One of the things that most interested me in Discourse was the ‘framing’ of the project as set out by @codinghorror at the outset. He provided both a functional AND ethical case for improving online discussions, through the means of improving forum software. The default ‘Community Rules’ are a terrific exposition of the underlying values and intent of the project. Bravo.
I really like the direction Discourse has gone and there is no intended criticism here at all - but I am not sure there has been sufficient ongoing reflection on how the design choices must continue to reflect the underlying ethical intent of the project.
Over the last year I read ‘Hooked - how to build habit-forming products’ by Nir Eyal and more recently ‘Irresistible’ by Adam Alter. Both of which are excellent and well worth a read. Most of my career has actually been in the field of Addictions so the whole arena of ‘habits’ is of considerable interest; the ethical implications of manipulating choice architecture to bring about behaviour change in others is complicated and I do not think that society has fully worked out where the line is crossed to the harmful exploitation of vulnerabilities (bugs if you will) in the ways human brains function.
This has been percolating - and then I listened to a Sam Harris podcast with Tristan Harris: What is Technology Doing to Us. Tristan was a ‘Design Ethicist’ at Google - I don’t want to get into trying to explain his ideas other than to say I think he absolutely nails it - a genius on the topic if ever there was one.
My proposition is simply that what he has to say on this podcast is important - and it is important to Discourse. What I would like is a civilised (!) discussion here about the implications this has or might have for Discourse. Discourse is an important project - and if the discussion here is positive I propose that @codinghorror invites Tristan Harris to discuss and comment on the choice architecture within Discourse - my guess is that he would be up for it.
Critically I ask that people ONLY participate in the discussion if they have listened to the podcast from beginning to end. It’s a big listen I know, but its a big and important issue!