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Pursuing sanity in a digital tsunami: be calm; be kind

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Pursuing sanity in a digital tsunami: be calm; be kind

Remarks at 12th Rhodes Conference: 'Dialogue of Civilizations' (

September 27, 2014

~ Tom Mahon ~

In all the technical documents I have read and written over the years in the electronics industry in Silicon Valley I've never encountered words like kindness, empathy or virtue anywhere.

On one hand, you don't expect words like those in tech docs. On the other hand, why not? What are tools for if not to promote personal and communal well-being?

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When 'high-tech' meant a computer at work, a television at home, and a radio in the car, it probably didn't matter much.

But given that we are now immersed in an all-digital ecosystem, required to double the pace of our lives every two years to keep up with our tools, the absence of discussions of virtue and values is remarkable.

So how would we even begin to integrate humane values into tech specs?

Start here: all technology is based on the principle of leverage, achieving maximum outputs while minimizing inputs. To be heard 100 yards away in 1900, you had to cup your hands and shout loud. With the development of vacuum state, then solid state, amplifiers since then, we can now whisper into a mobile phone and be heard 10,000 miles away. That's leverage!

Hold that thought".

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All the world's ethical systems are based on two principles: be composed within your self, and manifest that in acts of kindness to all others. Be calm; be kind. In Christianity, it's expressed: Peace be with you; love one another.

Now, hold that thought for a moment, too"

Suppose we change our mode of thinking when we design and use tools. Imagine being in a composed frame of mind before picking up a tool, and then leveraging that composure to result in an act of kindness.

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Tom Mahon has written about technology for 40 years as publicist, journalist, novelist, dramatist, and activist. Since the early 1990s, he has spoken and written widely on the need to reconnect technical capability with social responsibility. (more...)

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