Friday, October 6, 2017

"Our minds can be hijacked" by smartphones

Dystopia: "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - 1984

Campaign launched to limit amount of time children spend online (Alamy/The Guardian)
"Our minds can be hijacked": the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia
Google, Twitter, and Facebook workers who helped make technology so addictive are disconnecting themselves from the Internet. Paul Lewis reports on the Silicon Valley "refuseniks" alarmed by a race for human attention

Justin Rosenstein had tweaked his laptop’s operating system to block Reddit, banned himself from Snapchat, which he compares to heroin, and imposed limits on his use of Facebook.

But even that wasn’t enough. In August, the 34-year-old tech executive took a more radical step to restrict his use of social media and other addictive technologies.
Rosenstein purchased a new iPhone and instructed his assistant to set up a parental-control feature to prevent him from downloading any apps.

He was particularly aware of the allure of Facebook “likes,” which he describes as “bright dings of pseudo-pleasure” that can be as hollow as they are seductive. And Rosenstein should know: He was the Facebook engineer who created the “like” button in the first place.

1984: "Refuseniks"? What the hell is that?
A decade after he stayed up all night coding a prototype of what was then called an “awesome” button, Rosenstein belongs to a small but growing band of Silicon Valley heretics who complain about the rise of the so-called “attention economy”: an internet shaped around the demands of an advertising economy.
Rise of Trump: holds attention (John Locher)
These refuseniks are rarely founders or chief executives, who have little incentive to deviate from the mantra that their companies are making the world a better place.

Instead, they tend to have worked a rung or two down the corporate ladder: designers, engineers, and product managers who, like Rosenstein, several years ago put in place the building blocks of a digital world from which they are now trying to disentangle themselves.

“It is very common,” Rosenstein says, “for humans to develop things with the best of intentions and for them to have unintended, negative consequences.”

Most of the US has low opinion of Trump.
Rosenstein, who also helped create Gchat during a stint at Google, and now leads a San Francisco-based company that improves office productivity, appears most concerned about the psychological effects on people who, research shows, touch, swipe or tap their phone 2,617 times a day.
"We shall overcomb."
There is growing concern that as well as addicting users, technology is contributing toward so-called “continuous partial attention,” severely limiting people’s ability to focus, and possibly lowering IQ.

One recent study showed that the mere presence of smartphones damages cognitive capacity -- even when the device is turned off. “Everyone is distracted,” Rosenstein says. “All of the time.”

But those concerns are trivial compared with the devastating impact upon the political system that some of Rosenstein’s peers believe can be attributed to the rise of social media and the attention-based market that drives it. More (Comments)

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