hello world, Asad here
👋🏽 get to know me in a minute.
✍🏽 I’m on a quest to understand the big questions concerning technology, and its role in a flourishing life and healthy world. Scroll below to read everything I’ve written, or subscribe on Substack to get it straight to your inbox.
🌳 I go on long walks.
🤖 My life’s work is to make people’s lives better through tech. I work with ideas, people, money, and words to try and make that happen.
🌍 I live in London, my home for the last 12 years. I was born in Islamabad, Pakistan.
👨🏽💻 I work at Brink, an innovation agency. I joined in 2018 as its first employee. Now, I co-lead its venturing practice.
🏛️ My most strongly held belief in life is that nothing is ever totally true, or right. My second most strongly held belief is that you should take the leap anyway.
🇷🇼 I just spent a year in Rwanda, setting up a Brink office in East Africa. Here’s what I remember about the country.
🔖 I read. Currently reading: Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro.
🎮 I game. Currently playing: Hollow Knight.
🐦 I tweet.
📝 You can see my CV on LinkedIn.
🔖 things I’ve written.
Agency, commitment, and funding the good life
TL; DR – I live and work by two values – agency and commitment. When those values manifest in my day job funding and scaling tech ideas, is when I feel I’m doing the most ‘good’. 6 min read | 1,536 words
Surfing radio waves
TL; DR – I listened to the radio in my late teens and early 20s, as much as I listen to podcasts today. They symbolise different things: both in my life, and how we think about technological progress. 4 min read | 803 words
Mobile money and a fork in the road
TL; DR – Mobile money has given millions the means to shape their lives for the better, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. But what makes it frictionless, also makes it dangerous. We’re at a fork in the road. Will fintech keep giving people the chance to make their life better? Or funnel them towards something worse? 6 min read…
What I remember from a year in Rwanda
TL; DR – Life, work, and everything in between. Here’s what fills my daydreams about Rwanda, its people, and its journey. 8 min read | 1,742 words
On meaning and open futures
TL; DR – Doing good with tech, means putting it out into the world as a possibility. For people to take up, adapt, reject. This is the open, free and ambiguous world of Simone de Beauviour, which I try to embody in building and deploying tech. 6 min read | 1,443 words
Africa doesn’t work in sprints
TL; DR – The agile method, born in US software development, optimises for productivity. In Africa, I’ve learnt other values are just as (or more) important when building or testing new tech. Especially: humility, collective action, and skin in the game. 5 min read | 1,313 words
TL; DR – Backhoes dig trenches, which host cables, which power the internet. Internet speed + reliability can only improve as fast as backhoes can improve (which is slowly and linearly). For the cutting edge of tech to make our lives better, we need to give as much attention and energy to the backhoes: those things out of…
NFTs are good for us
TL; DR – NFTs can build a healthier digital world. They’ll do this by letting us own digital things people have made: giving our lives more meaning and giving us deeper relationships between creators and buyers. 10 min read | 2,449 words
How can I help?
In short, if you want to make people’s lives better through technology, ask yourself three questions: 1/ Are you helping someone who needs it? 2/ Would they prefer to be left alone? 3/ If you want to help, how can you make sure you’re not muscling in against the values they’ve built up for themselves? 7 min read…
Tech, ethics and vaccine passports
In short, a vaccine passport introduced today would give freedom, movement, and agency to those already better off in health and wealth. That makes a fitting symbol of tech’s tendency to make life better for those already have more; it’s tendency to sacrifice equity at the altar of net-positive impact. 4 min read | 921 words
The ethical user interface
In short, the ethical user interface is grounded in a trade off. Give the user enough info and options, so that they keep their autonomy. But don’t throw too much their way, lest they become paralysed by choice. 4 min read | 919 words
Solar power, Zimbabwe and chronic problems: how tech really makes people’s lives better
In short, one way tech can make our lives worse is by burdening us with chronic problems. A solar energy system might give you electricity (yay!) and anxiety for a host of things that could go wrong. We should solve for that by thinking in tech stacks, and thinking about the whole story. 7 min read | 1,615…
On runways, part two
In short, the “build for growth” runway of tech startups could – should – shift to be about building tech for ethical growth. A shift that will change who does the work, what tools they use, and how they measure success. 5 min read | 1,184 words
On runways, part one
In short, the tech startup’s “build for growth” runway has two important lessons for the world of international development. 1) Build not only to serve users today, but to grow who you are able to serve tomorrow. 2) Try non-obvious things, that might impact a lot more people. 5 min read | 1,128 words
Finding plastic water containers
In short, Rsyzard Kapuscinksi writes about how the plastic water container revolutionised rural Africa. It’s one of the mot relatable stories I’ve seen for explaining how tech can make people’s lives better. 4 min read | 962 words
On chatbots and communication
In short, chatbots give us privacy, and convenience. But when we talk to them, we talk in fragments. Short, command and answer statements. And we’re never quite sure what the bot is trying to do. Its incentives are hidden. Added up, I worry they’re moving how humans communicate to a worse place. 5 min read | 1,240 words
What is technology?
In short, there are three building blocks to understanding technology as a concept. #1 is that tech = creation. #2 is that we build it to pursue our lives outside our biology. And #3 is that it shapes us deeply as humans. 5 min read | 1,162 words
On tech and shaping a life (v0.1)
In short, when it’s at its best, tech gives you the power to shape your life, and works with the life you’ve shaped until now. At its worst, tech assumes what life you want to lead. And takes you down paths you can’t see or understand. 5 min read | 1,124 words
On tech and non binary thinking (v0.1)
TL; DR – resist your innate urge to think in black and white, good and bad. One way to do that is to think in values. When you put a technology out into the world: which values is it realising, and which (equally legitimate) values is it taking away? Think in values, and you think in a non-binary…