I watched “The Social Dilemma”, the documentary by the Center for Humane Technology and featuring Tristan Harris, yesterday. It taught me zero new things. I learned nothing that I had not already come across during my research for my latest book Life Beyond the Touch Screen. Or that I had not even incorporated in the book.
I was, however, very much inspired by the documentary.
[Oh wait, I did learn two new things. I learned about the role Facebook played and admitted it played in the Myanmar Rohingya Muslim violence. And that there is such a thing as Snapchat Dismorphia — a.k.a. kids seeking surgery to look more like their filtered selfies in real life. ‘Da hell.]
[Note: Tristan Harris, together with Nir Eyal and Yuval Noah Harari, has been one of my greatest inspirations for creating "Life Beyond the Touch Screen". Nothing but respect. Read on to understand more.]
I was inspired because I recognized two things. One being the difficulty Tristan Harris — legendary former design ethicist at Google — and other former and current high-ranking executives from silicon valley, venture capitalists and academics were having;
In trying to explain what was so wrong and so dangerous about the role digital technology is taking in our lives today.
What is that problem?
This was the second thing I recognized. The problem is that next to and simultaneous to adding so much ease and benefit to our lives, digital technology and mainly social media, are impacting our individual mental health, the mental health of our children, and the fabric of society and democracy in very, very dark ways as well.
We are getting burn-out by the masses, staggeringly high rates of depression, anxiety and suicide in teens (mostly girls), and unprecedented levels of political polarization and tampering of election results with the help of an explosion of fake news. Propaganda, and real-life, deadly violence.
Why? Because armies of already genius experts in the psychology of persuasion and addiction, armed with the most powerful technology mankind has ever seen, are becoming more and more proficient at altering our behavior in minuscule but very, very real ways.
I am seriously afraid for our mental health, for that of our children, and for the world they will inherit.
The problem underneath that being that the supercomputers and algorithms working to do that, are programmed from a capitalist and commercial perspective — so their highest goal is not humanity’s greater good: instead it is the highest possible profit.
Our attention, time, and energy are being sold to the highest bidder. And as I have written before; maybe it’s not a question of when A.I. starts taking over from us humans — but rather a question of when we will wake up to the fact that it already has.
I was so inspired by “The Social Dilemma” that I created the above ArtfulGraphic, to try and help create momentum — in all honesty, also to possibly ride the hype I’m hopefully helping to create, and promote my own book on the impact of digital technology on digital health and society.
I drew a lady with a black mirror face, edited the picture in a wonderful app called Photofox, and then created the Graphic in PowerPoint — I’m no pro designer, sorry, not sorry.
Mainly, though, I created the above ArtfulGraphic to try to explain as simply as possible what’s going on.
Why this stuff matters and why you want to get inspired and take action now. And why you should watch “The Social Dilemma” on Netflix today, preferably together with your spouse and your kids, if you have them.
My new book “Life Beyond the Touch Screen” is out now, you can get it here as an e-book or paperback. It’s a meditational booklet designed to increase our consciousness around the impact of digital technology on our lives as individuals, in organizations and society. A reminder to choose. Take back your energy, focus, and time, get your copy now.
Also published here.
Image source: Erwin Lima (artist)