November 23, 2021


Ivy Mahsciao is a champion for human potential. She is the Founder and CEP of evrmore, working with AI to rebuild personal narratives unadulterated by Big Social’s business model. After 20+ years in consumer psychology and product science, Ivy is using machine learning to amplify empathy and help Gen Z youth skillfully navigate key moments in life.

By bringing positive and humanistic psychology into technology through combining voice and emotion AI, evrmore’s vision is for young people to take a break from the dopamine chase for social validation and build self-knowledge that serves them and lasts a lifetime. It is the first mindful tech applying generative models so intelligent systems can help us decompress our bandwidth for compassion, awareness, and life potential. 

Learn more about Ivy’s journey; from immigrating to the U.S. in the early 90’s to launching evrmore in our conversation with her below.

(Note: This interview was edited for brevity)

Was there a pivotal moment or experience that launched you into your current focus and work?

If I can pinpoint some key events in my life that ultimately belong in the evrmore origin story, it would be two significant events or phases: one in my youth and one in my 30’s. The earlier connection was my own experience back in early 90’s New YorkI’d just come to the states without my family, so I was in and out of foster family situations throughout my early teens. Like most immigrant children, I was getting my bearings on learning a new language, adjusting to a new world, all while watching myself unravel without the safety net of my own family nearby. I suppose a mashup of grit stemming from fear, pride breaking out of sadness, and resilience born out of pain all worked to my advantage. I was able to adapt and shift just enough to not break myself in the process, and I was seen as a well-adjusted third culture kid.

The second connection was my encounter with a remarkably unique lineage of Tibetan Buddhist teachers. I began years of independent studies with a group of brilliant scholars and PhDs in neuroscience and psychotherapy. I’d sit on a meditation cushion every Thursday night and listen to 3-hour long lectures delivered by these astonishing teachers transmitting what sounded like quantum poetry to me. It felt almost like a weekly retreat from the grind, but it turned out to be so much more. Their life-affirming commitment to science and integrative health gave me the wake-up call I couldn’t ignore. I dove heart-first into the phenomenology of the mind-body system, and how to help people train their minds and bodies to live a fulfilling and rewarding life.

The thing is, everyone experiences disillusionment, separation, and painful loss in life. No one is immune. They lead to deep-rooted trauma because they fundamentally shake our foundation, no matter how seemingly small or insignificant. I believe the key in these experiences that could make the difference between us sinking or rising, is the ability to adapt and have the know-how to keep pushing ourselves against the world in an enduring and meaningful way. That’s what I want to spend my time thinking about and the type of solutions I want to keep building.

“When you have a strong narrative identity of who you truly are (not what your profiles say you are)…You’ll be less susceptible to having your thoughts, emotions, and your life’s stories being hijacked by tech.”

Ivy Mahsciao

In your opinion, what are the most promising ways we can address Big Social’s business model?

Companies need to care enough to uphold ethics through accountability and consistent execution that adhere to an ethical framework. That ethical framework needs to be operationalized so it’s more than a public memo that gets published then forgotten; like a weak post-it that doesn’t stick. Then it comes down to if we’re honest with what we genuinely value and whether or not we value it enough to pay for it. I don’t think how social media companies have accommodated any of that.

I think we can start by asking ourselves this question: If companies can reliably follow an ethical framework that we can all agree to as users and consumers, will we also be willing to pay for such services? Because any vagueness or unwillingness to change from previous conditioning on either side would mean history will repeat itself. Old-school social will still be old-school social, and we will continue to have congressional hearings and exposés because systemic change requires people to be real with what they wish for. And the type of change we demand to see comes at a cost in more ways than one, but definitely, one that inevitably changes how we pay for services and what we deem as a fair exchange.

What top action(s) can you recommend to people searching for ways to change the way they interact with technology?

Start with the stories you tell yourself and surround yourself with because that’s the foundation of our personal narrative! Who are you, really? When you have a strong narrative identity of who you truly are (not what your profiles say you are) — it is the single most important ‘profile’ everyone should have. You’ll be less susceptible to having your thoughts, emotions, and your life’s stories being hijacked by tech.

It’s your own perspectives, your personal values and beliefs that help you form meaningful connections and make technology serve you. Having had a day job in tech and advertising for 20 years before evrmore, I see time and time again the profound influence of stories on people. 

Here are my top practical tips for making technology serve you:

  • Ask yourself what your story is within a particular app/tech/feature: You’ll be surprised by some of your answers. For example, my story on LinkedIn is for my professional and business growth. It’s also for me to support others in their professional growth. The minute that storyline changes for me on LinkedIn, I will carefully watch how I’m using it differently and how it’s affecting me. Try this with any other platforms you’re on.

  • Be picky with your screen time: The screen time feature works for knowing how much time you’re spending, but that’s not enough. How are you spending time online, and how does it make you feel afterward? If your moods are shifting drastically for the worse after using an app, that’s a good indication that something isn’t working for you there (‘I feel bad after watching a baby otter rub its belly,’ said no one ever).

  • Know your perception style to prevent cognitive overload: We all perceive stimuli and absorb information differently. Some people are more visual, and some prefer audio. According to cognitive science, we can only handle so much before getting overloaded. So the best way to deal with the amount of information tech throws at you is figuring out what you can do without. I started only listening to some of my favorite YouTubers because I realized that I’m fine with just audio most of the time for certain content. You don’t have to default to a specific way of consuming content. Find your preferred style to perceive what’s coming at you more consciously. You could still have a great experience without blowing a fuse … and btw, you don’t often know when you’ve blown a fuse until much later, like becoming suddenly irritable or starting to feel lethargic — they’re all signs of cognitive overload.

“We need tech companies to take responsible actions in protecting our virtual lives and showing us how healthy socialization and meaningful human relationships can be made to unite instead of divide.” 

Ivy Mahsciao

What are we not asking you that you want the world to know? Is there anything else you want to mention?

I don’t think there’s anything more powerful than using your own voice to tell your life stories in an authentic way, then finding something heroic in how you’re living them out. Social media has conditioned us to show the world a version of ourselves in a way that feels exasperating and unfulfilling because the stories we’re telling on social media might have drifted from who we truly are. We become edited down and reduced to some aspect of what the algorithms prefer.

The hero’s journey is a universal story told in all of our favorite movies and novels. It’s always operating behind the scenes in our every thought, symbolized in our dreams, and manifested in our visions and aspirations. It helps us stay on the path of who we are and who we want to become. It transcends language and culture, and it acts as a blueprint for everyone to walk in the path of our hero(ines). So own your life stories. Honor them and protect them because they’re the version of you that you need to know well across time.

We need to design and develop tech in a way that lets us have the freedom to be us without being surveilled against our will. We need tech companies to take responsible actions in protecting our virtual lives and showing us how healthy socialization and meaningful human relationships can be made to unite instead of divide.

Coming out of this era of isolation, the way we relate to others needs to be looked at in a different way than how big tech has dictated. Everyone needs to know that they have a choice in the matter, and it begins with more than asking for rights. Instead, it starts with taking responsibility for how you share and the way you let yourself be used.Let us be heard and not handled.

TAKE ACTION

LEARN MORE

How have Big Social companies made their platforms intentionally addictive? In a deleted scene from The Social Dilemma shared with Teen Vogue, Dr. Anna Lembke explains how social media creates a dopamine deficit in our brains. Learn more and watch it here.

REBOOT

Are you using social media or is it using you? Join us for a 7-day Social Media Reboot. Take back control of your relationship with technology and get tips from experts featured in the film here

SHARE YOUR STORY

A powerful movement for change is growing. The Center for Humane Technology’s #MySocialTruth offers a platform for you to bring your voice to this movement. Share your experience here of how these platforms are impacting your health and wellbeing and help us reimagine the future.