Effectively Human

Code School Book — Morgan Lopes and Tim Whitacre (26/30)

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At our best, we are people building technology to serve people.

n the world of software, hardware, crypto-currency, AI, and endless other jargon, it’s easy to get lost in the sea of cold, lifeless machines. Too often, calculated and emotionless decision-making is regularly celebrated. Without looking too far you can find examples of businesses putting profit before people and pushing unnaturally hard to maximize the mighty dollar.

This trend began during the industrial revolution. The craftsmanship economy disappeared. Humans quickly became viewed as replaceable cogs in an ever-turning engine. Seemingly overnight, the workplace changed. In recent decades, computers and robotics accelerated the trend.

As mentioned in the previous chapter, we are fast approaching a future where humans do not engage in any form of menial work. Then, the only jobs left will be those that require creativity, collaboration, and adaptability. Technologists, such as product designers, software engineers, and data scientists, will benefit greatly from this future. We also have a responsibility to retain our humanity in the process.

At our best, we are people building technology to serve people. We must interface with machines but can’t lose ourselves in the process. This tension became a regular lunchtime conversation at my first company. We felt ourselves balancing the tension of efficiency and empathy. In turn, we coined the term Effectively Human. It captures the marriage of technology and humanity.

Years later, the philosophy of Effectively Human was put to the test. It was a particularly challenging season in business that I mentioned earlier. The conventional choice would have been to lay off the staff, alert our vendors they wouldn’t be paid, and file bankruptcy. That was the choice our client had made that left us in this position and it made sense to follow suit. Instead, we opted to preserve jobs, repay the people we owed, and work tirelessly to get the business back on course. It took two years, but everyone was eventually paid.

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CTO at Fast Company’s World Most Innovative Company (x4). Author of “Code School”, a book to help more people transition into tech.