What Is Humane Technology?

April 7, 2022

“The fundamental problem of humanity is that we have paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions, and God-like technology.” — E. O. Wilson.

More than ever, we need the wisdom to match the power of our God-like technology. Yet, technology is both eroding our ability to make sense of the world, and increasing the complexity of the issues we face. The gap between our sense-making ability and issue complexity is what we call the “wisdom gap." 

How do we develop the wisdom we need to responsibly steward our God-like technology?

This week on Your Undivided Attention, we're introducing one way Center for Humane Technology is attempting to close the wisdom gap —through our new online course, Foundations of Humane Technology. In this bonus episode, Tristan Harris describes the wisdom gap we're attempting to close, and our Co-Founder and Executive Director Randima Fernando talks about the course itself.

Sign up for the free course: https://www.humanetech.com/course

Note: Foundations of Humane Technology was a monumental lift that involved the hard work of many talented individuals. A special thank you to Welf von Hören, who we missed in our credits. And again, deep gratitude to our hundreds of alpha and beta testers from around the world, and to everyone involved in the complex project.


Tristan Harris started his career as a magician. He studied persuasive technology at Stanford University, and used what he learned to build a company called Apture, which was acquired by Google. It was at Google where Tristan first sounded the alarm on the harms posed by technology that manipulates attention for profit. Since then, he's spent his career articulating the insidious effects of today’s social media platforms, and envisioning how technology can serve humanity. Today, Tristan is the president and co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology.

Randima (Randy) Fernando combines expertise in technology, social impact, and mindfulness. He spent 7 years as a Product Manager at NVIDIA, a worldwide leader in powering computer graphics and AI, and was the Executive Director of Mindful Schools, a non-profit that has taught mindfulness to millions of kids and over 50,000 educators worldwide. Today, Randy is the Co-Founder and Executive Director at the Center for Humane Technology. Alongside his role as Executive Director, he led the development of our new course, Foundations of Humane Technology.

Episode Highlights

Major Takeaways

  • The wisdom gap is the gap between the complexity of the world and our ability to make sense of it and respond adequately. This is the gap we're addressing with our new free course, Foundations of Humane Technology.
  • Persuasive technology widens the wisdom gap in two ways — first, it increases the complexity of issues with new technologies like synthetic media that challenge our ability to find truth. Second, it decreases our ability to make sense of that increasing complexity by propelling us into narrower, polarizing narratives about the world.
  • Foundations of Humane Technology seeks to shift the paradigm we use to build products. Shifting paradigms has 3 components: 
  • ~1) Shifting Understanding
  • ~2) Changing Behavior, and 
  • ~3) Building Community
  • We seek to replace the existing, extractive paradigm of technology development with a more humane one. For example, instead of giving users what they want, we believe we need to see the world in terms of respecting human vulnerabilities, like confirmation bias. Instead of relying on the platitude that every technology has pros and cons, we need technology that actively internalizes the most harmful and especially irreversible externalities. And instead of maximizing personalization and relevance, our goal is humane technologists is to create shared understanding.
  • Whether you're a technologist, designer, investor, policymaker, educator, advocate, student, or otherwise — Foundations of Humane Technology is for all of you seeking to catalyze a more humane future. We recommend taking the course with a friend, your entire team, or even your whole organization.
  • The course is free and takes approximately 7 hours to complete. Sign up at: humanetech.com/course

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