"woke tech"

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"Woke tech" is the concept of selling technological solutions to problems caused by technology, writes Julianne Tveten at In These Times. "Capitalizing on this notion is the Center for Humane Technology (CHT)," she writes, "a cohort of tech-industry veterans who purportedly seek to render technology less, as they call it, 'addictive':"

CHT's plan, though scarce in detail, is multi-pronged: lobbying Congress to pressure hardware companies like Apple and Samsung to change their design standards, raising consumer awareness of harmful technologies and "empowering [tech] employees" to advocate for design decisions that command less user attention. The organization is helmed by former Google "design ethicist" Tristan Harris--who the Atlantic deems the "closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience"...

The tenets of the tech-remorse movement resemble those of another recent phenomenon: unplugging. Spearheaded by such multimillionaires as Deepak Chopra and Arianna Huffington, "unplugging" is the act of temporarily separating oneself from Internet-connected devices to foster relaxation and social connection. If even for a day or an evening, acolytes argue, turning off one's phone curbs its noxious, addictive effects--improving sleep, creativity, and productivity. (Relatedly, CHT is fiscally sponsored by Reboot, a nonprofit that hosts the National Day of Unplugging.)

Tveten points out that "the trend of tech repentance isn't a challenge to the bane of surveillance capitalism; it's merely an upgraded version of it:"

The smartphone makers, meditation-app companies and other appointees of the tech-reform vanguard will continue to track and monetize user data--the very issues they claim to address--while crowing about business ethics and preaching personal responsibility. While tech executives may admit to creating the problem, they most certainly won't be the ones to solve it.

"Our society is being hijacked by technology," writes Harris at CHT, and "Unfortunately, what's best for capturing our attention isn't best for our well-being:"

  • Snapchat turns conversations into streaks, redefining how our children measure friendship.
  • Instagram glorifies the picture-perfect life, eroding our self worth.
  • Facebook segregates us into echo chambers, fragmenting our communities.
  • YouTube autoplays the next video within seconds, even if it eats into our sleep.

"These are not neutral products," he continues, "They are part of a system designed to addict us." Harris is working through CHT, to "Create a Cultural Awakening" by:

...transforming public awareness so that consumers recognize the difference between technology designed to extract the most attention from us, and technology whose goals are aligned with our own. We are building a movement for consumers to take control of their digital lives with better tools, habits and demands to make this change.

Tristan Harris' TED talk "how better tech could protect us from distraction" is a good intro to his thoughts on the similarities between smartphones and slot machines.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on March 6, 2018 12:13 PM.

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