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Dash challenges community to find meaning in time spent online

Anil Dash is co-founder and CEO of ThinkUp, an app that helps people get more meaning out of the time they spend social networking. Recognized for his role in advocating for social and civic responsibility within the tech industry, Dash also is involved with the New York Tech Meetup, Stack Exchange and DonorsChoose.

Anil Dash challenged the crowd at Big Omaha to recognize the ethics, legal principles and cycles of expression and economization that are developing in the tech world, and to think harder about how things should be done.

“We’ve forgotten that technology has values,” said the Internet veteran, who has been blogging for almost 15 years.

One issue he touched on is the industry’s disposable attitude. Will our digital content be considered art in the future? What does it mean that it might disappear as technology changes, or as startups sell out to giants like Google or Facebook and shut down?

“Van Gogh wasn’t appreciated during his lifetime,” he said, not “during the lifetime of his Android phone. In every other medium, we cared about preserving those things past the life span of that person.”

Dash also challenged the way terms of service have developed and are changing the rules of our society.

“We’re starting to get our actual lives constrained by what these terms of service do, and none of us have read them,” he said. “This trumps the Constitution. I don’t say this lightly.”

In a way, Dash’s message boils down to this: “We have to find meaning in all this time we spend online. We’re going to spend years of our lives with our thumbs flicking our phones,” he said.

He’s pretty sure he’s spent more time reading on Twitter than rading to his two-year-old son. “I’m not sure that’s who I want to be.”


Big Omaha is a two-and-a-half-day event that aims to inspire, educate and celebrate the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the heart of the Midwest. Produced by Silicon Prairie News, it’s part of the Big Series, the nation’s most ambitious events on innovation and entrepreneurship.

The Big Omaha Video Series is presented by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

Based in Kansas City, Mo., the Kauffman Foundation is among the largest foundations in the U.S. with a mission to foster a society of economically independent individuals who are engaged citizens, continuing the improvement of their communities.

Credits: Video by Quadrant5. Snippet photo by Malone & Company.

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