How Gandhi Would Lead Toward An AI Future

Every discussion about artificial intelligence seems to alternate between utopia and dystopia. Some believe that the productivity unleashed through automation will lift up all of society, creating a world of superabundance and more meaningful work, while others see robots taking our jobs and an acceleration of trends favoring capital over labor.

In fact, in an article in Harvard Business Review, Accenture's Mark Knickrehm describes five distinct schools of thought, ranging from both extremes to various shades of gray in between. He suggests that leaders need to reinvent operating models, redefine jobs and include employees in the process of transformation.

Yet that's easier said than done. Experienced leaders know that even small, subtle changes can sometimes result in a backlash. Preparing your organization to leverage artificial intelligence has can be especially problematic because the most profound problems are intensely human. Gandhi, although he was no tech enthusiast, can be a good guide on where to start.

Create A Vision For Tomorrow

Gandhi, by all accounts, was a brilliant tactician and strategist. However, he was also much more than a chess player who planned  moves a few steps ahead of his adversaries. He had a clear vision of what the future should look like -- "Purna Swaraj" or complete independence from British rule. It was that clear vision that drove his actions and inspired people to follow him.

Martin Luther King Jr., who studied Gandhi closely and was in many ways his disciple, formulated his objectives in a similar way. He wasn't just fighting for the rights of black Americans, but to "make real the promises of democracy" and to "cash the checks" written into the founding documents of our union.

So the first step to building an AI future would be to form a clear vision of what it's supposed to look like. Should AI do our work for us so that we can have more time to seek personal fulfillment? Or is it supposed to augment our abilities so that we can become more productive in our work? Or maybe something else?

Listen to just about any AI evangelist today and you'll hear a different vision. Until we have a clear idea of the future we want, we are unlikely to make it happen.

Prepare The Ground

Gandhi cut his teeth as an activist in South Africa, where Indians were a relatively small minority. He was therefore able to build his principles step-by-step and indoctrinate his followers as he went. Yet when he returned to India, he made the mistake of trying to lead an entire nation of diverse attitudes and interests that was not yet indoctrinated in his philosophy of Satyagraha. The result was disaster. Instead of peaceful protests of civil disobedience, he got violent riots.

Gandhi would come to call this his Himalayan miscalculation. "Before a people could be fit for offering civil disobedience," he later wrote, "they should thoroughly understand its deeper implications." Clearly, he learned his lesson and spent a decade indoctrinating the Indian independence movement in his values.

We already have a number of unresolved ethical issues involving AI ranging from bias in the learning corpus, to classical dilemmas such as the trolley problem. We also lack a clear understanding of what standards AI should be held to. Should algorithms be held to the same level of accountability and transparency as humans or something more.

Today we are already in the process of an AI transformation, with hundreds if not thousands of large-scale implementations. What values should govern these investments? We haven't even begun to work through the basic issues. Are we making a modern version of Gandhi's "Himalayan miscalculation?"

Create A Sense Of Shared Purpose Through A Transformational Project

When, on December 31st, 1929 the Indian National Congress declared self-rule by releasing a document modeled after the American Declaration of Independence, it was, much like that earlier document, a symbolic gesture. To further the cause, they needed to take concrete action, but no one could agree on what form it should take.

So the Mahatma returned to his ashram and emerged after weeks of meditation with an answer. He would march for salt. No one was impressed. In fact, to many it seemed like a joke. The British Viceroy, Lord Irwin, was similarly unimpressed, remarking in a report to London that he would not lose sleep over salt.

Yet it proved to be an inspired choice. The Salt Laws were so obviously and fundamentally unjust that the future British Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald had himself denounced them just a year before. They also affected every Indian, whether they be Hindu, Muslim or Sikh, caste or outcaste. It soon became clear that the Salt March was a historic success.

Leaders would be wise to take a similar approach to automation. Rather merely looking to use advanced technology to eliminate jobs and save money, a better approach would to be to first automate tasks that everyone sees as onerous and free up efforts for more interesting, high level tasks. By focusing on eliminating drudgery first, crucial support can be won early.

We've already seen how this approach can be applied in various contexts. Factory workers actively collaborate with robots they program themselves to do low-level tasks. In some cases, soldiers build such strong ties with robots that do dangerous jobs for them they hold funerals for them when they die.

Win Over The Losers

There is perhaps no greater testament to Gandhi than the high regard he was held in by his adversaries. The Boer leader Jan Smuts said of him, "It was my fate to be the antagonist of a man for whom even then I had the highest respect." Upon his death, Britain's The Daily Telegraph reported, "The tragic news of Mahatma Gandhi's has come to his Majesty's government as a profound shock."

This was no accident. Gandhi took pains to reach out to those who opposed his goals and sought to form a common purpose, without ever losing sight of his objectives. He wasn't fighting to win for winning's sake, but saw his adversaries as partners in a quest for truths that transcended their positions and narrow interests.

In Blueprint for Revolution, Serbian activist Popović calls this "surviving victory" and he stresses that the battle must be won before it starts, by indoctrinating common values and purpose. With AI, it is not enough to simply evangelize the technology. Nobody falls in love with an algorithm. We can't lose sight of the fact that technology should serve people, not the other way around.

The uncomfortable truth is that, as with any transformation, AI will create winners and losers and some accommodation must be found. Bill Gates advocates taxing robots that take human jobs. Others support a universal basic income. I'm not sure what the right answer is, but we desperately need to achieve a consensus that the problem exists.

What is becoming clear is that as the technological barriers to an AI future fall away, the ones that remain will become more social in nature. It is those that we need to start turning our focus toward now. 

5 Things This Serial Entrepreneur Does Again and Again That Make Millions

Jesse Itzler is a man of many hats. He's the co-owner of the NBA's Atlanta Hawks, partner in ZICO Coconut Water, founder of Marquis Jet, has a 'Living With' book series that is amazing, is the 100 Mile Man, and recently launched 29zero29 because he wasn't doing enough. He's also married to Spanx founder Sara Blakely, which immediately brings the term powerhouse couple to the forefront of my mind.

Before I spoke to Jesse, I spent a bit of time researching all of his endeavors, and it was an impressive list. That is why he is the focus of this article on what it takes to be a successful (and happy) serial entrepreneur.

Starting Life With An Inventor Dad & A Kickass (or: Very Wise) Mom

Jesse's childhood was unique because he grew up with a father for an inventor and a mother who could give solid advice on how to succeed. His father's definition of success, as an inventor, was based on whether or not the end result solved a problem, not whether or not the end result made millions of dollars. His passion, effort, and ability to fail and keep pushing forward shaped him. His mother reinforced that he should experience and experiment. She flat out told him, "try everything, go to every class, listen to every lecture, play every sport, do everything."

Truth Bombs On Success

What Jesse's parents instilled in him is a massive truth bomb many miss altogether, and it's that real success is based in effort. If you get out there, and step outside your comfort zone, every single day, and do your best, you will, without a doubt, see success. If you repeat this, you'll see success more than once.

Real pioneers can check the box, celebrate for a day, and move on. Building a life resume requires this approach so that once you achieve, you don't get stuck holding that trophy for 20-years, and you can reach out and grab what's next.

5 Serial Success Principles

Jesse built his future and his achievements around these five success principles, and they apply to everything.

  1. Intuition - "Usually when a product or venture fails, somewhere deep inside, I knew it was going to fail and I just didn't listen." I agree with this statement so much. As an entrepreneur, no matter how much you do, there is never going to be a blog or a testing process, that has the ability to sense and see as much as you. Trusting yourself eliminates unnecessary risk.

  2. Speed - When you rush into a market, you fail to do the proper research necessary for success. Jesse says when he is on something new, he makes a genuine effort to slow down in the beginning, gather speed, and accelerate when the growth starts to happen. Slow, then fast, is how you use momentum in your favor. Going too fast too soon is death in business and going too slow too late is the same. When Jesse sat down with the higher-ups at Coca Cola to partner over his ZICO Coconut Water, they told him it would take  eight years to build a business in this country and this resonated. Knowing when to stop and go is the difference between failure and success.

  3. Change Shoes - When you are pacing, in the beginning, part of this process is doing a shoe change. Jumping into the shoes of the buyer, envisioning their connection or thoughts on what you're offering will let you know real quick where you stand. If you can't do this, you don't know your market well enough.

  4. Energy - If you wake up and find yourself gripped with fear and in a cold sweat, you have to trust that energy. If you wake up excited, and pumped up, ready to do work, you know you are heading in the right direction. Tesla warned us that everything was energy and who are we to argue?  

  5. Build Relationships - I don't care who you are, a portion of your success will always have to do with who you know and with technology, the limitations are quickly diminishing. Put yourself out there, network, build relationships, invest in people, share your genuine self with them. Building essential relationships is a huge piece of the repeat success puzzle.

Bonus: Be ready to fail and be okay with it. If you take it personally, or view failure as a stop point, you will have a hard time succeeding because failure is actually an important part of the process.

Identifying Product Gaps And Nixing Brand Launch Pain Points

Filling those opportunity market gaps with well-thought out products is key to quick traction for any brand or business launch. Finding a gap that taps into a pain point like changing the shave game; think Dollar Shave Club for women, is strategic and fast growth too. Shaving is celebrated for men, and is framed as a chore for women. There are numerous companies that have been created to give men a better, more affordable shave experience, and women are an afterthought. Big mistake when women do well over eighty percent of all the buying in the personal care market.

Why Don't We Mind The Market Gender Gap?

Given market dynamics, it doesn't even make sense that the shave market doesn't cater to women as much as men. Emerging shave/body brand Billie recognized this gap, to put women first, oh, and get rid of the "Pink Tax" in the process. Nixing this particular pain point, Founder, Georgina Cooley and her partner decided to go direct to consumer. By controlling the experience from start to finish, by cutting out the middle-woman, they are able to cut cost and create a better customer experience; establishing trust and loyalty in a commodity market.

What Is The Pink Tax?

The 'Pink Tax' is a term that's been coined to identify the ten to fifteen percent increase charged to women over men for services and items. To have a blouse dry cleaned costs more than a men's shirt, and there's less fabric. When it comes to clothing, a plain white women's shirt costs more, again, even though there's typically less fabric. What we can see through this is that women are the true shoppers, they are willing to spend more, and this has been taken advantage of. Lack of disregard for the consumer base creates a lack of loyalty. I can tell you, as a woman, I personally boycott every pink gimmicky product (especially razors) on the market, just on principle.

To build trust, you not only have to identify this gap in the market, but should set out to fill it in a way that is consumer-centric. In the case of Billie, something for women, packaged, delivered, and at cost of exactly what they want and can afford. Then, go deeper and find the pain point in the gap, where women do not have as many cost effective options and are being marketed to in a way that play on old school standards and stereotypes. Make it pink and stick a flowery label on it. Up until now, nobody asked the consumer

Don't Forget Market Testing & Observation

Conducting right-fit market testing that is low-cost is essential to a consumer-centric process. This is not about asking her what she likes. It is getting the hands of the ideal market on to the product, packaging and entire buying experience. Not only will you observe a lot about the design and function, but if you listen, observe and stop selling the idea, you will find out what drives your market to buy. So many businesses skip the testing phase or don't take the feedback from their designers that they need to test. These processes are easier and more cost effective than ever before, so skipping them is basically brand negligence. This is how you get it right faster.

Something Georgina said at the end of our interview struck a note with me. Brands should be doing good in the world. The new standard is not doing good by saving the world. the new standard is shifting brand dynamics by putting consumers, especially women, into power, and they demand that you do good in their everyday world.

How This Entrepreneur Is Using Cute Dogs to Help Single Moms Break Out of Poverty

Next time you're flummoxed by a problem at work, spare a thought for Natasha Kirsch. As the founder of a Kansas City nonprofit she was tasked with figuring out how the homeless mothers she worked with, many with felony convictions, could make a living wage that supported their families with also retaining the flexibility they needed to care for their kids.

Their criminal record closed many doors for these women, their skills were often extremely limited, and the low-wage jobs they could get demanded so many hours to make ends meet that they were left with unsolvable childcare problems.

Then it dawned on Kirsch, what she needed was a whole lot of cute dogs.

A booming market with a dire shortage of workers

Growing up, Kirsch's mom had owned a dog grooming business and had regularly complained about the difficulty of finding workers. Given that Americans own (and obsess over) 43 million dogs, this labor shortage is only set to grow. All that was required was a little training that could prepare struggling single parents to fill decently paid dog grooming gigs. Kirsch's latest initiative, The Grooming Project, was born.

As the Kauffman Foundation video below explains, the project has faced many obstacles, not least of which is the participants' often chaotic living situations and lack of work experience. But with a whole lot of perseverance Kirsch managed to find funding and get her idea off the ground. Now she's teaching dozens of participants not only the basics of dog grooming and the fundamentals of being an good employee, but also helping them sort out the other logistical and life challenges that stand in the way of a career in the pet beautification business. . 

The program, which is now growing steadily, has a 100 percent job placement rate for grads and is looking to expand beyond its original Kansas City location. Kirsch's goals for the program are lofty, not only ending the cycle of poverty for the families involved, but also giving dignity and self-respect back to people who have never before caught a break or been told that they have what it takes to succeed.

Check out the video for your daily dose of not only entrepreneurial inspiration, but also heart-warming human decency... and adorable dogs.

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The 1 Thing Elon Musk Got Right With Tesla and Almost Every Other Entrepreneur Gets Wrong

Elon Musk is often hailed as a visionary, and rightly so. Tesla, not to mention his other ventures, has the mark of a business that can truly change the world. When he co-founded the company in 2003, electric cars seemed like a pipe dream. Today, however, just about every major carmaker is investing in the technology.

The Tesla narrative has become so well accepted that we rarely stop to think how easily it could have all gone wrong. In 2007, Shai Agassi founded Better Place with an even more expansive vision for electric cars. Yet as Brian Blum explains in his new book, Totaled, that vision led to a series of missteps that resulted in a billion dollar bankruptcy.

There are, of course, a number of reasons for a failure that colossal, including Agassi's mercurial personality, but most of Better Place's problems can be attributed to a single initial mistake. If you want to truly change the world build for the few, not the many. Find a customer that wants or needs your product so badly they almost literally have their hair on fire.

Identifying "The Hair On Fire" Use Case

The story of Better Place began with a lot of fanfare and a world changing mission. Backed by hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital and supported by famous politicians and other celebrities, Agassi sought to bring electric cars to everyday people. To solve the problem of the car's short range -- about 80 miles -- he proposed an expansive network of charging stations.

Yet while Agassi and Better Place sought to build a family car, Musk and Tesla created a $100,000 status symbol for Silicon Valley millionaires. Because these customers could afford multiple cars, range wasn't as much of a concern, but in any case the high price tag made a larger battery more feasible. The original Tesla Roadster had a range of 244 miles.

The Silicon Valley set were customers with their hair on fire. They wanted to be seen as stylish and eco-friendly, so were willing to put up with the inevitable limitations of electric cars. They didn't have to depend on them for their commute or to pick the kids up at soccer practice. As long as the car was cool enough, they would buy it.

In Crossing The Chasm, author Geoffrey Moore explained that to shift from early adopters to mainstream customers, you need to adapt your product to fill different needs, but the reverse is also true. In order to gain traction in the marketplace, you need to identify those initial customers willing to buy a product that most won't.

Transforming Customers Into Co-Creators

By focusing on an affluent and eclectic customer, Tesla also leveraged an advantage that electric cars have over gasoline powered vehicles -- they accelerate faster. So building a high performance automobile with an electric motor was a very achievable ambition. It was on the basis of performance that Tesla built a small, but rabidly enthusiastic fan base.

Building for the few and not the many also has another benefit. When you are serving customers with their hair on fire, they are willing to work with you to get over the inevitable rough spots. Effectively, instead of trying to market to customers, you recruit co-creators and, by helping you to build a better product, those customers take ownership of your brand mission.

Better Place had no such luxury. It aimed to sell to people who actually needed their cars, so the company had to go to great lengths in order to make them reliable. In particular, the charging stations proved to be a money pit. The time, money and effort needed to create an expansive network in a short amount of time was simply too much.

In effect, by focusing on mainstream customers instead of recruiting co-creators, Better Place painted itself into a corner. Tesla, on the other hand, was able to transform the inevitable hiccups into learning experiences and, as it improved its product, won even more customer loyalty.

Making Room To Iterate And Pivot

Every business idea is wrong. Sometimes it's off by a little and sometimes it's off by a lot, but it's always wrong. The trick to making a new business work is to find the flaws in your idea and fix them before you run out of money.

Agassi made that much harder by going after mainstream customers from the start. Because he committed to an expansive charging network from the outset, there was an exceedingly small window to fix snafus as they came up. And problems arose in every dimension you can imagine, from design and engineering to identifying and acquiring locations.

Interestingly, Google made a similar mistake with Google Glass. As a consumer product, it ran into to myriad problems that were hard to foresee. Yet today, Glass is making a comeback as an industrial product. For hipsters, an augmented reality product is far from a necessity, but a business that needs to improve productivity can be a true "hair on fire" use case.

Of course Google, which rakes in billions in profits every year, can take the hit. A startup can't. That's why you need to always leave yourself room to iterate and pivot. When a customer desperately wants or needs a product, they will give you that room. Mainstream customers usually won't.

The Minimum Viable Business

Lean startup aficionados stress the importance of a minimum viable product. This is not a prototype, but rather just a way of testing a business hypothesis. For example, when Nick Swinmurn had the idea for Zappos, he tested it by putting pictures of shoes online. When a pair was ordered, he went and bought it retail and shipped it out. He lost money on every pair.

That's a terrible way to run a business, but a great -- and incredibly cheap -- way to to test a business idea. Once he knew that people were willing to buy shoes online, he began to build all the elements of a fully functioning business. Ten years later, Zappos was acquired by Amazon for $1.2 billion.

The divergent paths of Tesla and Better place show why it's also important to think about a minimum viable business. Clearly, a small amount of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs can't support an entire car company, but Tesla didn't need them to. In the early days they merely needed enough customers to help them test the idea in order to get to the next stage.

Better Place, on the other hand, tried to create a massive operation from the start and it killed the company. There were simply too many variables to account for and too little wiggle room to manage the inevitable hiccups as they arose. So one problem cascaded into another until the fiasco became utterly unmanageable.

You never start where you will end up and it's a mistake to try. You first need to test your ideas on a smaller scale and implement fixes before the flaws become fatal. The best way to do that is to find customers with their hair on fire.

Modern Day Slavery: How to Protect Your Brand & Fight for What’s Right

While researching Ashton Kutcher for his appearance at the City Summit, I became acutely aware of the exploitation of children, women and laborers. Then, Human Trafficking Awareness Month came and went without much talk on why the labor and supply chain aspect epidemic is affecting businesses at any stage of growth, size or location, and is often coupled with sex and child exploitation. If you are not taking steps to protect your business and your brand from getting caught unaware, you are playing a high-stakes game of risk.

Before we get started, let's cover some basic facts:

  • Human Trafficking, as defined by the United Nations, is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons by force, abduction, fraud, or coercion for an improper purpose including forced labor or sexual exploitation.
  • According to the International Labour Organization, Human Trafficking is a 150 billion dollar industry with 40 million victims today who might be making your clothes, cleaning your hotel room, or building a sports arena as modern day slaves.
  • This is happening all around us. California, has three of the top five US cities cited for human trafficking abuses: San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego. 

Because our businesses today are at high risk for supply chain management issues, I spoke to Kimberly Adams, of Flying Bridges, who works alongside brands such as Uber, AWS, Lucky Jeans and sits on the LA Regional Task Force on Human Trafficking. She helped educate me on the problem and learn how to become part of the solution. As she phrased it, "you can't be outside of a system that is responsible for your existence; the cost of not acting is beginning to cost more than acting."

You Can't Sustain Your Brand If You Aren't Respecting Human Rights

When you became a leader/entrepreneur/contributor, you likely expected to generate profits from goods and services made by employees - nothing wrong with that! But you also implicitly agreed to uphold moral standards that could be mirrored, modeled, tweeted and shared. Big brands understand that, not only is it better business to avoid risk and work ethically, it's also your responsibility. In the past, businesses have either turned a blind eye or feigned ignorance, pretending to have no idea where their supply came from, who makes their stuff, or who was harmed in the process. This is no longer acceptable.

Once you find yourself shut down, blacklisted, or slapped with fines, you are a transgressor and will always be known as one. And because, the speed at which everyone can share and air your dirty laundry is faster than lightning. Consumers are more aware, investors are more aware, talent is more aware, immediate and larger stakeholders are more aware. And when you find yourself wondering why you're no longer able to secure leases, visas, suppliers, and so on, it will be too late.

It Isn't Only the Supply Chain

There are so many potential layers you have to consider in all types and aspects of organizations wanting to be a part of the solution. Thankfully we have pioneering leaders, like Ashton Kutcher building tech tools like Thorn, and Kim at Flying Bridges working with companies like Amazon Web Services to develop technology for employee trainings, identifying red flags of possible trafficking (think Uber, truckers, hotels, etc.), and a platform where these reports can rescue victims and build timely investigations.

In the fight for Human Trafficking, the ability to quickly share and analyze information, internally and externally is valuable. These technologies will help companies:

  • Prevent/identify labor trafficking within its supply chain

  • Comply with local, national, and international laws

  • Help law enforcement identify/rescue victims and perps

Tech Integration to Save Lives and Profit

The reason I am pointing this tech and these resources out are because I believe we will see integration of technology like this very soon to help in the efforts to smash out human trafficking. Alone, it is difficult to follow the complex webs and networks of the evils who are taking advantage of human beings for profit. For starters, I recommend you start paying very close attention to your workers, your supply chain, the businesses you do business with, and so on. This is now on the list of necessary line items to protect your bottom line.

Side Note: The new NFL stadium being built in Inglewood, CA is taking great pains to hire local workers, with diverse backgrounds, and also paying good wages. Take note. It isn't hard to do what's right because it benefits you in the long run, but ignoring risks can have devastating results for all involved.

Why Are Early Facebook And Google Employees Rallying To Protect Kids From Social Media

Social media is one of those topics that divides people. Some see it as oxygen--they can't live without it--and others see it as Sarin gas--not wanting to get near it. As with most topics that polarize people the truth lies somewhere in between those two extremes. But finding that truth isn't easy since so much of what drives social media is buried in algorithms that seem to be protected better than state secrets. 

Which is why a recent coalition, started by former early employees at some of the largest social media companies, such as Facebook and Google, is generating more than a bit of interest as it tries to raise awareness of the potentially negative effect that social media is having, especially on younger users. 

According to a recent article in the New York Times, the coalition, called the Center for Humane Technology, has brought together an impressive group of social media pioneers, leaders in tech, F500 partners, and media in an effort to educate and lobby against what they call "tech-addiction" among youth.

Truth About Tech (the name of the campaign that the Center is embarking on) is targeting 55,000 public schools (in the US) and already has $57 million in capital and donated media outreach.  The funds have been earmarked to educate parents, teachers, and students about the dangers of social media.

$57 million may sound a bit extreme. After all we're just talking about social media, this isn't a campaign to raise awareness about illegal drugs or the abuse of prescription opioids.  Yet, if you listen to what many experts are telling us the impact that social media is having on children may be no less worthy of concern. 

Tristan Harris, a former Design Ethicist at Google, who The Atlantic Magazine called the "closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience,"  currently heads the Center for Humane Technology. According to Harris, and as reported in the NYT article,  "The largest supercomputers in the world are inside of two companies -- Google and Facebook -- and where are we pointing them?" Mr. Harris said. "We're pointing them at people's brains, at children."  

"While relationships between humans are subject to ethics, morals, shared values, and a social conscience, machines have none of these."

That's one hell of a visual. The image is one of social media overlords manipulating our kids' brains. While I don't believe the reality is quite as intentionally malicious as that image portrays, the business model of every social media company is  driven by one fundamental objective; understand your users better than they understand themselves. 

Apathetic Algorithms

In doing research for my upcoming book, Revealing The Invisible, one aspect of social media came up consistently, the obsessive focus of social media companies to develop a highly personalized understanding of users and their behaviors. There are clearly benefits to that, such as predicting behaviors and buying preferences, but there's also the potential for abuse This is the first time we've given technology the power to build a behavioral relationship with humans,  which not only involves human behaviors but also the evolution of machine behaviors. And the latter is increasing in its power much faster than the former.

This is where we need to be vigilant. While relationships between humans are subject to ethics, morals, shared values, and a social conscience, machines and algorithms have none of these. Analytics and empirical algorithms are driven by finite measurable goals, such as clicks, engagement, views, and profit. In addition, the behaviors that are being incentivized by social media, such as the accumulation of "likes" and "friends," may actually play best to those most vulnerable. Algorithms are apathetic, they only know to achieve a goal. They cannot tally the human toll.

An article in The Guardian, Stress and Social Media Fuel Mental Health Crisis Among Girls, went much further to, correlate NHS data showing a "68% rise in hospital admissions because of self-harm among girls under 17 in past decade" to the concurrent rise of social media. 

"Among those who used electronic devices five or more hours a day, 48 percent had at least one suicide-related outcome."

The authors claimed that an "Increasing numbers of academic studies are finding that mental health problems have been soaring among girls over the past 10 - and in particular five - years, coinciding with the period in which young people's use of social media has exploded."

Another Guardian article even called out specific social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat and identifying Instagram as the "most damaging" to young people's mental health based on data from a survey of 1,500 14-24-year-olds. (To be fair, the survey did indicate that YouTube had a positive psychological impact.) 

Even more disturbing research, published by the Association for Psychological Science,  claimed that, "Among those who used electronic devices five or more hours a day, 48 percent had at least one suicide-related outcome. Thus, adolescents using devices five or more hours a day (vs. 1 hour) were 66 percent more likely to have at least one suicide-related outcome." 

Those numbers are chilling. 

What Now?

So, what are we to make of all this? 

A few things are clear. We really don't know exactly what social media is doing to our kids' brains and behaviors , at least no more so than my parents knew what TV was doing to mine. Although, equating generic one-size-fits-all broadcast TV to the uber-personalized, targeted, and potentially psychologically manipulative capabilities of social media is hardly a fair comparison. 

We also have no societal or governmental oversight or regulation specifically intended to monitor and manage social media. We're using old tools to deal with brand new problems. While I'm hardly a proponent of ever more government, there are areas where at least developing societal awareness and at most putting in place regulatory controls to monitor and protect a society, is warranted. We can argue the specific mechanisms but it's clear that so far, self regulation isn't working. 

Lastly, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that, even with these potentially harmful effects, there is positive power in the use of social media. It has been at the heart of political revolutions, such as the Arab Spring, it has given a voice to individuals who have been wronged and those socially disenfranchised, such as the impact it has had on raising awareness of the #metoo movement, or the GoFundMe campaign that raised over $200,000 for a homeless veteran. Isolated incidents? Hardly. Social media has created a new form of capital that can be used to create influence spur action. 

Ultimately no technological advance is all positive or all negative. Our responsibility, as technologists and as members of an open society is to make sure that the positives adequately outweigh the negatives. And that only occurs if we illuminate all sides of the conversation.

In that light, what the Center for Humane Technology is doing to invest in the value of an open and transparent social conversation about social media, is certainly a significant step in the right direction.