with technology at scale and take it to a whole new level with depth, then I think we can actually get closer to understanding what people feel.
As the founder of a company, Seam Social Labs, that is dedicated to looking at data beyond numbers, when we are creating our products, we actually look at these very things and consider natural language processing and computational linguistics as tools that can help us solve global social problems. We are amongst a growing movement of humans that care about public interest technology, the human experience and its impact on society.
As Audre Lorde once said, "We are not single issue humans. We don't live single issue lives." So that means that we have to understand the intersectional nuance of each human in order to get to a point where we can start solving those problems. For us to get to a point where we're solving complex social problems and really approaching them with a level of empathy, we have to take into consideration the human experience.
And so I ask technologists, researchers and designers the following: how can you start to understand and care about the human experience?