Durable Human (2 book series)

A Plan for Humane Technology

woman holding pen with hands on top of notebook sits next to open laptop

With a new frame of mind, designers can create humane technology. Former Google tech ethicist Tristan Harris wants to teach them how.  

“This talk is about the wisdom we need to steer technology, and our future.” The words from his new message shone brightly from the screen at the 2022 mindfulness in technology conference, Wisdom 2.0.

Harris was back at the place where in 2015, he pulled back the curtain on how tech companies used “persuasive design.” They were in “a race to the bottom of our brainstems to seduce our instincts.”

Their products did not support human well-being, he claimed. “It’s like being on a diet, but you are only handed menus with burgers and fries.” 

Slide from Tristan Harris 2015 Wisdom 2.0 presentation
From the Tristan Harris presentation at Wisdom 2.0 2015

Design as Determinant

In How to Be a Durable Human: Revive and Thrive in the Digital Age Through the Power of Self-Design, tech usability expert Jared Spool defines Design as “the rendering of intent.”

Harris believes tech companies’ intentions were way off when they started Google, Facebook, and other platforms. He should know, having trained in the Stanford University Persuasive Technology Lab.

Since tech products could be accessed for free, users’ personal data were fair game, which companies made unprecedented sums from selling and re-selling. Individuals were hyper-targeted under the guise of “giving users what they want.”

Silicon Valley founders saw tech as a neutral vessel. That users became trapped in polarized filter bubbles was not the platforms’ problem.

The result today: the loudest and meanest social media opinions seem to be the majority. As Harris observes, “we start to believe the extreme voices and stereotypes represent the world.”

Slide from Tristan Harris talk at Wisdom 2.0 says "We start to believe the extreme voices & stereotypes represent the world."

Besides political turmoil, he blames early Silicon Valley attitudes for creating problems ranging from information overload and addiction, to synthetic charlatans including bots and DeepFakes. 

Over the years, it became standard practice to use psychological sleight of hand to keep users engaged.

Children have been especially affected. Since the dawn of social media, youth mental health has significantly eroded.

Even the brain development of babies has been caught in technology’s web.

Toddler using tablet

Toward Humane Technology

After much thought and consultation, Harris has come up with a plan: for tech designers to Think Differently.  Continue reading

3 Resilience Deposits a Day Help Push Stress Away

Woman with eyes closed sits in meditation pose behind laptop sitting on desk.

Spending a few minutes outdoors, chatting, and taking a nap are simple but powerful ways to fight stress, which has surged in the pandemic.     

Between 2019 and 2020, stress levels of 8 in 10 adults shot upward, according to a Stress in America Harris Poll sponsored by the American Psychological Association. Family pressures have led to record levels of depression and anxiety among children, reports JAMA Pediatrics.

But neither adults nor kids need to grimace and bear it. There are lab-proven ways to cope.

Short-term versus Chronic Stress

Stress comes in two basics forms: short-term and longer-lasting, or “chronic.”  

Short-term stress tends to go away. Like when your alarm goes off in the morning. You’re shocked at first, but once you get up and move on, you forget that initial jolt.  

Longer-lasting stress is caused by longer-term life problems, such as financial strife or difficult relationships.

Left unchecked, stress can add up to major health problems. When experienced over a long period of time, it has been linked with heart disease, diabetes and the spread of cancer, as well as other chronic diseases. And physiological responses can start young,” according to the journal Nature.

Yet, Nature concludes, “some people are remarkably resilient to these and other stressors.”

The X-factor is attitude.

Continue reading

Mental Health Emergency Declared for U.S. Children and Teens

Teenager looks despondently at phone, hand on face

American kids are in a mental health crisis and need much more help, according to a coalition of the nation’s child health providers.

“Across the country we have witnessed dramatic increases in Emergency Department visits for all mental health emergencies including suspected suicide attempts,” the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) and the Children’s Hospital Association (CHA) stated in a joint press release.

The pandemic made an already bad situation much worse. Continue reading

Durable is the New Resilient

To explain concept of a durable human being, image is of woman in business attire standing in front of a shadow of a superwoman

As the pandemic drags on, you need to be a durable human. Simply being resilient doesn’t cut it anymore. New findings point to why.  

White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci wants our response to the COVID vaccine to be as durable as possible.

Arizona Senator Krysten Sinema says only laws with bipartisan backing will be durable.  

On Joe Rogan’s podcast, New York University social psychologist Jonathan Haidt spoke of how “parents and teachers should be helping kids develop their innate abilities to grow and learn.” He used “antifragile.”

Lebanese-American essayist Nassim Nicholas says he coined that term because “there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile.”

But, actually—there is. Continue reading

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