Our society is being hijacked by technology

From http://humanetech.com/problem/

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.

Does anyone else feel as a University we should use better tools and not depend on products such as Facebook to engage in discourse with each other?

I launched a week-long smartphone detox out here in Boulder, CO where I’m interning this summer. We’ve got 9 people detoxing this month: hear their stories at firstweekflipphone.com/diaries.
Super excited to launch in Chicago in September leading up to October detox.
We’re gonna be presenting with stalls at both Fresher’s Fairs. If anyone UChi affiliated thinks they might be interested in this project, please reach out to lpwarner@uchicago.edu.

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More food feed for thought:

Facebook killed the feed. The feed was a metaphorical thing. I’m not talking about RSS feeds, the way blog posts could be detected and read by offsite readers. I’m talking about sustenance. What nourished critical minds. The feed. The food that fed our minds. There’s a “feed” on Facebook, but it doesn’t offer sustenance. It’s empty calories. Junk food. Junk feeds.


Even more reading here: https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/weekend-reading-rediscovering-blogging-edition/65671

Somewhat related – this is a good essay on understanding information networks, how belief systems form, difference between an epistemic chamber and an echo chamber (and how to escape them):

Did anyone else see the docudrama that came out on Netflix last week? Here’s a trailer:

Highly recommended as one reviewer wrote: the film is the “single most lucid, succinct, and profoundly terrifying analysis of social media ever created.”

I would love to see if there is interest among people to host a watch party sometime later. cc: @j2zhao, @hjcho

Links to discussion guides: #TheSocialDilemma - Host a conversation

K4rtik: thanks for a). recommending this wonderful doc | b). by pointing out that it’s message is the same as we’ve been preaching for 2+ years, but crucially told better (I mean they did have millions of Netflix money), possibly the best anyone has done.

My only critiques:

  • Too keen to give positive platform to the bad guys:
    Roger McNamee preaching social equality… bitch please.
    Probably more annoying were the ‘awoke-bro’: case-in-point Tim Kendall.
    Until they’ve given the money back the made of these causes they should show more humility.
    The film needed them, but it also needed (badly) some actual young activists.
    I mean are young people really gonna fk with Jaron Lanier telling them to quit everything all at once.
    I pointed out to him how advocating a week would be a better place to start at Chicago Humanities Week (where he was on stage because he doesn’t need big socials for a platform unlike anyone under the age of 30).

  • Not enough specifics on what the humane tech would look like.
    I don’t know if they held back to make room for a sequel :crossed_fingers:
    But as well as giving nonjudgemental mention of such minor league mediocrities as Pinterest & Reddit, they could have done well to specifically name some actually positive social technologies! I mean if it’s a dilemma, there needs to be an option right?!!
    So let me take the time to recommend:
    Mastodon, Micro.Blog, Signal, and heck Discourse… and more… basically anything green on my homepage.

If you want to fight big tech socials, don’t step away (for more than a week): build your social networks on good tech. It’s harder work, but it’s our responsibility.

I don’t know, I find it difficult to classify people into binary good and bad. I googled McNamee, and he seems like a defector as many others who were featured. I do not see anything wrong with that.

Jaron is pretty cool actually. His “10 arguments …” is on my reading list for a while. Even though I agree that youngsters may not take his advice to heart, I think the aim of the book and its title are probably intentionally provocative to kickstart a conversation.

I was lucky to have one of my questions on this topic answered by him recently during my internship at Microsoft. He sounded like someone who has thought deeply about the issue of having a better platform on the internet and all the associated problems that entails, including economic incentives. I found him pretty optimistic about the future as different solutions will be tried and tested and the society will come to agreement on something that works.

Unsure if there are clear answers known yet (as Lanier reminded me). I think the primary audience of the movie is the general audience, they do seem to have developed guidelines aimed at developers on their website as you may have seen.

Look out for my review of the film posting on blog.w4rner.com tomorrow (will reference your post and ks.cs.uchicago.edu unless you still have a micro.blog I can ref?? Email me if so.).

Usually defectors have to give their money back. Tim Kendall has $10m of it. Who is he to critique their monetization practices?!
Note that they don’t seem to have any qualms about judging their ex-colleagues.

Would have been neat to see some young, not tech-wealthy folk featured.