‘Our minds could be hijacked’: the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia

‘Our minds can be hijacked’: the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia

Loren Brichter, the designer who come up with the pull-to-refresh mechanism, first familiar with update Twitter feeds.
Photograph: Tim Knox for the Guardian

Google, Twitter and Facebook workers who helped to make technology so addictive are disconnecting themselves on the web. Paul Lewis reports over the Silicon Valley refuseniks alarmed using a race for human attention

by in San Francisco

Main image:
Loren Brichter, the designer who came up with the pull-to-refresh mechanism, first used to update Twitter feeds.
Photograph: Tim Knox for that Guardian

Fri 6 Oct 2017

Last modified on Tue 12 Dec 2017

ustin Rosenstein had tweaked his laptop’s computer to dam Reddit, banned himself from Snapchat, that she compares to heroin, and imposed limits on his utilization of Facebook. But even that wasn’t enough. In August, the 34-year-old tech executive took a very radical aspect to restrict his use of advertising and marketing along with addictive technologies.

Rosenstein purchased a new iPhone and instructed his assistant to setup a parental-control feature to stop him from downloading any apps.

He was particularly mindful of the allure of Facebook “likes”, that they describes as “bright dings of pseudo-pleasure” that may be as hollow because they are seductive. And Rosenstein need to know: he was the Facebook engineer who came up with the “like” button initially.

A decade after he stayed up all night long coding a prototype of the items was then called an “awesome” button, Rosenstein is assigned to a smallish but growing selection of Silicon Valley heretics who complain around the rise from the so-called “attention economy”: a web-based shaped surrounding the demands of any advertising economy.

These refuseniks hardly ever founders or chief executives, with little incentive to deviate with the mantra their own organizations are making the planet a greater place. Instead, they have an inclination to acquire worked a rung or two over the corporate ladder: designers, engineers and product managers who, like Rosenstein, several years ago put in place the muse associated with a digital world from where in the marketplace . endeavoring to disentangle themselves. “It is very common,” Rosenstein says, “for humans to formulate things while using the better of intentions and also for those to have unintended, negative consequences.”

Rosenstein, who also helped create Gchat on a stint at Google, and after this leads a San Francisco-based company that improves office productivity, appears most concerned with the psychological effects on people who, studies have shown, touch, swipe or tap their phone 2,617 times per day.

There keeps growing concern that a lot as addicting users, technology is contributing toward so-called “continuous partial attention”, severely limiting people’s capability focus, as well as perhaps lowering IQ. One recent study demonstrated that the mere existence of smartphones damages cognitive capacity


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