Carefully Move and Tend to Things

The minimal viable product is a key idea in the lean startup method. But is this the correct approach? I recently came across an interview with Roger McNamee in which he dug into this question. I believe that with access to the data about the effects of technology on our health and safety we need to reconsider our answer to this question.

Creating a landing page for a website and publishing it seems innocent enough and in many ways it is. What about a pharmaceutical? Or an AI algorithm that collects data about users? Facial recognition software? Should these technologies be put in front of users before they have been properly vetted and tested? I don’t think so.

“Move fast and break things” is an ethos that has produced concerns about safety, privacy, fair competition, and privacy (see Roger McNamee’s writing here). Others have written about this as well including Jonathan Taplin, Hemant Taneja, and of course the wonderful book by Shoshan Zuboff.

Scott Galloway has dubbed this the “exploitation economy.” I would like to propose something more humane. The terms “human-centered capitalism” or “humanistic capitalism” are now being considered as a foil to the “develop at all costs” of the previous years. These words are being discussed from a variety of angles. From innovative political thinker Andrew Yang to conservative thinktank The Hoover Institute.

Research has shown that diversity increases innovation. It is my belief that a shift to a more humane form of technology and entrepreneurship will increase diversity. It will allow for more voices and products to enter the marketplace. The advantage won’t be on the first movers, but to those that consider their impact most deeply.

If a field needs to be tended do you bulldoze through the whole thing and destroy everything in your path? Or do you go through row by row and remove the infesting weeds by hand? I suggest we carefully consider our impact on each plant and take out the ones that don’t belong. The former will create a barren landscape in which anything can repopulate without any regard to its place in the ecosystem. The latter approach only removes what isn’t needed, allowing the remaining plants to flourish, and create a healthy balanced ecosystem.

It is time for a more careful approach as we begin to move into the next revolution. The human revolution. I suggest that rather than moving fast and breaking things we carefully move and tend to things.

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