Going Forward

A new weekly email briefing about the people reshaping capitalism for the better

When I was a kid, I read my first issue of WIRED magazine — filled with stories about new computers, handheld devices, the Internet — and I remember running to my mom, magazine in hand. “Mom,” I said, “I can’t wait for the future.”

I wanted to help build that future, and, like many others, I eventually moved to Silicon Valley to work in the place where the future is being built every day. But in the last few years, there’s been a growing sense — both in Silicon Valley and across the world — that this is not the future we had imagined.

Unchecked economic growth has made global warming a catastrophic threat to the sustainability of our planet. The income and wealth inequality gap continues to grow. Tech giants have ushered in an era of surveillance capitalism without demonstrating a serious concern for data security, and misuse of social media platforms is actively threatening democracies across the world.

All of this and more has contributed to an implosion of public trust in our institutions. Our disillusionment is greatest when we turn the mirror on ourselves in the technology industry: not only is the tech story over, but it’s taken a complete 180. The “techlash” is now in full swing, and it shows no signs of slowing down.

So, where do we go from here?

Capitalism doesn’t need to be extractive, nor does it need to pursue the sole goal of creating shareholder value. These are not immutable laws. They’re choices, and over time, these choices have created a business culture that prioritizes creating shareholder value above all else. Many of the problems we face today are a symptom of that. But we can choose to do things differently, and we can choose to build a better system and culture.

Capitalism is the ‘operating system’ of our society. Let’s reprogram it.

This is, in fact, happening right now. There’s a growing number of people — of all ages, genders, careers, backgrounds, and circumstances — who are charting this new way forward and showing us how we can reshape capitalism for the better: purpose-driven business leaders, social entrepreneurs, researchers and policymakers, sustainability-focused designers, civic technology and ‘mission-driven’ startups, impact investors, and many more.

If we’re going to build better systems right now, and inspire a rising generation of leaders to do so in the future, these are the people that we need to pay attention to, learn from, and celebrate. That’s why I’m starting Forward, a weekly email briefing about the people who are reshaping capitalism — and the technology industry in particular — to make it more sustainable, inclusive, and fair.

What Forward will cover

Forward will explore four main themes:

Mission-driven business

How are the lines blurring between profit and purpose? Who are the entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs that are turning business into a force for good?

Tech ethics and social responsibility

As technology companies reckon with their impact on society and democracy and come under heavier regulatory scrutiny, how are tech workers building products, teams, and companies in a more ethical, inclusive, and responsible way?

Citizen-centered government

How are governments, elected officials, and policymakers across the world becoming more citizen-centered, responsive, and modern in regards to the services they provide?

Design for good

Design — whether of algorithm-based digital products, consumer goods, buildings, or entire cities — shapes the way we understand, experience, and interact with the world. How can we better embed the ideals of sustainability, transparency, and fairness into the design that surrounds us every day? Who is successfully doing this already?

How we’ll do it

Starting on April 14th, Forward will land in your inbox every Sunday. Each briefing will curate stories from around the world about the people, organizations, and ideas that are driving positive change along these four themes, and it’ll do it in a simple and concise email. I’ll be doing most of the writing, but down the line I’m also hoping to have guest issues and explore other formats. This is an experiment in media-making, so if you have any feedback or ideas, just hit reply.

The backlash against business as usual has, in many ways, already run its course. Now it’s time for us to celebrate the good being done and explore what’s possible. It’s time for us to look for answers, together. It’s time for us to look Forward. I hope you’ll join.

Hugh

Notes:

1 - You’re signed up for Forward because you subscribed to my old email newsletter, The Weekly. I’m sure your inbox is a busy place, so if you’d rather not get anything from me (no hard feelings, I promise!) feel free to unsubscribe.

2 - If you know someone who might be interested in reading this weekly briefing, please pass this along to them so they can subscribe. Thanks!