Personal mission statement
This is my personal mission statement, inspired by the version Evan Prodromou publishes on his website. It's a work in progress and feedback is encouraged.
My beliefs are what I think is important and true.
- Everything is connected. We are part of a complex, interrelated network of which people are a subset. What happens to a small group of people in the context of human society affects the rest of the network. Similarly, what happens to our environment, or the ecosystems within it, also casts ripples throughout the network. Making the network work well for everything within it should be a common goal.
- Achieving success is more to do with the local network around you than it is about innate individual characteristics, and our collective responsibility is to make those opportunities available for everyone.
- Technology can be a force for good: that is to say, it can broaden understanding and empathy, and it can provide more equal access to opportunities. However, it is far from a given that it will. We have to work at it.
- Everything made by people, including technology, is a product of human assumptions, biases, and cultural contexts. Technology is not neutral: it is a reflection of our values.
- Markets won't inherently fix anything. People will. Structures that allow people to organize and advocate for their mutual well-being, like unions, are beneficial.
- You've got to be kind.
My role is an assessment of my place in the world.
I am the product of multiple nationalities and contexts, and a complete member of none of them. I'm a self-taught technologist, with formal computer science training over the top. Thanks in large part to the kindness of others, I've been a serial startup founder, an investor, a published author, and a speaker. My career has been at the intersection between technology and the humanities, whether in education, the arts, or media and journalism. I like it there.
My mission is trying to figure out how best to apply my role to my beliefs.
Technology should bend to the needs and characteristics of human society, not the other way around. I help institutions and organizations that act in the benefit of society to make better use of technology, and I help to build technology that better supports them and their ideals.
My values are other properties that I use to measure if a course of action is the best one to follow.
- Authenticity. Everyone has the right to be themselves, and determine what that means.
- Anti-fashion. Following the crowd is an anti-pattern. And anyway, the most interesting stuff happens at the edges of culture.
- Responsibility. We are all stewards of each other. We have to consider the impact on others when we make choices.
- Pragmatism. Given the choice between unworkable idealism and a more pragmatic choice that leads to action, choose the latter.
- Anti-nationalism and anti-exceptionalism. Build for, and believe in, the world.
- Secularism. Don't favor any religion.
- Inclusion. To build for more kinds of people, hire more kinds of people.
- Diversity. More opportunities for more people benefits everyone.
- Social benefit. Don't build technology to kill people, either directly or indirectly. Don't build for the military; don't consciously increase wealth inequality. Act in the interests of society.
- Openness. Share as much as possible without causing undue self-harm.
- Creative serendipity. Deliberate meandering, intellectually as well as geographically, can help you uncover new ideas and solve ingrained problems. It's also personally beneficial: art, discovery, and space for contemplation are all part of what makes life worth living. Limiting yourself to activities that seem actively productive is, in fact, counter-productive.
My strategies are rules of thumb that have worked for me before.
- Be human-centered. If in doubt, take everything back to the real people you're trying to help. Understand them holistically. Don't just sit in a room and build something, working out your idea on paper, hoping that it works. Also, don't just scratch your own itch. Build technology to solve human problems, not to build technology.
- Be imperfect. Get something out there and iterate.
- Don't be dogmatic. Action is better than posturing.
- Be considerate. Be pleasant to be around, but more than that, go out of your way to make other peoples' lives better.
- Build a movement. Don't go it alone.
- Constantly change. There's new information all the time; new feedback; a changing context. Adapt to it. Don't get stuck in and get set in your ways.
- Tell stories. Be emotive and relatable; tell stories about people. Empathic messages are more powerful than functional ones.
- Avoid the darkness. The trough of sorrow is waiting for everyone. Remember that amazing things are around the next corner. Everything is an adventure.
- Be healthy. Mentally and physically. Remember that being fit leads to better well-being, more alertness, creativity, and better decision-making.
- Breathe. Take a step back. Read fiction. Enjoy art. Spend time with people because you like spending time with them. Be human.
- Work to live. The line is blurry, but it's important to have a real life, first and foremost. Don't let the desire for fulfilling work take over the need for a fulfilling life.