I recommend reading 'Our minds can be hijacked': the tech insiders who fear a smartphon... by Paul Lewis yourself, as it can change your world view.
Taking this seriously has surreal implications. The attention economy involves internet technologies that control our attention to maximize advertising profit. We have already changed, our minds have changed, and the attention-based social media market has already had a devastating impact upon the US political system.
Justin Rosenstein, the co-creator of Facebook “like” says, “If we only care about profit maximisation we will go rapidly into dystopia.” Former Google strategist James Willimas describes the industry as “the largest, most standardised and most centralised form of attentional control in human history”. Former Google employee Tristan Harris says, “A handful of people, working at a handful of technology companies, through their choices will steer what a billion people are thinking today.” [quotes lifted from article]
There is growing concern that as well as addicting users, technology is contributing toward so-called “continuous partial attention”, severely limiting people’s ability to focus, and possibly lowering IQ.
“The attention economy incentivises the design of technologies that grab our attention,” he [Williams] says. “In so doing, it privileges our impulses over our intentions.”
... the rules of the attention economy to “sensationalise, bait and entertain ..."
The attention economy itself is set up to promote a phenomenon like Trump, who is masterly at grabbing and retaining the attention of supporters and critics alike, often by exploiting or creating outrage.
Trump … heralded a watershed in which “the new, digitally supercharged dynamics of the attention economy have finally crossed a threshold and become manifest in the political realm”.
... not only distorting the way we view politics but, over time, may be changing the way we think, making us less rational and more impulsive. “We’ve habituated ourselves into a perpetual cognitive style of outrage, by internalising the dynamics of the medium”... [emphasis mine]
If the attention economy erodes our ability to remember, to reason, to make decisions for ourselves – faculties that are essential to self-governance – what hope is there for democracy itself?
“The dynamics of the attention economy are structurally set up to undermine the human will,”... [emphasis mine]
If Lewis is on target, and I believe he is, reason is already doomed. And Trump isn't just an abberation, he's paradigmatic of our permanently changed politics.
Another quote from the article, from Nir Eyal., author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products:
“The technologies we use have turned into compulsions, if not full-fledged addictions. It’s the impulse to check a message notification. It’s the pull to visit YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter for just a few minutes, only to find yourself still tapping and scrolling an hour later.” None of this is an accident, he writes. It is all “just as their designers intended”.
Looks like that option is no longer available, and no longer respected in older embedded videos. An understandable commercial/addictive decision on YouTube/Google's part, not so good for us humans!
This is an issue which was addressed recently in a piece published on CBS News 60 Minutes. Indeed, the idea is to make the user HOOKED ON THEIR PHONE and more specifically on a particular app, and it appears that they are more than a little successful.
Great article, Ruth. Thanks for posting. This comment by James Williams seems to me to be the frightening crux of the issue:
“The attention economy incentivises the design of technologies that grab our attention,” he says. “In so doing, it privileges our impulses over our intentions.”
That's a pretty good definition of dehumanizing. Human desire has been commodified and human intentions denatured. As Ronald Reagan famously said, You ain't seen nothin' yet.
European Data Protection Rules, that will become active in May, will help people living there. It will be much easier for people to opt out of personalized ads and having their data sold.
Google and Facebook won't be able to use "service-wide" opt-in as permission to use personal data for advertising. Risk will be characterized on a scale:
Five, at the high end of the scale, describes the circumstances that many adtech companies that have no direct relationship with Internet users will find themselves in. They need to get the consent of the people whose data they rely on. But they have no channel of communication through which they can do so.
... many adtech companies ... will ... need to get ... consent ... but they have no channel ... through which they can do so.
Good riddance to their business model, then!
Some partial insulation: I've made it a point to avoid apps with ads (as well as apps with unreasonable permissions; the fact that the Play Store doesn't let you filter by just ad-free apps is clearly by design!), and I use ad blockers on my phone as well as desktop browsers. More importantly, perhaps, I also generally avoid notifications, allowing them so far for a chat app I use with a few people I know face-to-face, a Scrabble game, and the standard texts and phone calls. :) Not for email or Twitter; I'll check those on my own initiative. Through the web, not apps. (I don't do Facebook.)
I'm not immune from wanting the validation of having my posts "liked", though, on here as well as on a few blogs that use Disqus commenting. The active AN community I interact with is small enough, though, that there's a sense of communicating and interacting with well-defined real people even though I haven't physically met most of you. And, importantly, AN isn't about analyzing and commodifying and selling our postings and preferences and behavior. Unlike Facebook and similar sites and apps, we're not the product here. In fact, some of us donate in order to support the site.
I'll pass along the articles (Ruth's and Loren's) to a friend who's resisting getting a smartphone (primarily for practical reasons: keeping an economical cell plan, and keeping a slide-out keyboard for texting).
On a lighter tangent -- speaking of keyboards, my host was very amused at the big, comfortable keyboard, dwarfing my phone, which I brought on a recent trip:
It came from a thrift store for a few dollars some years ago, and by coincidence it's the Bluetooth version of the wired keyboard I use on my desktop PC. Android does reasonable things with most of the keys, including Ctrl-Z for undo as you're typing text.
It turns out that with an inexpensive USB OTG ("On-The-Go") adapter, many phones will let you plug in regular USB devices, such as a flash drive, or a keyboard! (And some keyboards have extra USB ports, so you could connect a mouse too...)
Tipping point in 1987.
“What happened to the facts?”
“Advertising,” I [Thom Hartmann] said. “I remember driving down the autobahn in Germany in 1987 listening to American Forces Radio when the reporter announced that, because of Reagan’s change in the Fairness Doctrine, CBS had moved their news division under the supervision of their entertainment division, and the other networks were expected to soon follow. So, now, networks don’t give a damn at all about ‘the facts’ or ‘what Americans need to know’ to be informed and active citizens. They only care about what’s going to get the most eyeballs. [emphasis mine]
So we exist in a sea of infotainment which is neither information nor entertainment, and as a result we're subjected to rule by impulse.
And it might be unfair to blame only "Saint" Reagan for the demise of the Fairness Doctrine. If not him, it would have been some other servant of the oligarchy. But that tipping point, coming when it did, helped empower the shock doctrine that (together with systemic racism, and the broad white backlash against a black presidency) brought the current US president* into power.