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Reversing the digital attention crisis with humane design

Tristan Harris of Time Well Spent fame has announced the founding of The Centre for Humane Technology last week. It’s declared mission is to 'Reverse the digital attention crisis and realign technology with humanity's best interests.’ Several early employees from Silicon Valley tech giants are a part of the centre, including co-founder of the Facebook Like button Justin Rosenstein.

Planned initiatives include a public education campaign ’The Truth About Tech’, a 'Ledger of Harms’ resource for engineers to understand the health and social effects of what they are being asked to build, and lobbying for legislation to rein in Silicon Valley.

Capitalism in the digital media age has become an arms race for attention. By understanding the problem, we can start working towards the solution. We can design our technology to be humane. To mitigate our innate vulnerabilities not exploit them, to bring us together not pull us apart, and to help us live the lives we want, not distract us from them.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google have produced amazing products that have benefited the world enormously. But these companies are also caught in a zero-sum race for our finite attention, which they need to make money. Constantly forced to outperform their competitors, they must use increasingly persuasive techniques to keep us glued. They point AI-driven news feeds, content, and notifications at our minds, continually learning how to hook us more deeply—from our own behavior. Unfortunately, what's best for capturing our attention isn't best for our well-being.

More posts by Stephen Horner

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