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Toward a Future of Positive Technology

Somewhere between all the stories about the negative effects of technology and the hype around new technology lies the truth. The truth is happiness.

About two years ago, we began to notice something. Every day we learned more about the negative impact of technology on human beings. Screen time is shortening our lifespans. Staring at our smartphones is damaging our spines. We’re losing sleep. We are not sure if technology is hindering or enriching our social lives. We might be more lonely than ever. Our attention spans are shorter. Our very identities are hanging in the balance.

And yet, we saw possibilities. We listened to people share intensely positive moments using technology. We analyzed happy moments on social media. We immersed ourselves in thousands of diary entries showing the highs and lows of living life with technology. We collected data from nearly 10,000 people about the impact of technology on their happiness. We looked at how people anticipate, experience, and remember technology experiences.

What we learned is that happiness is critically important. The feeling people take away from an experience is the experience. When that feeling is happiness, it leads to positive outcomes for everyone. And we learned that happiness is more nuanced that we imagined. It is a balance of pleasure and purpose.

Like most people working in technology, we are optimists. We think technology can be a force for good. But we are not talking about mottos, like “Don’t be evil.” We aren’t thinking of a happy marketing campaign for the latest technology. We are thinking beyond nudging people toward new behaviors. We don’t mean delight, the current model of happiness that infatuates designers.

It’s time for us to rethink our approach to designing technology. The new era of wearable, integrated, ubiquitous technology is approaching. We think the future belongs to technologies that foster meaning, connection, and creativity. We are helping to create a new field of positive design. Our mission is to help our clients optimize for happiness, because it’s good for business and because it’s the right thing to do.

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