If there’s one group of people who best know the negative effects of tech addiction, it would be the Silicon Valley technologists who helped companies like Facebook and Google implement methods to steer the public’s attention. Now, former employees of these tech companies have banded together to speak against the addiction they had a hand in creating.
“We were on the inside, we know what the companies measure,” former Google in-house ethicist Tristan Harris explained. “We know how they talk, and we know how the engineering works.” Harris is the co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology, a group of former Google and Facebook employees who joined forces to form an anti-tech addiction lobbying effort. The group, along with Common Sense Media, a non-profit media watchdog, plans to target around 55,000 schools in the United States in its effort.
To fund the campaign, which is titled The Truth About Tech, Common Sense and the Center for Humane Technology managed to $7 million. Common Sense has been active in campaigns against the dangers of technology especially on heavy social media use which has been known to trigger depression. The group already received $50 million in donated airtime towards its cause after partnering with media companies like Comcast and DirectTV.
The cohort is creating a union of concerned experts called the Center for Humane Technology. Along with nonprofit media watchdog group Common Sense Media, it also plans an antitech addiction lobbying effort & a campaign at 55K public schools in the US.
— Marc Benioff (@Benioff) February 4, 2018
Harris is a vocal critic against his former employer and has made it his goal to expose what he views as Google’s manipulative design techniques. In fact, he called the search engine’s tactics as a “civilization-scale mind-control machine” in a Bloomberg interview.
“All the tech companies profit the more attention they extract out of human vessels,” Harris said in an interview with Quartz. “They profit by drilling into our brains to pull the attention out of it, by using persuasion techniques to keep them hooked.”
Ultimately, the group wants legislation to regulate the activities of these tech firms. At the moment, the group is focused on banning the use of digital bots as well as a bill that will commission research on the impact of technology on children’s health.