The Sunday Times is behind a pay wall so many of you might miss an article with some great quotes from Tristan Harris of the Center for Humane Technology, ex of Google.
As a service to my readers, here are a few choice examples.
Following allegations of manipulation of elections, Cambridge Analytica, and the recent mass shooting in Christchurch, streamed live on Facebook, Harris believes tech companies are waking up to their responsibilities. But Harris argues the companies seem to resist the idea the problem is systemic. He thinks they “persist in pretending these (examples) are a few bad apples” when, according to Harris, the big platforms are “a bad apple farm”.
Harris goes on to say “You can’t ask tech companies to reform themselves because it goes against their shareholders’ (interests)…(so we have to) get the governments to make them do what they actually want to do anyway.” In the UK we are about to test that idea to destruction.
Here’s another Harris quote I really liked. Referring to protestations from far right groups and other cries from those who complain about censorship he says
“The concept of free speech came from an age (18th century).. when they didn’t have a finite attention economy and exponential tech and supercomputers calculating shit that works on people’s minds. The problem with humanity is that we have Paelolithic emotions and god-like technology. We’re chimps with nukes, governed by 17th century morals and institutions.”
I think he’s saying the world isn’t ready for the internet but that interpretation aside I completely get the other bit. If we insist on imprisoning ourselves in the attitudes of ancient and wholly different times it will have terrible consequences.
Harris is very dismissive of talk about hiring human moderators to try to address some of the enduring problems the internet has created but, at the same time, he is clear nobody ever planned or really wanted things to work out the way they have done. Indeed the headline for the article is “A Digital Frankenstein is sending us crazy.” Jekyll and Hyde might have been an equally apt metphor.