An ex-Google product manager has said the huge tech firms dominating the world, such as Facebook, Google and Twitter, are ‘downgrading humanity’.
Tristan Harris, 34, said apps are inadvertently raising a generation of people with short attention spans, outrage-fueled speech, smartphone addiction and vanity.
Mr Harris established the Center for Humane Technology after leaving Google, set up to push his ‘time well spent’ mantra.
The technology expert is urging people to use devices with care, not to drop using them completely.
Mr Harris is now pushing for safeguards to be put in place to limit the reach of tech firms.
‘This is really serious. We are not fooling around,’ Mr Harris said on stage at a San Francisco event, The Times reports.
‘Technology is holding the pen of history right now.’
Mr Harris went on to say the root of many of society’s problematic issues, including mental health and an obsession with likes and views, are exacerbated by the widening reach of tech.
The ability to scroll through content endlessly and auto-play features of video platforms like Facebook and YouTube makes it harder for people to put down their devices, he says
‘This is overwhelming who we are and our identities,’ Mr Harris said. ‘While we have been upgrading machines, we have been downgrading our humanity.’
Evidence is mounting to support his claims, but the ex-Googler did not propose a clear-cut solution to the issues he raised.
But he did promise three things from the Center for Humane Technology to try and help.
These are a dedicated guide for companies to use to promote healthier use, a podcast about these issues, and a conference dedicated to the issue for next year.
He said: ‘This is a civilisational moment in a way I’m not sure we’re all reckoning with,’ Harris said on stage.
‘It’s a historical moment when a species that is intelligent builds technology that … can simulate a puppet version of its creator, and the puppet can control the master.
‘That’s an unprecedented situation to be in. That could be the end of human agency, when you can perfectly simulate not just the strengths of people but their weaknesses.’
Reaction to his speech was mixed, with some unnamed experts in the field resenting the statements.
An unnamed executive at the event told Wired: ‘Tristan sees humans as pawns incapable of managing their own lives.
‘He thinks designers are infinitely powerful and can coerce people to do whatever they want.
‘It is a pure farce. I like to imagine Tristan reviewing the latest restaurant.
‘They have clearly intentionally added flavor to this dish to make me want to come back and visit this business again. What scoundrels!’
A study by communications regulator Ofcom found teenagers are spending too much time on devices (pictured). The World Health Organization issued new guidelines on how much activity children should do. It warned children should not spend any time looking at phones, tablets or TVs until they are at least two years old
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SOURCE: Daily Mail – Joe Pinkstone