I’ve been writing this morning about how platform engineers and entrepreneurs justify what they do, as well as the assumptions implicit within these justifications. I then stumbled across this example offered by Anand Giridharadas on pg 39 of his Winners Take All and it’s a really good one:
Guided by MarketWorld’s win-win values, Rosenstein decided to improve the world by starting a company, Asana, which sold work collaboration software to companies like Uber, Airbnb, and Dropbox. Like Asher, he was eager to help, but it was hard to step outside of the realm of his assumptions and tools. He believed that Asana’s software could be his most forceful way of improving the human condition. “When you think about the nature of human progress,” he said, “when you think about the nature of, like, whether it’s improving health care or improving government or making art or doing biotechnology or doing traditional philanthropy—whatever it is, all the things that can move the human condition forward, or maybe the world condition forward, all are about groups of people working together. And so we were, like, if we really could build a universal piece of software that could make everyone in the world who’s trying to do positive things 5 percent faster, right?—I guess we’ll also make terrorists 5 percent faster—but on the whole, we think that that’s going to be really, really net-positive.”
If anyone has other examples they could share, I’d be very grateful to receive them. I’m interested in cases where people are explicitly talking in abstract terms about why the platforms they’re building are good in a moral sense, above and beyond any expectations of economic return.