30 episodes

Technology companies are locked in an arms race to seize your attention, and that race is tearing apart our shared social fabric. In this inaugural podcast from the Center for Humane Technology, hosts Tristan Harris and Aza Raskin will expose the hidden designs that have the power to hijack our attention, manipulate our choices and destabilize our real world communities. They’ll explore what it means to become sophisticated about human nature, by interviewing hypnotists, magicians, experts on the dynamics of cults and election hacking and the powers of persuasion. How can we escape this unrelenting race to the bottom of the brain stem? Start by subscribing to our new series, Your Undivided Attention.

Your Undivided Attention Tristan Harris and Aza Raskin, The Center for Humane Technology

    • Technology
    • 4.9 • 525 Ratings

Technology companies are locked in an arms race to seize your attention, and that race is tearing apart our shared social fabric. In this inaugural podcast from the Center for Humane Technology, hosts Tristan Harris and Aza Raskin will expose the hidden designs that have the power to hijack our attention, manipulate our choices and destabilize our real world communities. They’ll explore what it means to become sophisticated about human nature, by interviewing hypnotists, magicians, experts on the dynamics of cults and election hacking and the powers of persuasion. How can we escape this unrelenting race to the bottom of the brain stem? Start by subscribing to our new series, Your Undivided Attention.

    Are the Kids Alright?

    Are the Kids Alright?

    We are in the midst of a teen mental health crisis. Since 2011, the rate of U.S. hospitalizations for preteen girls who have self-harmed is up 189 percent, and with older teen girls, it’s up 62 percent. Tragically, the numbers on suicides are similar — 151 percent higher for preteen girls, and 70 percent higher for older teen girls. NYU social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has spent the last few years trying to figure out why, working with fellow psychologist Jean Twenge, and he believes social media is to blame. Jonathan and Jean found that the mental health data show a stark contrast between Generation Z and Millennials, unlike any demographic divide researchers have seen since World War II, and the division tracks with a sharp rise in social media use. As Jonathan explains in this interview, disentangling correlation and causation is a persistent research challenge, and the debate on this topic is still in full swing. But as TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat and the next big thing fine-tune the manipulative and addictive features that pull teens in, we cannot afford to ignore this problem while we sit back and wait for conclusive results. When it comes to children, our standards need to be higher, and our burden of proof lower.

    • 40 min
    Your Nation's Attention for the Price of a Used Car

    Your Nation's Attention for the Price of a Used Car

    Today’s extremists don’t need highly produced videos like ISIS. They don’t need deep pockets like Russia. With the right message, a fringe organization can reach the majority of a nation’s Facebook users for the price of a used car. Our guest, Zahed Amanullah, knows this firsthand. He’s a counter-terrorism expert at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, and when his organization received $10,000 in ad credits from Facebook for an anti-extremism campaign, they were able to reach about two-thirds of Kenya’s Facebook users. It was a surprising win for Zahed, but it means nefarious groups all over the African continent have exactly the same broadcasting power. Last year, Facebook took down 66 accounts, 83 pages, 11 groups and 12 Instagram accounts related to Russian campaigns in African countries, and Russian networks spent more than $77,000 on Facebook ads in Africa. Today on the show, Zahed will explain how the very tools that extremists use to broadcast messages of hate can also be used to stop them in their tracks, and he’ll tell us what tech and government must do to systematically counter the problem. “If we don’t get in front of this,” he says, “this phenomenon is going to amplify beyond our reach.“

    • 43 min
    The Social Dilemma

    The Social Dilemma

    A new documentary called The Social Dilemma comes out on Netflix today, September 9, 2020. We hope that this film, full of interviews with tech insiders, will be a catalyst and tool for exposing how technology has been distorting our perception of the world, and will help us reach the shared ground we need to solve big problems together.

    • 4 min
    Facebook Goes '2Africa'

    Facebook Goes '2Africa'

    This summer, Facebook unveiled “2Africa,” a subsea cable project that will encircle nearly the entire continent of Africa — much to the surprise of Julie Owono. As Executive Director of Internet Without Borders, she’s seen how quickly projects like this can become enmeshed in local politics, as private companies dig through territorial waters, negotiate with local officials and gradually assume responsibility over vital pieces of national infrastructure. “It’s critical, now, that communities have a seat at the table,” Julie says. We ask her about the risks of tech companies leading us into an age of “digital colonialism,” and what she hopes to achieve as a newly appointed member of Facebook’s Oversight Board.

    • 35 min
    When Media Was for You and Me

    When Media Was for You and Me

    In 1940, a group of 60 American intellectuals formed the Committee for National Morale. “They’ve largely been forgotten,” says Fred Turner, a professor of communications at Stanford University, but their work had a profound impact on public opinion. They produced groundbreaking films and art exhibitions. They urged viewers to stop, reflect and think for themselves, and in so doing, they developed a set of design principles that reimagined how media could make us feel more calm, reflective, empathetic; in short, more democratic.

    • 37 min
    Digital Democracy Is Within Reach

    Digital Democracy Is Within Reach

    Imagine a world where every country has a digital minister and technologically-enabled legislative bodies. Votes are completely transparent and audio and video of all conversations between lawmakers and lobbyists are available to the public immediately. Conspiracy theories are acted upon within two hours and replaced by humorous videos that clarify the truth. Imagine that expressing outrage about your local political environment turned into a participatory process where you were invited to solve that problem and even entered into a face to face group workshop. Does that sound impossible? It’s ambitious and optimistic, but that's everything that our guest this episode, Audrey Tang, digital minister of Taiwan, has been working on in her own country for many years. Audrey’s path into public service began in 2014 with her participation in the Sunflower Movement, a student-led protest in Taiwan’s parliamentary building, and she’s been building on that experience ever since, leading her country into a future of truly participatory digital democracy.

    • 46 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
525 Ratings

525 Ratings

Bradmeiklejohn ,

The Problem Behind the Problems

Since seeing the movie I’ve binge-listened to all these podcasts from Tristan and Aza. Obviously I’m late to this parade they’ve been busting their lungs on and I’m eager to be helpful to share the load.

Exactly what is called for now, however, remains a bit hazy. The podcasts seem geared as a call-out to techies for bandaid fixes when the whole social media system is broken. The techno-fixes seem like shoveling sand into the ocean. Regulation is a distant fire truck while the house is already engulfed in flames.

We need to take a page from the fight against Big Tobacco. What brought them to their knees? Massive lawsuits from numerous state attorneys general. But even this type of legal relief may be a decade away. We don’t have a decade to fix this problem.

I’m convinced there is no benign use of social media the way these platforms and algorithms currently operate. If all of us pulled the plug NOW the problem would stop. That is the cultural wildfire we need to fan.

#Pull the plug now.

Rhett Hoskinson ,

Thank You

“For those people who say there’s nothing but yellow lines and dead armadillos in the middle of the highway, I say to you this: the armadillos are just fine. Because the left and the right are so far out, they’re not even on the asphalt anymore. They’re in the frickin’ desert.”

- Matthew McConaughey

This podcast has kept me out of the desert.

I’ve just graduated from Northwestern University with a Creative Writing major. It was my love of Aldous Huxley, John Dewey, and other fathers and mothers of the Human Potential Movement that led me to you. The successors!

As I embark on my post-college journey, I wonder how to begin/prepare for a career centering on this crucial problem? I, too, see this issue as existentially threatening, but I lack the technological bonafides necessary to get into the thick of the action. Do all roads lead through graduate school?

Cindys2cents ,

The larger problem

Tristan Harris and those who assist him in disseminating the risks of giving all of our personal power to profit-driven technical platform behomoths like FANG are modern day heros. Roger McNamee's work, and the movie "Social Dilemma" are my current hope for a sea change back to trust and to a functioning society. For the first time I'm planning my actual departure from FB membership, and how to detangle myself from these juggernauts of Global Attention (Theft) Disorder. For money and profit, they've dismantled every bit of quality in journalism and turned our country into a warring set of paleolithic tribes.

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