Thanks to Cal Newport for pointing me towards this site in his latest Study Hacks blogpost, “Beyond Digital Ethics”.
He talks about the work of Tristan Harris and The Centre for Humane Technology from whose website I have taken a page.
What began as a race to monetize our attention is now eroding the pillars of our society: mental health, democracy, social relationships, and our children.
What we feel as addiction is part of something much bigger.
There’s an invisible problem that’s affecting all of society.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google have produced amazing products that have benefited the world enormously. But these companies are also caught in a zero-sum race for our finite attention, which they need to make money. Constantly forced to outperform their competitors, they must use increasingly persuasive techniques to keep us glued. They point AI-driven news feeds, content, and notifications at our minds, continually learning how to hook us more deeply—from our own behavior.
Unfortunately, what’s best for capturing our attention isn’t best for our well-being:
- Snapchat turns conversations into streaks, redefining how our children measure friendship.
- Instagram glorifies the picture-perfect life, eroding our self worth.
- Facebook segregates us into echo chambers, fragmenting our communities.
- YouTube autoplays the next video within seconds, even if it eats into our sleep.
These are not neutral products.
They are part of a system designed to addict us.