In charge of time

I was watching a presentation by a young chap by the name of Tristan Harris who has a thing about how we spend our time, indeed whether the time was well spent or whether our minds have been hijacked by our smartphones or other technological devices.

It makes one think because Mr Harris is a product of the very same industry that uses designs to keep us hooked to a screen for as long and as often as possible. It is good to remember that about 2 billion people use their phones every day, and if technology steers that many people’s thoughts and beliefs every day imagine the kind of influence that has been created.


We have often in past post talked about what the major tech companies are up to, companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, YouTube and others, all of which exist to make a profit by providing you with news feeds, recommended videos and of course advertisement and your personal details

Mind ControlOnce you are on the site, be it in Facebook, YouTube or Snapchat or Instagram, the objective is to keep you on that site for as long as possible, that is to hijack your attention and thus your mind by steering you onto what they think you’d like to see, in reality what  they would like you to see, and so are exercising control and reducing your own control.

But we say: No, no, maybe other people can be persuaded, but not me, it is only those other ones over there who can’t control their thoughts. Yet every day you may get messages from Facebook or Snapchat to check out this photo or that message, and do you?  Were you just manipulated? Things like ‘Snapchat streaks’ hook kids to send messages back and forth with every single one of their contacts every day. There are also ‘Autoplay’, little videos appearing on the website you have open which cause people to spend time on YouTube or streaming services or adverts.

Intelligent people with high IQs works for companies like Google, their job is to design ways to hijack our minds, and their competitors – so as to not lose custom – must do the same or better, and so the next one even better. They want your time to be on their offerings, after all it is money in the bank and the only good reason for the business.

The war for our attention will continue, and get better in terms of steering our attention towards its goals, not ours, and we shall feel that we made the choice, not someone else. You enjoyed watching the video on YouTube, which is good, yet the next video automatically starts and you were hijacked that moment.

Another example of that is that you look at your phone and you see a Snapchat notification. And it persuades you to think a bunch of things that you wouldn’t have thought about. It may cause you to get stressed out about whether or not you’ve kept your streak up. It’s filling up your mind. And by responding to that one streak, you get sucked into something else, and it cascades. Twenty minutes later you’re sucked into a YouTube video. And there goes your day. Ask any young person. Timelines created by technology.

Edward BernayWe need to be aware of what is clearly an undesirable development. It is not that we should be against technology, far from it, but we must try to resist the manipulation inherent in current popular advertising and websites attempting to hijack our time and our minds. Being aware will help to combat the increasing effective use of such tech designs.

I may have sounded a bit pessimistic, but from what I see we are in danger of becoming slaves to technology rather than masters of technology through manipulation and mind control by major corporations and subsequently governments. Not such a wonderful scenario. If we can stay alert and aware we have a good chance of maintaining control and to enjoy the good things that technology has brought us.

Happy computing.