Durable Human (2 book series)

Tag Archives: childhood

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

Parents Go Legal on Austin Schools over Student iPads

"We Need to Know" Graphic by EISD Parents for Responsible Use of Technology in School Facebook Group

The mother of a 6-year-old who accessed photos of topless women on his school-issued iPad believes his Austin,Texas school system has not done enough to protect students, so she and other parents are taking legal action.

At a board meeting of the Eanes Independent School District, Meaghan Edwards used the Texas public information act to request terms of service for every website, app, and software product used by district students during the last and next school years.

“If you’re following the rules, these questions will be easy to answer,” Edwards said at the June 16 meeting. Because it was an open forum, board members did not respond with comments.   

So That Parents May Understand

Two separate public information requests were submitted. The more detailed posed dozens of questions Edwards and others hope will Continue reading

Parents Didn’t Need to Think Much About Attachment Until Now

Father lovingly feeds baby a bottle

Babies and their loving caregivers are naturally attracted to each other. Feeding a baby is a sacred time when lifelong bonds develop through tender caresses, late-night murmurs and loving, long glances.

But there’s competition now. A spare moment is an opportunity to catch up—with email, social media, and other digital demands on our attention.

Yet, a child’s vital need for Attachment remains. Without secure attachment, a baby can grow up more anxious and less durable in the long run. Without the opportunity to closely study a caregiver’s mouth and expressions, language development can lag. A child could miss out on learning the vital skill (for survival in life and in business) of learning to read faces.

Research is beginning to indicate that if the view of a caregiver’s face is blocked by a device or if a very young child is left to spend too much time in a 2-D screen environment, the trajectory of brain development can be altered, as in the newly-discovered syndrome seen in toddlers, Virtual Autism. Continue reading

Insights Behind the TEDx Talk Durable Humans are Smarter Than Their Phones

Kids with arms around huge durable Sequoia tree.

Top TED talker Brene Brown nailed it at the Mom2Summit when she declared: “I’ve never done anything that was worth much unless I was scared shitless and nauseous.”

That’s exactly how I felt stepping onto the red circle at TEDx Tysons in Tysons, Virginia. But as I delivered “Durable Humans are Smarter Than Their Phones,” I was uplifted by the inspiration of a host of brilliant people I want to thank here.

Copious credit goes to Hilarie Cash, co-founder of ReStart, the nation’s first Internet addiction treatment center. Hilarie invited me in to meet people like “Jeff,” the young tech addict whose heartbreaking yet hopeful story you can read about here.

ReStart’s track record proves that simple things like cooking dinner and mopping the floor can help young people break the stranglehold of addiction and return to success in real life. By creating and sustaining Attachment, Hilarie told me in this interview, parents can help kids Continue reading

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