“I would’ve never guessed in a million years that I would have been in the tech industry…”
This quote comes from Corey Kohn, the CEO of Dojo4, a member-owned tech co-op based in Boulder, CO.
Both Corey and the company she leads, Dojo4, remain “outsiders,” being an “anti-tech culture” tech agency. However, I am of the view, after reflecting on my interview with Corey, that this is for the best.
Dojo4’s culture and values, which are based around the technology they build and the way they build it, are the antithesis of how tech culture has come to be known in the popular imagination.
The tech industry (as well as the technology itself) has its problems.
Tech has become an industry that glorifies output, productivity, and hustle at the cost of employees’ well-being. The devices and platforms we engage with every day have been correlated with negative effects on our mental health. And, if the internet were a country, it would be the 7th largest polluter in the world.
This, we know, is just scratching the surface.
According to Corey Kohn and Dojo4, however, there is good news. The problems within the tech industry and with the technology being built can be remedied. It is this belief that has inspired their initiative, Antidote to Tech, to redefine what it means to work in the tech industry. This initiative aims to establish a healthier future for technology, the people who build it, and the people who use it every day (hint: all of us).
The Antidote for Healthier Tech + Tech Workers
Corey and her partners at Dojo4 launched Antidote to Tech as a response to what they were hearing repeatedly from their community of colleagues and peers in the industry.
The work is not meaningful. They are building things over which they feel no ownership. They are isolated, alienated, and burnt out—creating things purely for the extraction of profit and/or attention.
Developers and engineers, Corey told me, “were being used to build an internet that was completely meaningless to them…they are pouring their skills, their intellect into these products that they didn’t really care about and didn’t have a lot of control around.”
In light of this, Corey and Dojo4 believe it is imperative that, if we are to create a healthier relationship with technology from the end-users’ perspective, what must be addressed first is the people who are building the technology and their health and well-being.
A technology industry committed to healthy and restorative values and principles just might mean healthier tech.
To get there (there being our tech back in harmony with people and the planet), the people in tech, as Antidote to Tech proposes, must be brought back together with…well…people (community) and the planet (nature).
Antidote #1: Create Genuine Human Connection
“We cannot do our best (or really any real) work from an isolated or dehumanized space.”
— Corey Kohn, Antidote to Tech.
As Corey and her partners identified, working in tech can be extremely isolating. Developers are often dehumanized, becoming something akin to machines.
The output of the individual has long been the primary focus in tech. The focus should instead, as Antidote to Tech proposes, be on the “quality of our interactions and relationships.” From there, the output will come. In fact, more meaningful output will come from workers and builders of technology who feel a sense of community and connection to those around them.
If this were the case, Corey suggests, we would be more equipped to “tap into our unique insights and thereby address the most important problems [we face].”
This is an essential capability as we build the technologies of tomorrow.
Like the first antidote, the second also concerns connection but, in this case, to the planet, which can be renewed by spending time in nature.
Antidote #2: Time in Nature
Corey and the Dojo4 team believe that meaningful time in nature can reconnect those working in tech with the “real world application” of the technology they are building.
Corey wrote, “Being in relationship with nature helps us acknowledge our place in ecosystems and is an antidote to the disembodiment and removed conceptuality of technology without real world application.”
For the builders of technology and users alike, it is easy to feel disconnected from nature when we are constantly behind screens and stuck indoors.
But, by simply being outside or even just opening a window, as Corey shared with me, we can ground ourselves in the understanding that we are connected with the natural world and that the technologies we build should be too!
It is connectedness, both to people and the planet, that will enable those in the tech industry to be “effective for imbuing [their] work with meaning,” as Corey explained to me.
Tech workers who feel more connected to others and nature are more likely to find or create meaning in their work of building technology for the future in a way that is restorative and regenerative for the planet and humankind.
Creating Meaning in Tech for More Meaningful Technology
Encountering this movement has led me to believe that changing the way technology is built and integrated into society begins with re-thinking how technology is built (and by whom it is being built).
While we must appreciate the severity of the problems within the tech industry and with the technology, Corey and Dojo4’s initiative encourages us to see the remedies as not overly complicated, but rather as readily available.
Toward the end of our conversation, Corey so brilliantly articulated, “…those practices, either being with people psychologically or socially, [and] being connected with our natural environment…that in itself doesn’t create meaningful work. But, it gives us the tools that we need in order to either decide to do meaningful work, or turn the work that we’re doing into meaningful work somehow ourselves.”
That is advice and encouragement well-worth heeding, whether doing the work of building technology or not.
If you feel yourself aligned with this sentiment and vision for the future of technology, consider checking out Antidote to Tech and joining their movement.
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Cory is the Founder of Grow Ensemble, a content & media company in the social entrepreneurship and sustainable development space. It's our mission to create content (blogs, podcasts, videos) that inspire our new and existing audiences to become more active participants in leaving the world a better place than they found it.