Former Design Ethicist at Google Speaks about how Tech Companies use Persuasion to get our Attention


Photo via TV Brackets.


(Written by Jesse Priest.)

Former Design Ethicist at Google, Tristan Harris, spoke with author and neuroscientist Sam Harris about the ethics of how technology companies use persuasion to get our attention and time and about solutions how to better spend your time with technology.

Tristan was a guest on Waking Up, a podcast by Sam Harris, author of two New York Times best-selling books including The End of Faith and The Moral Landscape.

Check out the podcast here.

Tristan is the head of Time Well Spent, a company that focuses on inventing ways that help people spend their time well with the devices and technology they use the most. He has been on 60 Minutes and also has a TED talk on the subject.

From the website Time Well Spent:

The truth is: we decide who gets your attention.

Apps, news, politicians, even your friends…
All of them go through screens we designed, before they reach you.

The problem is, our goals aren’t the same as your goals.

Because our profits rely on your attention. So we’re not really on your team…

We win the more we keep you scrolling.
We win the more we hook your kids.
We win the more things interrupt you.
We win when outrage and misinformation keeps you hooked to news.

We don’t want it to be like this.
We don’t want to pollute your mind and our democracy.

But we’re trapped… unless we can change the industry.

In his podcast with Sam Harris, Tristan gets into the fact that even though products and apps can bring you lots of benefits and pleasures, you can also, at the same time, be manipulated and led down a path that is not beneficial in the long run.

“People’s minds can’t hold on to both truths that we do derive lots of value from Facebook and there are many manipulative design techniques across all of these products that are not really on your team to help you live your life. That distinction is very interesting when you start getting into what ethical persuasion is,” Tristan said.

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UNT Eagle Strategies

Class members of the social media class in the Mayborn School of Journalism