Monday, February 06, 2017

TECHNOLOGY - Smartphones vs Life

"Your phone is trying to control your life" PBS NewsHour 1/30/2017

Guess I'm more outside the norm than I thought (I'm weird).  In a normal day I check my iPhone twice a day; first thing when I wake up, and before bed.  There are Tuesdays when I use my 'Old Notepad' App because I keep my shopping lists there.

The exception is, for example, when I'm in a waiting room and there is nothing else to do.  Out comes my iPhone.


SUMMARY:  Whether you're killing time in line at Starbucks or scrolling through an endless meme stream on Twitter, your smartphone is trying to seduce you.  Former Google employee Tristan Harris felt something needed to be done to combat tech designers' relentless efforts to influence our behavior.  Special correspondent Cat Wise talks to Harris as part of a collaboration with The Atlantic.

MILES O'BRIEN (NewsHour):  One billion of us own a smartphone, and we know how addicting it can be.

One former Google employee says this is no accident.  Indeed, it is by design.  And he became troubled by the relentless efforts of app developers to keep us glued to the gadgets.

So, Tristan Harris founded an organization called Time Well Spent.  He is asking the tech industry to bring what he calls ethical design to its products.

NewsHour special correspondent Cat Wise has more, part of our ongoing collaboration with The Atlantic.

TRISTAN HARRIS, Founder, Time Well Spent:  I noticed when I was at Stanford, there was a class called the persuasive technology design class, and it was a whole lab at Stanford that teaches students how to apply persuasive psychology principles into technology to persuade people to use products in a certain way.

So, it's not about giving you all this freedom.  It's about sucking you in to take your time.

CAT WISE, special correspondent:  So, the goal is to keep us on our devices longer.  Why?

TRISTAN HARRIS:  For any company whose business model is advertising, or engagement-based advertising, meaning they care about the amount of time someone spends on the product, they make more money the more time people spend.

So, the game becomes, how can I throw different persuasive techniques to get people to stay, to spend as long as possible, and to come back tomorrow?

CAT WISE:  And it's clearly working.

Today, wherever we go, we're inevitably surrounded by fellow citizens staring into their phones, as we usually are too.

What do you think about when you're out in public and see people on their cell phones?

TRISTAN HARRIS:  You know, have you ever been in a moment where you're sitting there, and you just start using your phone to do something productive?  Maybe you're in the back of a car, a taxi, or you're on public transportation.  Your phone is always giving you a way to spend time that can be more productive, more entertaining, or more stimulating than reality.

I often say that this puts a new choice on life's menu that's sweeter than reality.  And so we're turning to it more and more often.  We check our phones about 150 times a day.

CAT WISE:  And what are the costs of that sort of constant interaction with technology, both on an individual level and as a society?

TRISTAN HARRIS:  Well, I think each of us have to tune in for our own experience.

What does it feel like when we check our phones 150 times a day?  Or what does it feel like if we have been scrolling, and had our face down, and not breathing very much when we're scrolling for, say, 20 minutes?  And how do we feel on the inside?

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