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Can Technology Be Compassionate? Developer Val Mack Explains How

Can Technology Be Compassionate? Developer Val Mack Explains How

Sep 22, 2020

Follow the White Rabbit podcastStart Listening

Val Mack, a Software Architect at Quant Five, and founder of Festival Labs, believes cryptography and blockchain have the power to do social good by protecting privacy and allowing autonomy in what she calls "compassionate technology."

"That term that I am using is very ambiguous -- intentionally so -- because it's a kind of umbrella term for working for social good, autonomy, anything that is seeking to put more compassion in the world," Val said on the latest episode of the Follow the White Rabbit podcast.

Before joining developer firm Quant Five based in Berkeley, California, Val developed software for ConsenSys projects, BRD wallets and for a Coinbase spinoff. Val is also a mentor at the Berkeley Blockchain Xcelerator and an organizer of blockchain groups such as Women Who Code and SF CryptoCurrency Developers. 

Val's early experience in the blockchain and crypto space brought her into contact with the ICO frenzy where she said she would bump into people at meetups and hear: "We raised $40 million yesterday and we don't know what to do with it."

But, as Val explained, there was also a mainstay community of people who wanted to harness the technology for the greater good -- something that was barely appreciated outside the blockchain space.

"There are people inside that community who really want to make a difference, really want to put a dent in the universe, so to speak, to do so much more good for the world than just doing an ICO or trading tokens," she said.

That's how Val gravitated to like-minded entrepreneurs and developers and ended up founding Festival Labs to keep these people connected and start to create a hub for compassionate technology.

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"Cryptography is one of those things, interestingly, that has a lot of power (to create compassionate technology) and is undervalued by most of society because it is really hard to understand. It's super complicated and also complicated to communicate," she said.

"So the effort behind Festival Labs is, first, to lay the foundation for this community, and, next, to start building things that can go to mass market so that we can give these powerful tools to a widespread audience."

Val cited different ideas for compassionate technology that emerged from a hackathon co-sponsored by Orchid, ranging from certifying sustainably-produced honey to providing a virtual reality persona based on statistics that could show how people would live divergent experiences with, for example a 10 percent salary increase.

To hear more from Val, follow us down the rabbit hole: listen to the conversation here or on your favorite streaming service.

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Feb 22, 2021
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