How about some non-toxic tech?

Digital detoxes are great. But how about we have more tech products that by design don't wreck people's mental health in the first place?

This idea struck me while catching up yesterday on a 2017 Ted Talk by one of my favorite podcasters, Manoush Zomorodi, about the unseen toll of digital distraction. This of course is still very much a hot topic in society, which is probably why Manoush recently re-posted the talk as a bonus episode of her regular podcast ZigZag.

Manoush's interest in combating digital distraction led her to start a detox project called "Bored and Brilliant," in which she encouraged listeners to purposefully detach from their phones in particular – even to the point of deleting apps that were distracting them – and then see how the resulting reduction of daily mental clutter made them more creative in their work and home lives.

Although Manoush never uses the term "Web 3.0," her little experiment strikes me as crucial to the movement, overlapping neatly with the goal to create an internet in which users are less exploited everyday. There's a lot of coverage in the tech press these days about what tech companies should be doing to bring that scenario about, or what governments should be doing. But what I love about Manoush's approach is that it focused on users taking responsibility for their own complicity in the giant mess that is surveillance capitalism.

If users did that, if we were to demand less intrusive tech in both the economic and more mundane connotation of that word, then more tech companies would deliver it.

I'm talking about "non-toxic tech" that by default doesn't snoop upon and addict you, while still allowing you to complete tasks at hand. We already have some of those things – for instance the anonymized search engine DuckDuckGo – but we need way more in many other product categories.

What tech tools do you use everyday that you consider "non-toxic?" I'd love to hear  about them via Twitter.

"Non-toxic" just struck me as an interesting adjective to apply to tech, as a flipside to "digital detoxes." Latter phenomenon is certainly understandable given the current state of the internet. But I'd love to live in a connected world where detoxing isn't even necessary.

Show Comments