A WARNING FROM TECH INSIDERS
What do you, me and Anderson Cooper have in common? A creeping suspicion that we have, to some degree, an addiction to our devices. That was Cooper’s opening question for former Google product manager Tristan Harris during his “Brain-Hacking” segment on 60 Minutes this week.
What followed makes my job easy for this Wired Wednesday: I suggest… nay, I implore… you to see this episode. And with due recognition to the efficiency demands of our current “attention economy,” you don’t even need to spend the time it would take to watch the episode: CBS News has kindly provided a transcript that you can read through very quickly.
Yup, you can have your (brain-hacked) mind blown in a mere 3 minutes. Is it chilling? For sure. Frightening? Definitely. Surprising? Not really.
Like Anderson Cooper, I think most of us, if we’re alert, curious people, harbor on the fringes of our awareness the recognition that we are participating in a social and neurological experiment of unprecedented proportions.
Engineering Your Addiction
To entice you to click over and read or watch, here are a few choice excerpts:
[Former Google product manager] Tristan Harris: There’s a whole playbook of techniques that get used to get you using the product for as long as possible. They are programming people. There’s always this narrative that technology’s neutral. And it’s up to us to choose how we use it. This is just not true.
Anderson Cooper: You call this a “race to the bottom of the brain stem.” It’s a race to the most primitive emotions we have? Fear, anxiety, loneliness, all these things?
Tristan Harris: Absolutely. And that’s again because in the race for attention I have to do whatever works. It absolutely wants one thing, which is your attention.
Anderson Cooper: Do you think parents understand the complexities of what their kids are dealing with, when they’re dealing with their phone, dealing with apps and social media?
Tristan Harris: No. And I think this is really important. Because there’s a narrative that, “Oh, I guess they’re just doing this like we used to gossip on the phone,” but what this misses is that your telephone in the 1970s didn’t have a thousand engineers on the other side of the telephone who were redesigning it to work with other telephones and then updating the way your telephone worked every day to be more and more persuasive. That was not true in the 1970s.
Ramsay Brown, cofounder of Dopamine Labs: You don’t pay for Facebook. Advertisers pay for Facebook. You get to use it for free because your eyeballs are what’s being sold there.
Anderson Cooper: You’re almost saying it like there’s an addiction code.
Ramsay Brown: Yeah, that is the case. That since we’ve figured out, to some extent, how these pieces of the brain that handle addiction are working, people have figured out how to juice them further and how to bake that information into apps.
Is resistance futile? That question is largely what inspired me to begin this series… and what I’ll be exploring as we go forth: How can we develop daily mastery of glorious technology, rather than becoming enslaved by it? And, perhaps even more important, how can we teach our children to do the same? Whether you’re curious, captivated or concerned about our digital dependence and device devotion, join me on (most) Wednesdays so we can explore it together. (Sign up here if you want to be sure not to miss anything!) ….. …..
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