Why Ex-Silicon Valley Execs Are Rebelling Against Technology

Photo: Studio Firma

Could big tech be the next big tobacco? mbg posed the question in our 2018 wellness trend forecast and predicted that this will be the year we wake up to the dark side of our digital devices.

Ex-Silicon Valley insiders agree. A distinguished group including Roger McNamee, an early investor in Facebook, and Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google, are rebelling against the craze they helped build. This week, they announced a new platform called Center for Humane Technology, which aims to "reverse the digital attention crisis and realign technology with humanity’s best interests."

The group argues that the tech industry is knowingly manipulating users into seeking out more screen time, and it's leaving society more depressed, lonely, and stressed out than ever before. Their upcoming The Truth About Tech campaign will produce anti-tech-addiction ads, give consumers tips on how to use tech more mindfully, and push for more data on the health effects of too much screen time.

"This is a version of climate change," Jim Steyer, the CEO of Common Sense Media, a Humane Tech partner, said at a recent conference. "Just like we’re watching the extraordinary changes in our physical environment, we’re watching extraordinary changes in our social, emotional, and cognitive environment." Other speakers that day went on to equate Big Tech to a "drug" and the "ungoverned Wild West." The Center also hopes to push for legislation that regulates the technology market.

It will be fascinating to see if these campaigns can eventually enact real change in the industry. But for now, consumers who are looking to forge new habits can practice turning off their phone during social gatherings and making it less appealing by deleting apps (something Harris himself practices). When mbg talked to Dave Morin, a former Facebook exec who is now launching a mental health startup to fight depression, he explained that seeking out more IRL experiences is also key: "The brain is designed for making real-world connections with other humans and learning from real-world experiences. Anything that takes away from that reduces your well-being. So the challenge is in finding balance."

Ready to see the other 10 wellness trends we're predicting for the year ahead? Access the full report here.

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