New! My Talk at Google's 2018 I/O Conference on Building Healthier Relations with Technology

Of Media as an Ecology and the Morals of It All…

It’s easy to ignore the drumroll of scientific findings that reveal our own guilt in instigating the increasingly plagues of extreme weather. It’s easy to think of rising floods, temperatures, and pollution as far removed from our daily habits of idling the car to keep it warm or cool; running the AC when not really needed; taking yet another plastic bag home from the store. Yet these tiny actions are indeed directly connected to the state of the planet today. Unless we begin living this connectivity in full force, we will bit by bit each and every one of us ruin our habitat. We can no longer pretend that climate change is anything but a moral game.

Ecology as an ethical issue – that’s also exactly how we should be thinking about technology today.

Our relentless networks of buzzing devices; the human pace of social relations and information search now transformed by systems built upon speed and disjuncture; the viral and unthinking nature of sharing; all these facets of technology underscore its ecological nature.

There is no off-button, even when we power down or step off the grid; the wall of expectation awaits us even before we connect back in. Experiences as simple as sharing a meal together are radically changed by various people’s degree of immersion into a vast invisible ecology. And above all, these vast tech webs that increasingly constitute daily life are woven from tiny daily human decisions. Our actions greatly matter, both in the realms of biological Nature or the new ecosystem of technology.

This is why the broken systems of the Internet Age demand an urgent ethical reckoning from us. We can only push back on the online hate, the loneliness, the untruths and other problems plaguing this era by taking moral responsibility for our actions online – as designers, consumers, creators and legislators. Each and every post, share, or click – and each time as well that we ignore a communication that warrants a response – should inspire us to pause and consider the moral side of our actions.

By thinking about the morality of an ecology, we can begin to see the impact on Earth of this bit of plastic or that decision to drive. We can start to wake up to the effect on Humanity of this impulsive tweet or that decision to share a rumor or lie. This is the brilliance of the small.

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