Farhad Manjoo, New York Times:
Tech “addiction” is a topic of rising national concern. I put the A-word in quotes because the precise pull that our phones exert over us isn’t the same as that of drugs or alcohol. The issue isn’t really new, either; researchers who study how we use digital technology have for years been warning of its potential negative effects on our cognition, psyche and well-being.
What is new is who has joined the ranks of the worried. Recently, a parade of tech luminaries, including several former Facebook employees, have argued that we’re no match for the sophisticated machinery of engagement and persuasion being built into smartphone apps. Their fears are manifold: They’re worried about distraction, productivity, how social networks alter our emotional lives and relationships, and what they’re doing to children.
I got to thinking about Apple’s responsibility last week when two large investors wrote an open letter asking the company to do more about its products’ effects on children. I was initially inclined to dismiss the letter as a publicity stunt; if you’re worried about children and tech, why not go after Facebook?
But when I called several experts, I found they agreed with the investors. Sure, they said, Apple isn’t responsible for the excesses of the digital ad business, but it does have a moral responsibility to — and a business interest in — the well-being of its customers.
I am not sure I agree with Farhad’s allegation of Apple’s moral responsibility, but I think this article is worth reading. More and more, the world is stumbling around, staring at their phones and losing their connections with each other, losing touch with their humanity.
Is this Apple’s fault? I don’t think so. I think blame, in general, is not helpful, and I also think we were heading down this road as technology evolved, whether Apple was there to steer us or not.
One more quote from the article:
There’s another, more important reason for Apple to take on tech addiction: because it would probably do an elegant job of addressing the problem.
“I do think this is their time to step up,” said Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google who now runs Time Well Spent, an organization working to improve technology’s impact on society.
“In fact,” Mr. Harris added, “they may be our only hope.”
Just me, or did this immediately spring to mind for you, too?