Former Google employee Tristan Harris is warning people about the negative impacts social media and Big Tech can have on people in a new Netflix documentary.
In "The Social Dilemma" Harris is a central figure in the film's purpose of "creating a global moment of awareness" and is an outspoken critic of tech companies using psychology to influence consumers.
Harris appeared on "Bill Hemmer Reports" to talk about the documentary. "This is, I think, the most deep and subtle issue of our time... I believe it's actually an existential threat to democracy."
To further explain how dangerous technology can be Harris held up his smartphone and said, "Three billion people have a brain implant that’s a remotely controlled brain, because -- especially in the coronavirus times -- we are relying on these things to makes sense of what’s reality out there in the world. They have become the fabric for our sense-making and the fabric of our choice-making, the fabric of how children develop.”
“The Social Dilemma” features several insiders from Silicon Valley explaining the dark side of social media, with everyone from the co-inventor of the “like” button to high-powered executives weighing in.
The film documents Harris's attempt to change the industry from the inside, which included creating a presentation that was passed around to all his Google colleagues.
“It basically just said, ‘Never before in history have 50 designers, 20 to 35-year-old white guys in California, made decisions that would have an impact on two billion people,’” Harris commented in the film. “Two billion people will have thoughts that they didn’t intend to have because a designer at Google said, ‘This is how notifications work on that screen that you wake up to in the morning.’”
Harris confessed his fears to host Bill Hemmer Thursday.
“It’s because of this business model that’s at the heart of these technology companies, which is that they make more money the more time they get you to spend,” he said and added that people are more likely to spend time on content that agrees with their line of thought.
“It’s bad for the collective ... no matter where you fall on all these sides, we need to be able to agree in society on what we want to do about various problems we have," Harris explained. "Whether it’s poverty, or climate change or racism, whatever we care about, we all have to come together and have a shared set of facts ... technology makes us operate in narrower and narrower, incompatible views of reality."
Harris stated that someone should have "blown the whistle" on the tech industry a long time ago.
Hemmer suggested that Harris was "painting a pretty dark picture" and the former Google employee wholeheartedly agreed.
“You’re raising an excellent point,” Harris responded. “Fundamentally, the question we have to ask is, ‘Are they designed by child psychologists asking what’s best for children?’”
In fact, Harris said, most apps are designed by people who only care about creating an addicting product.
“It’s kind of the new Big Tobacco,” he said. “It’s Big Tobacco for our brains.”