In December, a former Facebook executive said the company was “ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.” A few weeks later, Facebook itself wondered whether it “might be having a negative impact on society.” Now a new alliance made up of former Silicon Valley cronies has aseembled to challenge the technological Frankenstein they’ve collectively created.
The Center for Humane Technology is a group comprising former employees and pals of Google, Facebook, and Mozilla. The nonprofit launches today (Feb. 4) in the hopes that it can raise awareness about the societal tolls of technology, which its members believe are inherently addictive.
The group will lobby for a bill to research the effects of technology on children’s health. It was drafted by US senator Ed Markey, who was also an author of the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act, better known as COPPA. On Feb. 7, the group’s members will participate in a conference focused on digital health for kids, hosted by the nonprofit Common Sense.
“All the tech companies profit the more attention they extract out of human vessels,” Center for Humane Technology co-founder Tristan Harris tells Quartz. “They profit by drilling into our brains to pull the attention out of it, by using persuasion techniques to keep them hooked.”
Harris, who worked at Google for three years as a design ethicist, has been a vocal critic of his former employer. He’s also the founder of Time Well Spent, a nonprofit that he calls a “movement” to rethink how people use their time online. His new organization moves away from helping people take control of their time, and focuses instead on raising awareness of what he believes are the manipulative design techniques of, as he put it in a recent Bloomberg interview, a “civilization-scale mind-control machine.”