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Journal of Social Computing

Article Title

Creating Technology Worthy of the Human Spirit

Keywords

spirituality, ethics, well-being, humane technology

Abstract

Spiritual caretakers have been present in every culture throughout human history. We know them as ministers, rabbis, lamas, shamans, imams, chaplains, gurus, and wise elders. In modern, secular times, they also include therapists, social workers, meditation teachers, and more. These caretakers support us through birth, death, and many of the most intimate and complex parts of the human experience. They use skills honed over many years that require paying radical attention to the humanity of others. Yet where is this expertise to be found in the creation of the digital technologies that have become portals through which we live, love, learn, grieve, and connect with our communities? Those who design and build digital technology must accept that we have become de-facto spiritual caretakers with the power to treat the well-being of humanity with care or with negligence. Unfortunately, caretaking is a role that computer science degrees do not prepare people for, few business models optimize for, and algorithms can not easily solve. This article outlines two concrete best practices that can help foster genuine responsibility and care on the part of technologists and technology companies. First, technologists must recognize that what we create is an expression of our own inner state. Our spiritual and emotional health is inextricably linked with our ability to build technology with responsibility and wisdom. Second, technologists must create an empowered seat at the table for those with the expertise and orientation needed to care for our souls, whether from a religious or secular lens.

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