Former employees of several tech companies, including Facebook and Google, have bandied up together in an effort to curb tech addiction, therefore challenging the companies they once helped build.
What pushed the employees to create the Center for Humane Technology are the ill effects of social networks and smartphones, the same exact reason why a couple of Apple investors a while back called on the Cupertino brand to do something about excessive smartphone use by children. The group just officially launched on Feb. 4, in hopes of raising awareness about the tolls of technology, which its founders and members believe are addictive.
Internet Addiction Campaign
With the help of media watchdog group Common Sense Media, the Center for Humane Technology is also planning an anti-tech addiction lobbying effort, plus an advertising campaign — called The Truth About Tech — targeted at U.S. public schools. It'll be supported with millions of dollars in funding by Common Sense Media. It'll educate students, teachers, and parents about the hazards of excessively using technology, including the chances of heavy social media usage inducing depression.
The head of the group is Tristan Harris, who used to be an ethicist at Google. He dishes on company practices, hinting that they were designed to convince them to consume more and more media.
"We were on the inside. We know what the companies measure. We know how they talk, and we know how the engineering works."
Social Media And Technology Addiction
The ill effects of social media and technology have become hot-button topics in recent months. Just last week, mental health professionals reached Facebook to gut its messaging platform specifically for kids, called Messenger Kids. Back in December 2017, one former Facebook executive slammed the social media, accusing Facebook of "ripping apart society."
"All the tech companies profit the more attention they extract out of human vessels," Harris told Quartz. "They profit by drilling into our brains to pull the attention out of it, by using persuasion techniques to keep them hooked."
Harris worked for years at Google, and has been very vocal against his former employer. He also created a nonprofit called Time Well Spent, which aims to help people rethink how much time they spend online. The new organization he's part of evolves from that and instead focuses on raising awareness about what he believes are manipulative design methods employed by, as he calls it, a "civilization-scale mind-control machine."
Early Facebook investor Roger McNamee is also one of the members of the group, saying he's horrified by his contributions to the company.
"This is an opportunity for me to correct a wrong," he said.