How Netflix’s 'The Social Dilemma' Makes us Rethink how Tech can be a Force for Good

Sammy Rubin shares his thoughts on the Netflix documentary "The Social Dilemma" which highlights the dangers of tech, and examines whether tech can be used as a force for good.

Sammy Rubin - 15 September 2020

Outlining the potential dangers of technology

I recently watched a provocative documentary that has sparked wide debate in the tech community. Netflix’s The Social Dilemma interviewed major figures from within social media companies, as well as addiction experts and academics, and sought to raise the alarm about the dangers of technology and social media. It gave me pause for thought on the ways in which technology can be used for both good and bad, and YuLife’s mission to utilise it to make a positive impact.

Shifting the Focus of the User from Product to Purpose

A core theme explored in The Social Dilemma is that of the user (and their data) being the product. The accusation levelled at these companies emphasised that the end-goal is to take everything possible from the user in terms of their content and data and then reduce them to an algorithm in order to target and sell products.

Obviously, these are very strong claims, but it opens up an important conversation. How can technology be built around win-win? I want to dismantle these claims based on our values, which shape the way we operate at YuLife.

  1. Users are the purpose, not the product - Let's firstly examine the fundamental claim that, although most users believe products are made for them, they are, in fact, the product themselves. At YuLife, we don’t believe our users are the product to be exploited but the purpose. Our whole purpose is to inspire them to live their best lives.
  2. We want to give back more than we take - A lot of tech companies were started with the vision of making the world better for their users. At the centre of the YuLife narrative is a belief in giving more than we take. In return for the data we collect, we want to reward you for living healthily. We want to educate you and give you all the tools to empower yourself to live a healthy lifestyle.
  3. We want to add to the user’s life, not reduce them down to a number - The Social Dilemma outlined how users of big social media platforms get reduced to a number in a system. Companies that want to use tech for good are looking to do the opposite. We want to “expand” you to be your best. We want to help you, to shape the wellbeing journey you're on and to give you those tools and that information to help you on your journey. It's about human beings, not purely data and statistics.
  4. Revenue isn’t the sole reason for our tech - At the centre of the movie’s message is the idea that these tech companies are driven by revenue. At YuLife, revenue isn’t our sole driver; We want to shape a world that combines tech with a purpose for good. A real win-win.

Technology can make a Positive Impact

As a tech company, it's important to engage in the conversation as these are prevalent themes that need to be confronted. This debate is growing, and I think it's a healthy conversation.  

Ultimately, it's about using behavioural science for good. Is the tech about taking data, or is it about giving more than we take? Is it about reducing people to a number or to an algorithm or is it about expanding us to be our best selves? Is it about just seeking to maximise revenue, or is it to combine revenue with building a world that we want to live in?

At the end of the day, it comes down to choices and these choices need to be guided by values. Technology by itself can bring out the worst in human nature, but it can also bring out the best.  

At YuLife, we are looking to create something very different. The journey that YuLife is on is to use technology to make a difference in the world and to help people live their best lives. I believe that the best companies in the world will be those that will combine technology with a purpose.

Sammy Rubin

Sammy Rubin is the Founder & CEO of YuLife, a life insurance company that strives to offer effective life cover and improve the health and overall wellbeing of its users.