Digital Detox: Big Tech’s Phony Crisis of Conscience

Grafton Tanner in The LA Review of Books:

IN MAY 2017, ex-Google employee and design ethicist James Williams outlined his vision for a world in which technology companies are held responsible for what they do to and for society. At his talk entitled “Why (and How) to End the Attention Economy,”delivered at The Next Web (TNW) Conference, Williams addressed the cultural effects of ubiquitous digital technology and social media. He affirmed that, after nearly 10 years, the results are in: social media is highly addictive, and with so many billions logging in to get their next hit, the world could be on the verge of disaster.

Nothing that Williams said was particularly novel or earth-shattering. Talk of the mental health effects of social media had been circulating in lay discourse, and research had been published on the link between Facebook and general well-being. What Williams chose to focus on were the sociopoliticalconsequences of social media — mainly in response to the 2016 presidential election of Donald Trump. Ultimately, he declared that an addictive technology facilitated the proliferation of “fake news” that divided our country.

More here.