Our society is being highjacked

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 healthdemocracysocial 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.

Take a look here.

 

 

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Global Warning….

Taken from John Naughton’s blog post “Global Warning” about Nick Harkaway’s new novel Gnomon where he shares the author’s blogpost which you can read in full here. These paragraphs struck a chord with me.

…..I remember the luxury of saying “we must be precautionary about surveillance laws, about human rights violations, because one day the liberal democracies might start electing monsters and making bad pathways, and we’ll want solid protections from our governments’ over-reach.”

Oops.

I remember the halcyon days of April 2016 when I thought I’d missed the boat and I hadn’t written a warning at all, but a sort of melancholic state of the nation, and I really did think things might get better from there. Then Brexit came – I was half expecting that – and then Trump – which I was really not – and now here we are, with the UK boiling as May’s government and Corbyn’s Labour sit on their hands and clock ticks down and the negotiating table is blank except for a few sheets of crumpled scrap paper, and the only global certainty seems to be that this US administration will try to wreck every decent thing the international community has attempted in my lifetime, with the occasional connivance of our own leaders when they aren’t busy tearing one another to bits.

And now I’m pretty sure I did write a warning after all. ….

 

Gone to the Beach…

…shouldn’t you too?

The Monday Morning Quote #487

“As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life—and travel—leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks – on your body or on your heart – are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt”

Anthony Bourdain

Of airports and airlines.

I fly a lot – into, out of and around the UK. My favourite airport by a country mile is Cork which is friendly and efficient. I enjoy departures from there (this evening I am off to Newcastle) and above all I look forward to returning home, unfortunately not until late next Monday evening.

My least favourite airports in the UK are Edinburgh, badly designed, unfriendly and uncomfortable, Manchester where the leaky walkways, and the miserly limit of 60 minutes free wi-fi (increased from 30!!), speak volumes but it is Stansted which for dedication to giving travellers a hard time leaves everywhere else in their slipstream.

The last time I was there (Saturday June 2nd) I was amazed to find that they have not only found a way to make the queues for security even longer and more unpleasant but are actually boasting that they are #5TimesFaster – a hashtag that is surely an invitation to tweet about how poor the experience was.

The shock of being shouted at by a hoarse, bleached blonde because you had the temerity to put your toiletries in a plastic bag (clearly sealed and the correct size) that was not Stansted standard issue was overwhelming to a couple of non-English speakers. The old trick of shouting even louder to get your point across didn’t seem to help.

When a couple of people remonstrated with an overseer that the man who was organising their belongings for the security scans had been downright rude were reassured with, “that’s just his way, he’s got a heart of gold really”.

There has clearly been a lot of money spent on developing Essex’s gateway to the world, unfortunately taking the Ikea aisle approach means a meandering shopping centre where speed of transit is governed by the slowest plodder. What they haven’t done is to increase the numbers or comfort of seating, the only empty seat I could find was just outside the lavatories. Yet again on Saturday there was no wifi either in the airport “lounges” nor in Starbucks where I finally sat myself.

The doubly whammy of Saturday was the fact that I was flying with Ryan Air – I won’t go on at length they’re too easy a target. They have now introduced another innovation – putting your bags in the hold. Unless of course you pay a premium and then can take two bags on to the flight. This replaces the old system of only letting the first 90(?) people on with their cases which led to long queues, anxiety and aggression. None of these ranks anywhere close to their past policies of “first come, first served” for seating where my wife was told that if she and our three year old son were seated 20 rows apart that was just tough.

One of the problems with putting so much baggage in the hold was they had failed to factor in the ground staff. We boarded on time, were welcomed on board then were told that we were third in line to have the baggage loaded. After 40 minutes on a very hot and uncomfortable evening they told us that the bags were now all on but we had missed our “push” so the 20.35 took off at 22.00 the time that it had been scheduled to land.

Bloomberg has published the best and worst airlines and airports of 2018. In the bottom 10 airports come Edinburgh (134) and Manchester (136) but the penultimate in the list at 140, just above Kuwait International, comes Stansted.

Carriers are headed by Quatar, Lufthansa and Etihad, in 67 from 72 comes Ryan Air, Michael O’Leary you clearly have more work to do there are still 6 below you!

Get that wasp off my sandwich

I was up and about in plenty of time to be one of the first to cast their vote in the referendum this morning.

It is obviously a serious subject and not one that people tend to discuss too much in public. I am not going to share an opinion in this place except to encourage you to use your vote if you have one.

We’re enjoying a beautiful day in West Cork and the photograph above was taken an hour or so ago from  just outside my workplace “The Woodshed”.

I couldn’t avoid singing this.

 

So many pants on fire…

The lies that have been distributed are so many and so persistent that, arguably, fiction is the only way to tell the truth.

John Le Carre in an interview in the New York Times with Mel Gubben –

January 7th 2004, quoted in Spione

I wonder what he would say now?

 

 

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