How a handful of tech companies influence the minds of billions of people
Billions of people are occupied daily by mobiles, iPads, computers and other digital tools. Few of them reflect on how this affects their thinking and health. Technology by itself is of course nothing bad, everything depends on how to use it. The backside of the technology is that we risk becoming more sedentary and less social in real life. Another drawback is that we risk becoming worse in interpreting facial expressions and general social cues. Equally bad is, of course, that it also seems to make us superficial and less thoughtful. It is surely more than I who sometimes get the feeling that the meaningful conversation is almost extinct. Today people won’t listen for more than 30-40 seconds if you do not have anything sensational to say.
What happens often is that after half a minute we start thinking about what we are going to say and then interrupting others. This assumes that we are evening listening or focusing on the speaker. Both privately and in the workplace, people are increasingly burying their faces in mobiles and tablets that constantly draw their attention to the Internet, Facebook, texting, Twitter, Snapchat and games etc. If one would try to converse with them they probably won’t even lift their eyes. It is not a long time since such behavior was seen as unhealthy and rude. Nowadays it’s so common to see it as normal. Although what you actually signal is that what the other persons have to say is less interesting than what you do on your mobile. Do not disturb!
A group of high-tech tech makers who decided to quit working for the tech giants are now warning people for the services they themselves created. A handful of people working for a few technology companies control the thoughts of billions of people every day, says Tristan Harris, a former technology designer at Google. Companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter use advanced knowledge of the human psyche to design the services so we stay as long as possible. The price we pay is our attention, that we become more stressed, impulsive and stop thinking about themselves.
There are courses at Stanford and other places where people are educated in how to influence the public’s way of thinking, Harris says. He instead proposes a design renaissance, where technology helps promoting ethical and social development instead of eroding it.