Friday, December 7, 2018

Smartphones are the Opiates of the Masses

The TaxProf Blog has a post in which a professor asks whether smartphones are an "academic equalizer."  The problem with this suggestion is that smartphones are addictive.

In writing my book Overcoming Cognitive Biases: Thinking More Clearly and Avoiding Manipulation by Others, I discovered that many scientists believe that smartphones are addictive, and that tech companies are using this fact to sell ads and products and even program people.

Comedian Bill Maher declared, “Apple, Google, Facebook, they are essentially drug dealers.” Similarly, 60 Minutes had a segment on “brain hacking.”

Tech companies do this because “[i]t’s not neutral. They want you to use it in particular ways and for long periods of time. Because that’s how they make their money.” A tech company head similarly stated, “You’re guinea pigs. You are guinea pigs in the box pushing the button and sometimes getting the likes. And they’re doing this to keep you in there.” Finally, “The longer we look at our screens, the more data companies collect about us, and the more ads we see. Ad spending on social media has doubled in just two years to more than $31 billion.”

One scientist noted, “whether they want to or not, they are shaping the thoughts and feelings and actions of people. They are programming people. There’s always this narrative that technology’s neutral. And it’s up to us to choose how we use it. This is just not true.”

In sum, giving smartphones to students plays into the tech companies trying to get young people hooked.

(Scott Fruehwald)

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