Announcing The Reverse Hackathon — Ethics+Technology

It’s time to rethink technology.

Technology news this week has been horrifying for many. A pedestrian was fatally hit by a self-driving Uber. Facebook is involved in a data breach of an incredible scale. Last month, Twitter put out a public call for more meaningful health metrics as a recognition of the growing issues across social media (something Mark Zuckerberg aims to fix in 2018).

The old motto of “move fast, break things,” isn’t as enticing anymore. There’s a need to consider the ethics and psychological impact of how technology is impacting users. The Center for Humane Technology has done an incredible job beginning this movement, but there’s more we can do.

Introducing, the Reverse Hackathon.

The Reverse Hackathon

Let’s come together to majorly redesign tech tools in a more meaningful, socially responsible way. We’re bringing together the power of a truly interdisciplinary dialogue, including academics, designers, ethicists, computer scientists, psychologists, entrepreneurs, educators, and many more. The final product for this hackathon is a 5 minute product proposal to humanely redesign an existing technology. We’re using humanities fields to “hack” tech product development.

Let’s stop addicting users to our products and spreading false information across our platforms. Let’s stop making products without a consideration for implications on the psychology of our users. Let’s stop developing products that treat humans as aggregate numbers on a dashboard. Let’s stop breaking things.

Our Reverse Hackathon is co-organized by the California Institute of Integral Studies and HackMentalHealth. HackMentalHealth is the organizer of the world’s largest mental health hackathon and advised by Dave Morin, Dr. Steven Chan, and many other prominent figures.

Example Problem Spaces

Here are some ideas of hacks we can see at our event, to give a clearer sense of what we’re thinking

  • Dating apps promote self-consciousness, lookism, inauthenticity, and avoidance. How can we use relationship psychology to change Tinder, Bumble, and other apps in ways that avoid these negative thought patterns?
  • Netflix and YouTube encourage users to spend hours on their sites binge watching and getting autoplayed to the next video. How can we restructure these technologies in a way that’s beneficial to both the company and the consumer?
  • Instagram promotes trends like pro-ana and thinspiration, dangerously negative campaigns that promote unhealthy eating habits. How can we leverage ethics and psychology to redesign these infinite photo feeds to prevent the propagation of these trends?

Why We’re Doing This

We know that technology use is shaping our emotional lives, social relationships, desires and expectations as well as decision making. By bringing together academics, ethicists, psychologists, educators and other social science and humanities experts as well as product developers, designers, and coders to bridge the gap between teach and social and emotional health.

What is different about this hackathon, however, is that we will begin with common technology tools and apps and at the end of the hack our participants will present pitches that improve the apps and tools by infusing them with new features that help the tools better serve our collective mental and emotional health.

Join Us

We’ve announced this post early in advance of the event because we want your support. We have two available slots for judges, and are looking to add sponsors and partners to our growing list of past and current sponsors.

Our tickets will go on sale next month, but in the meantime, sign up for the listserv below and visit our website for more information. Please 👏 and share with others if you believe in this mission.

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