Social media and other attention-based internet platforms have certainly captured our attention: adults in the U.S. spent nearly six hours per day on digital media last year. The business model of many of these digital platforms—targeted ad revenue—is relying on user data collection, AI and other technology tools, design, psychology–even neuroscience–to keep users glued.
At the same time, there is mounting concern that high levels of time spent online can have adverse effects on health, productivity, and happiness—including distracted driving, depression, and structural changes in our brains.
Where will this lead? What would it look like if the positive opportunities that innovative online platforms offer were more balanced for social well-being? What will it take to achieve a win-win?
The Churchill Club had a talk yesterday with the following speakers:
Alex Salkever, Author; Product Consultant
Vivek Wadhwa, Author; Distinguished Fellow, Carnegie Mellon University Silicon Valley
Moderator: Alison van Diggelen, BBC Contributor; Host, Fresh Dialogues
This article is a long summary of the issues with Facebook and technology from the Churchill Club talk and with some ideas from Brian Wang at Nextbigfuture.
* the authors make the case that technology is getting more powerful and more controlling of people instead of people being in control of the technology
* they also note that companies are not making products in ways that are healthy for people and have crossed the line to bad behavior very much like cigarette companies
* they provide a more complete list of the sins of Facebook
Nextbigfuture ideas about Facebook
Some requirements for Facebook and other major social media and technology companies.
* require an Open-API for Facebook to allow for option of third party interface control modules
* alternative to breaking up the company is to require giving users a la carte access to Facebook modules
* require opening up virtual infrastructual aspects of Facebook to competitors. This would be like AT&T and others being required to open up their network and spectrum for other companies and to have some meaningful competitive choice. The US has not gone far enough in opening up infrastructure to enable meaningful competition. South Korea should be an example where good competition is supported
* require transparency and control be given to individuals for controlling data retention and data privacy. Third parties like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and AARP should then work to provide suggested settings that people can copy along with videos and tutorials to guide choices.
One thing is that compared to Google. Facebook just takes with its technology. Google gives notifications about your airplane flights and provides mapping and other services. One person told me that if Google’s longevity company (Calico) succeeds in doubling his lifespan then Google can chip his head for data.
Companies can pay back customers with truly useful and helpful and game changing services.
Alex -almost drove off a cliff while texting
Vivek – had a heart attack on a cruise ship but ignored symptoms for many hours. Finally went to hospital. Wanted to check email instead. Was CEO of a company that was going to go public. He had 44% and it would have had a billion dollar valuation. If he had delayed two more hours he would have died.
Constant notification makes workers less productive
Breaks up day into 5-10 minute chunks which diminished time in the day for real work
Go down the youtube rabbit hole
Application sprawl, fill-up day with apps,
5 commandments to whether to use a technology. Would my life be better without it
Kids are losing out the most
Written a year ago before Cambridge Analytica
What should parents do?
What should people do?
What should governments do?
Social Media, video games and Artificial Intelligence use behavior modification science to manipulate people
Technologies have coded the work of psychologist BF Skinner from 1940s. Skinner as one of the most influential of American psychologists. A behaviorist, he developed the theory of operant conditioning — the idea that behavior is determined by its consequences, be they reinforcements or punishments, which make it more or less likely that the behavior will occur again. Skinner believed that the only scientific approach to psychology was one that studied behaviors, not internal (subjective) mental processes.
Vivek believes stronger control regulation is needed and cites fatal social media problems
Vivek says the Genocide in Burma (Myanmar) is Facebook’s fault. Hate speech exploded on Facebook at the start of the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar in 2017. Experts blame Facebook for creating chaos in Myanmar. Facebook played a key role in the spread of hate speech in Myanmar at a time when 650,000 refugees were forced to flee the country following persecution.
Digital researcher and analyst Raymond Serrato examined about 15,000 Facebook posts from supporters of the hardline nationalist Ma Ba Tha group. The posts dated from June 2016 and spiked on August 24 and 25th in 2017. ARSA Rohingya militants attacked government forces, prompting the security forces.
A 2016 report by GSMA, Global System for Mobile Communications, found Myanmar people considered Facebook the only internet entry point for information, and that many regarded postings as news. They went from 1% internet access in 2014 to about 25% today.
Facebook has been accused of fomenting violence elsewhere in Asia. In March the Sri Lankan district of Kandy was the site of mass riots and arson by Buddhist nationalist fanatics.
The Sri Lankan government ordered Facebook and other social media services to be shut down at the height of the violence. “This whole country could have been burning in hours,” Sri Lankan minister for telecommunication, Harin Fernando told the Guardian.
An analysis of 63,842 Facebook posts by Yudhanjaya Wijeratne concluded the social media ban took fewer than half the country’s Facebook users offline, many likely turning to a VPN to access the service.
Nextbigfuture points out that Massacres have been a frequent historical thing even without technology
Nextbigfuture would make the case that the killings and the hate happen even without technology.
1930 Rangoon riots 1930 Rangoon (present-day Yangon) 120–200+ Arakan massacres 1942 20,000 Arakanese killed Arakanese Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims 40,000+ Rohingyas killed Kalagong massacre 1945 Japanese soldiers killed a village of 600 8888 Uprising 1988 3000-10,000 armed forces vs civilians September military coup 1988 armed forces vs civilians and government Depayin massacre 2003 70 Saffron & killing monks 2007 13-31 The recent Kha Maung Seik massacre 2017 53 Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army vs Hindu villagers Gu Dar Pyin massacre 2017 75–400+ Myanmar Army vs Rohingya villagers Maung Nu massacre 2017 82 killed or missing Myanmar Army vs Rohingya villagers Tula Toli massacre 2017 about 500 Myanmar Army vs Rohingya villagers
In the 1990s, in the Philippines mass protests were organized using early cellphones with text messages.
Indonesia had mass killings in 1965-1966 where 400,000 to 3 million chinese were killed.
Here is a list of massacres in India. There have been nearly a hundred incidents in India, since 1947.
Other Issues with Social Media and Technology
Vivek believes if we were properly holding companies accountable then the massive Equifax data should have resulted in Equifax going bankrupt.
Vivek says social media should be treated like the Cigarette industry. Social Media is addictive so like other addictive things (gambling, cigarettes, alcohol) need regulation.
Facebook – Needs better regulation. Optin everything.
They should have pure subscription services option which would then have no ads and no data sales.
The technology companies are tracking what you are doing.
Suggestions for people
Engineer your personal and technological environment to control it and not have it control you.
If you are sleep deprived because of smartphones then put boundaries and put the phone away or without ringing or alerts after a particular time like 9pm or 11pm.
Suggestions for companies
Companies and individuals in companies need to take some responsibility for their technology and products. Be the voice of reason and have conscious discussions.
Gaming classified as a form of addiction (WHO)
Tinder designed for hookups (because if it was to help people get married they lose customers)
Google AI engineers spoke up against Google using AI for military and the executives backed away from it.
Apple iOS12 gives more controls
Technology will only get more powerful
High fidelity VR worlds in 5-7 years.
10-15 years – nanobots and brain connections
More about Vivek and Alex and their books
While Vivek Wadhwa and Alex Salkever were writing The Driver in the Driverless Car they began to wonder how technology is impacting our happiness and our well-being. This was over a year before the Cambridge Analytica incident. It was and is clear that technology will reduce (and has already been reducing) the costs of nearly all of our material needs. But they noticed that rather than people using technology to become happier and healthier, technology seemed to actually be telling us what to do and inducing us to make choices that may have scratched an immediate itch but at the cost of our longer-term well-being. Technology was reducing our ability to choose and that the forces arrayed against the user to alter their behavior—the smartest PhDs, the latest AI algorithms, the ability to personalize offerings down to the zip code and even the household—was an unfair arrangement.
“Your Happiness Was Hacked” takes a balanced look at how technology has pulled us in and absorbed more and more of our lives by tapping into deep-set evolutionary and psychological features of the human brain and using those to grab our attention.
They do not just bash technology. They try to suggest healthier way to interact with technology and suggest healthier ways for technology companies to develop technology. The book also cover strategies to make technology healthier for us all.
They look at the power of AI which has beaten human’s in Go and another AI beat human’s in chess in 1997. Another AI is composing classical music. Labs are creating life-forms from synthetic DNA. A doctor designs an artificial trachea, uses a 3D printer to produce it, and implants it and saves a child’s life. Astonishing technological advances like these are arriving in increasing numbers.
They raise important questions about what they may mean for us. Breakthroughs such as personalized genomics, self-driving vehicles, drones, and artificial intelligence could make our lives healthier, safer, and easier. But the same technologies raise the spectre of a frightening, alienating future: eugenics, a jobless economy, complete loss of privacy, and ever-worsening economic inequality. Our choices will determine if our future is Star Trek or Mad Max.
Vivke offers three questions to ask about every emerging technology:
Does it have the potential to benefit everyone equally?
What are its risks and rewards?
And does it promote autonomy or dependence?
The future is up to us to create—that even if our hands are not on the wheel, we will decide the driverless car’s destination.