How valuable is your attention?

Tristan Harris, a former ethicist at Google, created a PowerPoint presentation for his fellow Google employees in 2013. Titled – A call to minimize distractions and respect users’ attention, Harris noted that products made by just three companies – Google, Apple and Facebook – were shaping (and now controlling) how humanity spent it’s limited attention and they were draining it away carelessly or deliberately.

Here is that must read presentation for everyone –

Harris left Google in 2015 and later founded the Centre for Humane Technology, an important organization that has been raising the alarm and offering solutions ever since.

“In an attention economy, there’s only so much attention and the advertising business model always wants more. So, it becomes a race to the bottom of the brainstem. . . . It starts small. First to get your attention, I add slot machine “pull to refresh” rewards which create little addictions. I remove stopping cues for “infinite scroll” so your mind forgets when to do something else. But then that’s not enough. As attention gets more competitive, we have to crawl deeper down the brainstem to your identity and get you addicted to getting attention from other people. By adding the number of followers and likes, technology hacks our social validation and now people are obsessed with the constant feedback they get from others. This helped fuel a mental health crisis for teenagers.”

An extract from “The Anxious Generation”

“companies that make products used by adolescents are trapped in another race to the bottom, a race to get younger and younger users. Documents brought out by the whistleblower Frances Haugen show that Meta has long been trying to study and attract preteens, and has even considered how to reach children as young as 4.”

If you don’t already recognize this problem…just observe your own screen behavior over a couple of days. You will understand the gravity of the situation.

Now the question – are you willing to do anything about it?

Or have you accepted your fate of doomsday scrolling for as long as it exists?

I am planning to do something about this. Are you?