In this podcast from the Center for Humane Technology, co-hosts Tristan Harris and Aza Raskin expose how social media’s race for attention manipulates our choices, breaks down truth, and destabilizes our real-world communities.
Tristan and Aza also explore solutions: what it means to become sophisticated about human nature by interviewing anthropologists, researchers, cultural and faith-based leaders, activists, and experts on everything from conspiracy theories to existential global threats.
Mind the (Perception) Gap
What do you think the other side thinks? Guest Dan Vallone is the Director of More in Common U.S.A., an organization that’s been asking Democrats and Republicans that critical question. Their work has uncovered countless “perception gaps” in our understanding of each other. For example, Democrats think that about 30 percent of Republicans support "reasonable gun control," but in reality, it’s about 70 percent. Both Republicans and Democrats think that about 50 percent of the other side would feel that physical violence is justified in some situations, but the actual number for each is only about five percent. “Both sides are convinced that the majority of their political opponents are extremists,” says Dan. “And yet, that's just not true.” Social media encourages the most extreme views to speak the loudest and rise to the top—and it’s hard to start a conversation and work together when we’re all arguing with mirages. But Dan’s insights and the work of More in Common provide a hopeful guide to unraveling the distortions we’ve come to accept and correcting our foggy vision.
The film Coded Bias follows MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini through her investigation of algorithmic discrimination, after she accidentally discovers that facial recognition technologies do not detect darker-skinned faces. Joy is joined on screen by experts in the field, researchers, activists, and involuntary victims of algorithmic injustice. Coded Bias was released on Netflix April 5, 2021, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last year, and has been called “‘An Inconvenient Truth’ for Big Tech algorithms” by Fast Company magazine. We talk to director Shalini Kantayya about the impetus for the film and how to tackle the threats these challenges pose to civil rights while working towards more humane technology for all.
Come Together Right Now
How many technologists have traveled to Niger, or the Balkans, or Rwanda, to learn the lessons of peacebuilding? Technology and social media are creating patterns and pathways of conflict that few people anticipated or even imagined just a decade ago. And we need to act quickly to contain the effects, but we don't have to reinvent the wheel. There are people, such as this episode’s guest, Shamil Idriss, CEO of the organization Search for Common Ground, who have been training for years to understand human beings and learn how to help them connect and begin healing processes. These experts can share their insights and help us figure out how to apply them to our new digital habitats. “Peace moves at the speed of trust, and trust can’t be fast-tracked,” says Shamil. Real change is possible, but as he explains, it takes patience, care, and creativity to get there.
The Courage to Connect
It’s no revelation that Americans aren’t getting along. But it’s easier to diagnose the problem than come up with solutions. The organization Braver Angels runs workshops that convince Republicans and Democrats to meet, but not necessarily in the middle. “Conflict can actually be a pathway to intimacy and connection rather than division, if you have the right structure for bringing people together,” says Ciaran O’Connor, the organization’s Chief Marketing Officer. We’re delighted to have Ciaran and the Braver Angels National Ambassador John Wood, Jr. on the show to describe their methods, largely based on marriage counseling techniques, and talk about where to go next. “How do you scale that up and apply that to the digital space, given that that is the key battlefield?” asks John. Technology companies play a role here, and the wisdom of the people doing the work on the ground is a valuable guide.
A Renegade Solution to Extractive Economics
When Kate Raworth began studying economics, she was disappointed that the mainstream version of the discipline didn’t fully address many of the world issues that she wanted to tackle, such as human rights and environmental destruction. She left the field, but was inspired to jump back in after the financial crisis of 2008, when she saw an opportunity to introduce fresh perspectives. She sat down and drew a chart in the shape of a doughnut, which provided a way to think about our economic system while accounting for the impact to the world around us, as well as for humans’ baseline needs. Kate’s framing can teach us a lot about how to transform the economic model of the technology industry, helping us move from a system that values addicted, narcissistic, polarized humans to one that values healthy, loving and collaborative relationships. Her book, “Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist,” gives us a guide for transitioning from a 20th-century paradigm to an evolved 21st-century one that will address our existential-scale problems.
This is so interesting!!!!
But what gets to me is that Tristan Harris often interrupts the speaking person.
Other than that: 5/5
My First ever Review
By far the best podcast out there. As someone who built an app that 30+ million people downloded and used, I really much appreciate every single second of every single episode of this podcast.
My next product will be highly influenced by this topics. Thanks a lot. You guys are doing a great job and service to the world! 🙏🏻✨
Such an important topic that is hard to really understand in this depth.
Always recommending this podcast to my friends. Would be interesting to hear about tiktok and how it's algorithm censors certain topics.