Tristan Harris — Fighting Skynet and Firewalling Attention | The Tim Ferriss Show | Transcription

Transcription for the video titled "Tristan Harris — Fighting Skynet and Firewalling Attention | The Tim Ferriss Show".


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Intro (00:00)

optimal minimal this altitude i can run flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking can i also request a question? now what a sit-and-aprope time what a tight-to-be-out i'm a cybernetic organism living to show a metal anthoscour me too ferris show this episode is brought to you by me undies me undies makes the softest undies known to man that's what the copy says and they are soft they're really soft whether you like crazy prince or opt for classic black me undies gives you the freedom to express yourself comfortably i wonder what expressing yourself of course within legal bounds means in this case but i do like to express myself i'm wearing some tie-dye me undies right now as i record this in the room next to me i've got some pizza and video game prints those are not on the same pair of underwear with two second ones and i'll be packing for a trip and i have a nice stack of me undies going with me why because they're comfortable very very comfortable me undies has plenty of 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hard and it can also be super super expensive and painful if you get it wrong i certainly have had that experience firsthand multiple times and i am not eager to repeat it so i try to do as much vetting as possible on the front end and today with more qualified candidates than ever you need a solution you need a platform that helps you to find the right people for your business linked in jobs does exactly that more than 600 million users visit linked in to learn make connections grows professionals and more than ever discover new job opportunities in fact overall linked in members add 15 new skills to their profiles and apply to 35 job posts every two seconds that's a crazy stat linkedin does the legwork to match you to your most qualified candidates so that you can focus on the hiring process getting the person into your company who will transform your business they make sure your job post gets in front of the people with the right hard skills and soft skills to meet your requirements they've made it as easy as possible so check it out to get 50 off of your first job post go to again that's to get 50 off of your first job post terms and conditions apply but check it out well hello boys and girls this is tim ferris and welcome to another episode of the tim ferris show where does my job each and every episode to interview world-class performers or people who are exceptionally good at what they do domain experts who can speak to the subtleties of a given subject industry or skill and my guest today covers a lot of bases his name is tristan harris at tristan harris tr-i-s-t-a-n h-a-r-r-i-s on twitter rolling stone has named him one of the 25 people shaping the world tristan was featured in fortunes two thousand eighteen forty under forty list for his work on reforming technology and the atlantic has called him the closest thing silicon valley has to a conscience formerly design ethicist at google he is a world-known expert on how technology steers are decisions tristan has spent nearly his entire life studying subtle psychological forces from early beginnings as a childhood magician we talk quite a bit about this and also his study of pickpocketing and other fascinating domains that i'm very very interested in to working with the stanford persuasive technology lab and his role as co of aperture which was acquired by google tristan has briefed heads of state technology company c_o_s and members of u_s_ congress about the attention economy and he's been featured in media worldwide including sixty minutes p_b_s_ news hour and many more he is the co-founder of the center for humane technology which can be found at humane tech dot com please enjoy without further ado my wide range in conversation with tristan harris tristan welcome to the show thanks for having me to i am thrilled to finally have you on the line to have a wide-ranging conversation because we have many mutual friends and uh... many of my listeners have requested you on the show and i thought that perhaps a a good place to start would be beautiful bali bali in detention so i have in my notes here a bullet that references a retreat in bali that's in indonesia for folks were curious about bali on hypnosis pitt pocketing and

Magic And Mindfulness: Understanding Perception And Control

Out on the town with pickpocket magicians in Bali and London. (05:22)

magic uh... is so let's let's dig into that why go why go to such a thing and what did you learn and did you accidentally sign any powers of attorney or walk out empty pocket it was actually one of the best life choices that i think i've ever made um... you know i was as a magician i as a kid i was a magician early on and got interested in reading just siphoned up all of his information from books and things like that but then i it wasn't really a thing that was going active in my life as an adult but then about i don't know sometime in 2016 i saw this uh... i was part of this newsletter uh... i think his name is james brown he's a hitman test based in the u_k and he said he was going to run a uh... workshop on hypnosis pitt pocketing and magic in bali and i just thought this is too good to pass up it was about the one week of vacation i had in the year and end up going out there and it was something like me and eight or nine magicians i was probably the most amateur and it was so much fun because every night you just have these magicians going out on the town like we go to a a bar somewhere in bali and they would just clean up not clean up in the sense of their money in their wallets but in the sense of just having fun with people and you would just watch these guys you know play with people's attention in ways that you know they didn't know what they were up against and uh... it wasn't pickpocketing in an adversarial sense like let me get all your money it was done in the in the putting money into pockets yeah yeah it was uh... done in the in the guise of ham and magician this is what i do uh... but you know you want to have some fun and but it's it's just really fascinating especially pickpocket i don't know if you know apollo robins i don't but i'm definitely going to look this person up to learn more he he's also one of the sort of world's most famous pickpockets he's a he's a teddy actually helped me with my tatatat uh... when i was there and uh... you know he's just has

Magic, pickpockets, the limits of attention, and the pattern of control. (07:52)

he actually worked in collaborative with a bunch of neuroscientists on essentially the limits of attention and stuff that he had picked up just by doing it but then is later now being confirmed by by neuroscience and that's why i find fascinating about magic and pickpocketing is they were kind of the first applied psychologist i mean they've been doing this for hundreds of years right and i i just love that you know our science is catching up to what the practitioners have known how to do for for a long time and uh... i i i'd love for you to perhaps talk to some of the techniques or principles behind good magic or pittpocketing and i'm sure there are and uh... will have a chance to explore parallels and other places but for instance uh... speaking from my own personal experience i about a month ago had a chance to go to the magic castle in los angeles for the first time and the recommendation from the member who brought us in was to go to the close-up room the close-up magic room and it's seats somewhere between twelve and twenty people it's very small room and there's a table right in front of you it was about five feet from me and after the the performance that we saw which was which was truly staggering i mean it was just world-class in terms of slight-of-hand uh... number of friends who are with me one a very high-end musician the other very successful entrepreneur and then a number of other folks walked out and said i have to question everything in my reality because of what could be done right in front of you i mean literally right in front of you uh... right uh... either any particular sort of techniques or principles that stand out for you uh... in the realm of of magic pittpocketing hypnosis or or other in terms of these practitioner arts mean that the punchline is it's it's really about the limits of attention in in all of the cases right i mean i i think the other thing you're also getting at is you had some pretty successful people by your side it sounds like i mean business people entrepreneurs the thing about magic that i always found most interesting is that it has nothing to do with the level like your your level of being inoculated from the effect has nothing to do with your intelligence right right it's like which is so fascinating right because you you could have the most successful business person or you know off the charts prodigy and mathematics or something like that but it has nothing to do with the extent to which they can be fooled in a close-up um... you know experience or pittpocketing and that they are living in separate different domains that those are two different areas of skill or inoculation i found fascinating because i i think it says so much about what magic is doing it's not about intelligence it's about something more subtle and about the weaknesses or the limits of the blind spots of the biases that we're all trapped inside of you know i always say it's like we're trapped in a mind-body meat suit that has a set of you know bindings and and bendings to to how we see the world that you don't know that you're living inside of that corrective tissue that happens to bend attention in that way i mean so misdirection is the core principle you know you look over here and you think you're looking you know you think you're going to catch the magician doing it because you're looking where you would think that he doesn't want you to look but he's probably by that point already you know four steps ahead of you so right like by the time you're looking at the place oh the other hand it's must be in the other hand but like that you're behind it happened three steps ago and usually there's a setup so sometimes the the actual trick has happened you know at the very beginning and then there's there's layers upon layers that are being built and the magician's usually working two or three steps ahead i wish i could give more you know concrete examples by you know the magician's code is you don't you don't give this stuff up to the public the funny thing about magic of course it's all it actually is all public you just have to buy a book but turns out people don't read books and so it remains a secret um but you know i i think that in pickpocketing what was fascinating is it's you know people think oh do you just you grab it when i'm not looking and it's not like that at all i mean as a pickpocket the person will stand right up next to you they'll look at you they'll talk to you you're just having a conversation they will with you they will look down at your left pocket and they'll tap it and they'll say oh so what's what's in that pocket over there and then you'll pull out you know keys and a wallet and you look at it say oh okay that's interesting what's in that wall and they'll you know you're you're right there with them as they're doing this and then it's in this other moment they say well look at what's happening in the other pocket and they'll turn around and walk around you and there's all this mischief that starts to happen in those moments in between but what's interesting about pickpocketing is the way people on the outside the public tends to think about it is they just kind of grab it when you're not looking but what's fascinating is it actually happens right underneath your nose so i just i love it it's it's so amazing to watch these guys work that you were very recently it's testifying the right verb here or presented what is what yeah maybe i was the lead witness in a in a senate hearing on persuasive technology and if i'm remembering correctly feel free to to fact check this but you talked about the magicians choose a pick pick a card any card or or alluded to that might have been in your TED Talk it was in it was in one of the two but in what we'll come back to the to to Washington DC but the when you mentioned that it it and i'm just trying to try to tie two things together here it made me think of the you know if you control the menu you control the choices which is one of the hijacks you talk about can you can you describe this can you elaborate on that yeah well i mean we tend to live in you know we're in the United States and we tend to live in a libertarian culture that's all about celebrating and protecting the freedom to make our own choices but at a very very very deep level we don't we're not also taught to question who controlled the menu of choices that we are picking from um this also occurs i think at a deep like spiritual or identity level you

If you control the menu, you control the choices. (13:55)

know you can make any choice you want but you don't see the invisible constraints on how you are seeing the world in such a way that you know you're only picking from the five habitual things that your mind that shows up in your mind on a daily basis but in magic i mean the principle is just and it's actually more nuanced in this i mean it's funny Darren Brown the famous mentalist i was emailing with him the other day and he was saying i could probably teach you some some things to update your your view that this is the most important principle in magic but you know if you control the the the menu and the order of options as they're presented and the emphasis as they're presented um you you can i mean i wish i could do a demo here but i'm not a good enough magician to do it live um you know you can make it seem as if someone has whittled down from the entire deck of cards down to one from 52 cards down to one and it seems as if they've made their own free choice along the way in like four distinct choice you know moments but in fact you know exactly what card you wanted them to get to all along and you know the the kind of questions you can ask people um shape the outcome the kinds of sequencing of the questions the meaning making it it's hard to do this without actually giving people the the you know the whole techniques but i think this is something that is really important to understand whether it's in the way that technology presents menus to us or the way that society or culture do you know any any way you choose you're still choosing within a menu that has other people's interests behind it you you mentioned invisible constraints so the the the assumptions that we may not be aware that we're making or the box that we've created for ourselves in some fashion or adopted from our environment or our parents or or other places are there any particular sort of tools or mental models or or anything at all that you use to try to identify the invisible constraints in your life yeah i mean it's a great question i mean fundamentally i feel like the process of waking up or awakening

Identifying invisible constraints (15:52)

is is to try to see assumptions that we're making um or you know guiding principles in our choices that you know are even asking the right questions like so let's say right after this interview you know you get outside and you could go in any direction like what is the just think about that that moment so i'll leave this this podcast studio and you'll leave your your house and then what comes up into your mind about where to go right i mean it's a usually a set of habits maybe it's like oh what do i need to do let me refer to my to-do list what is it you know which cafe do i want to go to for an iced coffee to run away from that anxiety that i was feeling because i don't know what to do with myself there's this limited we're kind of creatures of habits right and so especially when we're inside of embedded environments that we've been in for long periods of time we tend to play out the same patterns over and over again this is where the you know this is both a kind of a new age throwaway statement and also a real one which is you know wherever you are what is it what is it called again i think it's wherever you go there you are yes something like that the john's book time book time yeah exactly john is also friend and you know it's the point is that you will repeat our same mental habits everywhere we go so you know in so many ways that are often invisible to us we don't notice the consistency of a kind of a a structure to the way our minds happen to process information or the way that we think about what to do with our time or the way that we value things or we sort things all those processes that are sitting inside of us you know happening all the time are often invisible and not available for introspection um and they basically run our whole life um which is why they say like oh maybe i'll go on a meditation retreat maybe i'll go find myself in bali but then you know you find that you know and as i know from your meditation experience with uh you know the monkey mind it's like we just have these recurring processes that follow us everywhere and i think if you can't see them uh then they run your life and then we're kind of like automatons we're robots that are living according to the previous set of constraints and the extent to which we have choice is the extent to which we see those patterns um and as far as techniques to to see them i mean i think that's tricky i don't have you ever done the work of uh Byron Katie? I have uh I I find the a number of her one sheet uh sort of these one page uh worksheet prompts to be uh very helpful uh it takes a little getting used to it can seem very strange uh and nonsensical at first but uh i think if you're willing to force yourself to do the thought exercise right of contorting um the the beliefs uh you know these statements that you take is true it's it's super valuable could you could you describe uh if you've got if you've done it how how you've done it it sounds super abstract for those people who haven't seen it but i mean she's basically just come up with a set of four questions you can ask of any moment in your life that causes stress because usually what's happening is you are you are creating that stress for your own mind and you just can't see it yet so um i i kind of think about it to link it to the magic metaphor that our brains are living inside of this 24/7 magic trick which is that whatever thought pops into our mind we believe it we don't not believe it we just we

A TOOL! Bryon Katie questioning."'brainurbation'"!, Sam Horn's (19:26)

automatically step into it and we see the world through that thought through the assumptions of that thought and essentially what what her four questions do is they let you see the exact opposite of that belief which then question makes you not take your beliefs and your thoughts so seriously and it's a great parody with with meditation but essentially something like um i don't know for example you're driving and there you are and then some guy in a red Corvette like cuts you off and you're like i don't know something like that guy is an asshole or something like that right and you're convinced of it every bone in your body every bit of your nervous system just you know for sure this guy is impatient he's you know inconsiderate all of these thoughts just rush into your mind and you have utter certainty about your experience and who this other person is right um let alone the fact you don't know if this person is rushing to go get their wife who's at the hospital because something's wrong i mean you don't know right so the four questions are okay that person you know that guy is inconsiderate the first question is is that true that guy is inconsiderate and you have to like pause and sit there you know there you are in the car looking at this person and say that guy is inconsiderate is that true okay second question is usually to reinforce that and loosen up maybe the beliefs a bit which is can you be absolutely sure that it's true that that guy is inconsiderate and you realize no i can't in fact i just thought that the moment that he you know stepped in a ran in front of me okay so then we get to the third question which is okay what happens uh what do i what how do i react what images come to mind how do i feel how do i relate to the world how do i relate to him when i believe the thought that guy is inconsiderate what what happens and the answer would be something like i see him as you know naive i see him as thoughtless i see my you know i i don't care about him i i want him to be you know move off the face of the earth i i want that car in my way i get angry my my body i feel you know all these things but the entire you're trying to basically list the ecology of just with that one belief in that one moment of that guy isn't consider it does your whole nervous system so it's like a full body scan kind of full belief scan of what that does and you sort of see oh my god just by believing that one thought it's totally transformed my entire experience in that moment with reality i am now seeing reality in a totally different way and usually in a more distorted disconnected not centered not calm not not connected way and the fourth question is once you realize the kind of absurdity of that ecology of beliefs um is uh who would i be in that moment without the thought that that guy isn't consider it and so there he is he crosses you know he cuts over right in front of me but without the thought that guy isn't consider it maybe it's something like i have curiosity about what happened why did he do that um you know whatever you you let you get that ecology and then the last step is to list

Examples of Bryon Katties Four Questions. (22:42)

the opposites of the belief so um instead of that guy isn't consider it one opposite is uh that guy is very considerate or he is considerate and you you try to find evidence is there any way in which that could be true and you know in that moment prior to doing this process you were convinced that this guy just was absolutely inconsiderate but as you after you've done those four questions you think is there any evidence for him being considerate well what if he's on the way to the hospital to meet you know his wife who just who just you know god is and in labor or something from being pregnant uh and you realize that he could be the most considerate person um you know in that way or another opposite to he's inconsiderate could be i am inconsiderate and the evidence there would be that i'm inconsiderate of the fact that i don't know the ecology of this other person's life and i rapidly jump to conclusions so what this process does and i i feel like they mean to go through it for so long but it it shows you something fundamental about the ways that our mind trap us in you know almost like a permanent fixed set of glasses that temporarily occupy the way that we see the world and make meaning and when you see that you just stop taking your thoughts and your beliefs quite so seriously and you realize that even those moments when you're stressed and you're convinced it's because the world really is you know doing that thing that this is you off it it lets you see maybe i'm actually doing this for myself and that also gains and increases responsibility because that means that now we're responsible for our own experience as opposed to you know the world is constantly terrorizing us with situations thank you very much for that uh overview that was a long that was really good that was really good i i spent uh two days with biring katie in a small group and for people who are listening uh i i will confess something that someone listening might also experience which is when i was first given this exercise and did it as related to a few different situations i had a lot of resistance just the yeah i didn't yeah it stuck it struck me as this sort of semantic tail chasing or the highly abstract and when you dig into it if you give it a chance as as a thought exercise uh it's it's it can be incredibly valuable i mean some of the transformations that i witnessed in the room with people who had long standing beliefs about say a family member which were which were completely crippling like i'd paralyzed a family situation uh it was was really remarkable and you you mentioned the the three questions here is it true can you absolutely know it's true how do you react what happens when you believe that thought and who would you be without that thought um a couple of a couple of points that were really valuable to me or questions to ask so sort of as a subsection under how do you react what happens when you believe that thought one of the subsets of that that uh biring uh i was uh biring katie has on the websites just the and you can find all this stuff for free is uh you know do any obsessions or addictions begin to appear when you believe that thought i think this is yeah it's a really really good one

Obsessions and addictions (26:02)

and really important you mentioned leading into this you know do you go to the coffee shop to drink a coffee because you're overwhelmed or worried about not knowing what to do right and then that likely triggers a whole new set of physical sensations which trigger a whole set of sort of emotional and uh thought responses which you might blame on the circumstances of two hours before but in fact you just took down 200 milligrams of caffeine in four minutes right so yeah it's like fractal levels of running away from anxiety you know it's like running away from anxiety creates an experience that that's an addiction that then creates more anxiety that we then run away from and we spend our whole day clicking between facebook and email facebook and email and then you're like where did my day go exactly and the the the last thing for now that i'd like to say about this because i'm really glad you brought up yeah is that the the portion of creating the opposites is where i had the most resistance and the for instance uh that person is very considered or i am inconsiderate and so on and there are a whole bunch of different ways that you can you can turn these sentences around uh the the only way i could really get through the exercise was to say if i had a gun against my head and had to come up with three hypothetical cases where this could be true whatever the the permutation is what would they be and it's really powerful uh and and i don't want to be labored the point but i do encourage everybody to check it out and and try it out i'm really glad you brought it up yeah i mean it's i totally appreciate what you're saying not to dwell so much on on her work even though it actually has been impactful for i think probably other things we may talk about is you just you just realize the way that the mind so quickly steps into some new belief with with utter certainty you know and just to your point like you know when you find these opposites like well maybe i'm not considerate maybe that person is so considerate it's like no sometimes that guy just is inconsiderate like he actually just wasn't looking and he's not trying to rush to save his wife and you know whatever else right i mean there's definitely an argument you could make that he was being inconsiderate and it's not meant to deny um facts about reality about someone else's you know objective uh state but i think what it does overall is makes you realize that we live in utter certainty about a world that's highly uncertain and that whenever stress comes about through that process um we might be able to you know down regulate a lot of that stress by just not taking our thoughts and beliefs quite so seriously i mean it's an amazing tool uh and i you know it relates to technology in way because i think technology is this sort of false belief factory like it just generates you know all of these false beliefs there's moment by moment by moment by moment and i mean the premise of of her work and doing this process is so that you don't identify with your thoughts i mean the fourth question she asks which is who would you be without the thought it's not what would happen instead if you didn't think he's inconsiderate it's who would you be so it's an identity level question and this actually is really important because when you're doing belief transformation work when you do identity level work it's much more persuasive i mean if you if you want to link this to the stuff i know about russia's influence campaign in the 2016 elections i mean a lot of it was identity level work like we are african-americans and hilly doesn't care about us that was the message that russia went after um it's because identity level propaganda and you know identity politics it's it's the deepest level of psychological influence work now in the biron katie sense she's doing it to try to empower people to overcome uh the ways that they their brain lies to them and deceives them and the other sense it can be used obviously to manipulate people but you know instead of you know if you don't know linguistic programming you know i first read uh i have not done any training at least not directly but beginning in high school uh which is i think when tony robins really put nlp on the main stage in some respects uh became fascinated by the prospect or the implications as described by tony robinson's first book of nlp but could you describe that for people who don't know what it is yeah i mean i'm not an expert but i have taken some some workshops in it i mean normalistic programming is essentially a study of how language and uh fought and meaning are you know basically each of us have a map in our own brain of how we see reality we're not actually directly in touch with the reality in front of us we're living through this mediated map that um you know and based on wood choices we use uh it shapes the reality that we that we have um it's used in hypnosis it's actually the basis for aryxonian hypnosis and you know how you what kind of language choices to make and how you can deepen people's experience or alleviate people's experience like a simple example just to make it concrete is something like you know think of a person that you love and see their see their face in your in your mind's eye and then turn up the colors so like just make the colors more vivid do you feel more of the love or do you feel less of the love when you turn up the colors how about if you bring the image even closer so bring it up way close right in front of you and turn up the colors you know and then just playing with just noticing that even as you you do this you get different kinds of feelings and experiences versus for example if you turn down the colors you make it grayscale what if you make it small move it very far away these are all ways of playing with you know uh human cognition and experience um and uh you know anyway when you do this kind of work there's uh it's used in counseling psychological counseling as well and when you when you work with people on a on a counseling level if you can do identity level transformation work where for example if you ask someone the phrase are you an athlete you know i mean if i ask you or would you say you're an athlete uh when i'm not eating uh donuts and sitting all day i would like to think of myself as an athlete i used to be an athlete would be my real answer i'd say i used to be an athlete so is that like when you sort of query your nervous system if you say the phrase like i i am in i

Are you an athlete? (32:36)

used to be an athlete does that feel like the most accurate thing for you it does yeah because i think athlete competitive athlete so that's right i would say i used to be an athlete right so there you go so that's your map right it's like athlete for you means competitive athlete in some kind of professional sense what's interesting i mean a lot of people would probably answer that question no right and yet a lot of people i mean i might answer that question no but you know do you exercise you know do you do you go to the gym do you you know i do uh boxing and some kickboxing stuff for fun um just fitness classes and you know i wouldn't put myself in the category of athlete but just notice that that's just you know whether i've fallen the sign of side of yes or no to that question has a really big implication for how i see myself right definitely and and it's totally arbitrary whether or not i call myself as part of the category of i am an athlete versus i'm not and what would make me an athlete like what are the criteria well there i go now i'm inspecting the map inside my brain that i've i've invisibly constructed some set of rules about when you officially qualify for being an athlete and when you don't and it's all artificial it's all arbitrary it's just coming from our own mind happening to organize these rules and and and obligations which are self-constructed and it's through the nlp type stuff or biron katie stuff that you can actually play with all this and you realize that you're living in this fractal kind of hall of mirrors in your mind that um you know makes us think or believe all these

Waking Up (33:49)

things that are just kind of distortions self-constructed out of invisible parts of our brain and waking up is the process by which we can uh you know shatter some of the glasses and and see more clearly yeah and waking up uh i mean that if feel free to to offer a counterpoint it seems to me that waking up here is at least in part simply becoming aware of your habitual processes right and it gets kind of like stepping out of the movie itself in which you're the lead actor or actress and stepping back into the audience and watching becoming the observer of your own behavior and uh what you were saying earlier about thoughts and beliefs and how how much conviction we can have about a snap judgment totally reminds me of something that uh bj miller is a doctor and hospice care physician who's been on the podcast who's helped something like a thousand people to die his answer to the question i often ask which is what would you put on a billboard is um he actually got from a bumper sticker so i don't know the original attribution but it's don't believe everything that you think right which is

Question of the Bumper Sticker (35:14)

exactly not and the uh i think about language a lot uh because i mean when we're talking about language i mean to some extent we're talking about labels and if we're talking about labels we're talking about conceptual overlays that we're putting on top of our sensory input right so it's really like how you're constructing reality and when you look at something we don't have to go into a death right now but uh if people search for the the 21 day no complaint experiment there's uh want to say pastor might be a reverend will bow and might be bow and b o w n who began doing an experiment with his congregation uh in which they would wear a rubber band or wristband that was elastic and they would they attempted to go 21 days without complaining and there are parameters which were mostly language based for what constituted a complaint and if you complained you had to switch your wrists and start your 21 day clock over again and the the effects on people who completed the 21 days or even made it halfway uh on quality of life on their thinking and the lens through which they looked at reality was so profound uh and if you really look at the nitty gritty of it it's it's training and awareness of the the statements in your mind and the statements that you use just like uh Byron Katie's the work in a sense exactly I mean in essence I mean it's like this is why not not I don't want to switch into technology stuff at least not yet but the you know what we say the attention economy is beneath all other economies like the psychology like the if you had a you know an amplifier a voice out an output for all of the thoughts running through our heads I mean this this is what constitutes our inner lives this is the this is the soundtrack this is the things that were repeating invisibly we don't even notice that we're repeating it because it's almost doesn't have audio but immediately I mean I've done I know you have done lots of meditation and on a seven day meditation retreat I once did that's what I was most surprised by was just how quickly these next thoughts would come up and that how quickly I was tempted to believe them and what you know the whole like there whenever you go there you are like the same patterns of thoughts would come up like the same self doubt or the same self-criticism um you know I don't want this to sound dull for listeners because I know that when people describe these things from a distance it doesn't sound as interesting as profound but you know to your point about language you're just making me think I remember where I first encountered your work Tim which was um or at least it was one of the early recommendations you made I think in four hour work week about the 22 immutable laws of marketing yes and which is also was a profound book for for me and you know the example of marketing is all about using language to manipulate perception and the fact that your mind organizes information in particular ways and I remember one core thing in that book is just the way that our minds create kind of ladders of you know in competition like invisible categories like safety you know which is the number one safest car in the world for you know what's the most safe car in the world and everyone said well hello great what's the second safest car in the world and you realize your mind draws a blank it's because your mind doesn't even organize information past slot number one um and it's all based on the slots you know what's the fastest car in the world what's the safest car in the world and you know I think it's the same thing in our own lives that invisibly um the way we construct you know am I an athlete or not I mean these are the it's just this again this sort of structure of identity a belief a meaning that makes up and constitutes you know our well-being what choices we make whether we dare to take those risks whether we dare to jump off a cliff whether we look at the world's problems in the face uh I think the psychology is everything and it doesn't seem important if you haven't looked inside which yeah is also fascinating that people can spend their whole wise not even you know looking looking in and and hearing what the words that keep showing up in our brains are I didn't do my first meditation retreat I think until I was 32 oh you beat me 20 years I did mine just a few years ago so I was probably 39 or 40 uh and um for those people who want a little uh comedic relief one of the terms that one of the coordinators used I don't know if it was Jack cornfield himself he was there at spirit rock and it may have been one of the other teachers but they they joked about vipassana vendettas where people in the room would become so preoccupied with like the person 10 feet away who's coughing too often or who's like shuffling too often

Vipassana Vendettas (40:00)

or as like the noisy jacket with the zipper and it becomes this sort of obsessive focus which happens all the time in daily life it's just not as obvious it's totally true it's it's funny you mentioned this because you know when you're in a meditation retreat you're in silence for days and what I find fascinating is the way that for whatever reason you just kind of your mind locks onto people and you start making judgments about like oh yeah you think like that person over there oh they just think this or like look at the way that they you know sort of themselves food quietly like they're just a slob or you know like whatever the thing that comes up it's and and then what's funny is like I don't know but few experienced this but in the last day of my meditation retreat obviously we had this little um we start finally talk to each other and you get to know who people are and you realize just how off base you were you know and and these invisible you know that how quickly our mind jumps to conclusions about people for whom we've literally we have never talked to it we've never inspected the contents of their mind we're just we get obsessed with it and reminds me of another attention exercise I did at Burning Man once it was really powerful actually like if you're ever in a in a group setting this is a super meta mind kind of uh podcast interviews so hopefully we'll listen to find this too conceptual and abstract but it's actually really fun stuff I mean our attention is so profoundly happening without us really realizing it but this exercise I did you're in a room of people like 30 people and you're walking around in

The silent dinner exercise Tony discusses in Words that Work. (41:26)

silence and then you kind of stand on the edge and you're led by a facilitator to first look around the room so there you are looking at all the 30 people and you look in the room and it says they'll say like so first just look around the room and notice who you have noticed like notice that there's certain people certain faces that you've drawn that draw a lot more of your attention than other people like right like in 30 people you would think like oh yeah we just we pay attention all 30 but actually if you look closely your mind is actually paying attention to a subset for whatever reason there's a subset of people who you find more interesting second question was our second prompt was look around the room and now notice the people that for whatever reason you don't like like you don't even know why you don't like them you just or you're just not interested to connect with them or you you would not want to be with them or talk to them just notice that there's some people you've already selected that you don't want to talk to um it isn't that interesting like what about them has you feeling like I don't even want to talk to them and then the third prompt was look around the room and notice all the people you didn't even notice they're like the people in between the faces who you find completely skips over and you don't even notice that you're doing that and it's it's a really profound exercise there's a lot there's some other steps to it but it it really shows you that you know your your mind is living inside of this selection filter that is pre-selecting certain bits of information to reach your conscious awareness and then hiding lots of others and also polarizing you against other you know people or sources of information and you don't even know why you're just living inside of that hammer that's wanting to treat everything like a nail but you don't even know the direction of the hammer and that there are lots of nails yeah definitely and I was also you know as you're as you're talking about this these selection filters right and the 22 immutable laws of marketing for people who want to look at the power of words through a different lens uh and this this came up for me actually i should say this person frank lance uh came up for me oh I know he's yeah so he's come up for me in a few different scenarios one a friend of mine very very very actually mutual friend of ours but i won't name by by name uh certainly very socially liberal guy uh recommended i think it's words that work i think that's words words that work yeah it's not what they what you said it's what people here is the title by frank lance and this and he came up recently because i was watching uh vise the movie about dick chaney and so frank lance for this people i don't know yeah and i'm reading directly from wikipedia here is uh he's he's an american political consultant pollster and public opinion guru best known for developing talking points and other messaging for various republican causes but and i'll skip a bunch of it just to give a few examples he advocated use of vocabulary crafted to produce a desired effect including use of the term death tax instead of a state tax and climate change instead of global warming those are really powerful uh vocabulary reframes really really powerful if you think of the implication the implications of of of those reframes um totally and uh this this is i mean where we're we can certainly chat about about frank and the power of words but the the sort of meta it's so feel free to to jump in with with anything you'd like to say but yeah no i mean i it's i i love you bringing this up i mean i hope this again isn't too um meta you know trippy for for for people listening there's so much focus on language but it does shape everything i mean again if people think climate change versus global warming the whole point is well climate's always changing right there's nothing to worry about because it's always changing it's a neutral statement um another one that's like frank is uh you know he's often not to be on the right and there's this guy george leikoff who's on the left who wrote a book called metaphor as we live by and he's like an academic linguist um who you know is is talked about the power of grounding metaphors so grounding metaphor is if you think about something like the nation as a family so invisibly when you think about the nation it's structured at least in english uh as part of the family so we don't send our sons and daughters to war we don't want those missiles in our backyard right um you know if there's a third one too i forgot uh shoot our founding fathers yeah our founding fathers you know said that is it there are fathers really you know they are they really are fathers so invisibly you know we have this baked into our language at a structural level that that organizes um almost like a geometry of meaning about how we see the nation those are our sons and daughters those are our founding fathers those this is our backyard being our property you know um and it conjures up a whole bunch of assumptions about how we see the world that then structure you know entire political beliefs about whether to go to war and all this kind of stuff and so as you've said it's like language is profoundly shaping not just like our own you know mental lives consequences and what you see on a meditation retreat but you know world history um and whether or not we tackle something like climate change or we go to war with iraq um these are really really big deals and i i think that we have to gain literacy for our minds i mean i actually think i mean this is kind of the essence of our work now is that you know fundamentally we're at this point where if we can't see our own psychological you know what's the words i mean if we can't see the way our minds are structuring information and we are just simply as you said before you know like run by them like they're the automatic process that runs ahead of our choices then it's already done like it's already checkmate because we're already uh uh you know being led by things that don't produce um you know choice making that averts the kind of catastrophes that i think that we we all want to avert um and i think this is you know my co-founder of the center for e-mean technology asaraskan says the way to win the final war is to make peace with ourselves that this is the architecture like this is how we work and the only way we're gonna you know either get over ourselves and you know take those risks to to make the choices we want to make in our own lives is by understanding ourselves better and the only way we're gonna solve civilizations problems is by you know gaining an understanding for the things that would stand in our way um i agree and we're gonna we are gonna segue to technology very very briefly i want to again encourage people to as a way to become more familiar with the words that you are using and the language you're using which is basically this you could think of it as the software that you're running in

Language And Technology: Influencing Emotion And Behavior

A practical example of changing your language. (48:01)

in a sense which is really important like you might want to inspect that code uh yeah is to take a look at Byron Katie's the work and uh the the 21 day no complaint experiment is also a great way by focusing on one particular category of language to become meta aware more broadly of the what the voice in your head is actually telling you all day long and um technology let's talk about how you first came to know bjfog maybe this maybe this is a place to start and then we can we can leapfrog all over the place

Tristan's connection to B.J. Fogg (and Bj's thesis on takeaways) (48:56)

from there who is bjfog sure and and do you know bj by the way just curious i do i haven't spent time with him in years but there was a period of time when i was living in uh mountain view that that we had a chance to spend a decent amount of time together and uh we have spent some time together we just have actually recently started emailing again oh cool yeah um yeah uh so bj um is a psychology professor at stanford and he ran something um i think continues to run something called the stanford persuasive technology lab um that basically applies everything we know about the psychology of persuasion to technology and basically you're asking the question in the lab how can technology persuade people's attitudes beliefs and behaviors uh and you know a lot of alumni have come out of this lab i mean i was um project partners with the co-founder of instagram like kreaker uh you know a lot of people went on to work at linkedin and facebook and the early social media companies because you know this was like the perfect set of tools to apply to the way that we designed technology but in in the lab you know you study everything from clicker training for dogs you know like how do you know what that a train a dog to do the behaviors you want and not the ones you don't want um we read a book called don't shoot the dog by karen pryer amazing um amazing yeah oh you know this one oh yes i do yeah i do it's it's i recommend to everyone yeah it's funny i mean it's like i programmed myself to to enjoy boxing and kickboxing because i just get a smoothie right afterwards is sort of pavalovian conditioning uh click a clicker train in the form of a smoothie um and uh it's it you learn that you learn social psychological dynamics over chaldini i mean a lot of the marketing stuff that you have already pointed out to to many of your listeners i'm sure but you know it's really just a study again of the code this is like delving into the code of the human mind and this is what we find persuasive and uh i you know this is in 2006 so it's the year before the iphone so the iphone hasn't hadn't even come out yet and we had a a class on perso persuasion through video and through mobile apps and the founder of instagram and i before he had anything close to the idea for instagram we worked on you know applying these principles for good that's the thing people get wrong about the lab they think it was this sort of diabolical training ground evil psychological manipulation tech leaders or something like that and it wasn't that way at all it was actually a really powerful you know three hours once a week uh deep dive into this this world and asking the question how would you use it for good so that the founder of instagram and i worked on this thing called send the sunshine where you know we thought well what if we could persuade people in a way that alleviated depression but using our social psychology and so and this is again before the iphone so imagine the kind of thoughts you had to be thinking back then but you know the idea was imagine there's some server that knows that there's two friends who are friends and they have both their phone numbers and it tracks the zip code of one phone number and realizes that you've been in a place you know with bad weather for six days in a row and because we know from seasonal affective depression disorder uh that's a big deal um just having bad weather for a while can kind of put someone down and so what if upon hitting that that condition it then sends a text message through something like a twilio to your you know this before twilio too and sends it to your friend mike and says hey would you would you take a photo of the sunshine and send it to your friend tristan who's had bad bad weather and you know the idea is we just be sending each other the sunshine and this was a really nice idea behind alleviating alleviating depression there's all sorts of positive applications like that we thought of around helping people go to the gym and meet their goals and bj has this nice model for um behavior equals mat b equals mat which is a behavior equals motivation times ability times trigger so uh someone whether or not someone does a desired behavior like going to the gym involves them being first motivated uh then having the ability like do they

Alleviating seasonal depression with tech (52:30)

have you know if they're trying to go to a boxing class do they have uh you know parabolic and gloves and uh you know the clothes and the and the shoes or do they are they staying with a friend where they don't have those things so they have to have the second ability and then the third is is there a trigger is there like an opportunity is there a moment is there a snap the fingers is there a ding then your smartphone is there a reason where right now you should consider doing that behavior and if you have all three of those things aligned then people will do it so you know we know all these kinds of things but um you know this also became relevant in the story about kamer genolitica because i remember uh back in that in that class there was one student group that actually had done there was this one segment in the class on the future of persuasive technology and ethical persuasive technology and there was one group that came up with the idea well what if in the future you had a profile on every single person on

Crafting messages to match personality traits (53:38)

earth and the profile was specifically what does their mind respond to that is persuasive like what how is their mind uniquely you know what's their map and what's their what are their set of psychological biases like if you said well harvard really you know said the harvard school of medicine said that this thing is true you know that would be persuasive for them because appeals to authority work with them or if for you Tim i said hey you know eric wines dine said x y and z you know we both know eric wines dine he's a really smart guy you know each of us are responsive to different stimuli and what if in the future you had this map of what is perfectly persuasive to each person and then we built technology that would automate persuasive messages based on your unique characteristics and this is actually exactly what kamer genolitica later was right it uses your big five personality traits if you don't know the big five-frame work it's your openness it's the ocean so it's openness conscientiousness agreeableness extraversion i got this to reverse and then neuroticism and so uh open yeah i won't go into the details but basically based on your personality traits you would deliver different political messages and that's what happened in the 2016 election um you know so this all relates to the conversation we just had about language and about you know brian katie and beliefs it's because uh once you understand the code and you can dip into the code it it's also it's incredibly dangerous what you can do with that because if you think about what do you do when you wake up in the morning it's the product of what's running the software that's running inside your between your ears and uh this is this is the kind of stuff that we studied in bj's lab so i've so many things to uh it's no stopping super super helpful background uh bj's good guy i just want to uh just to reiterate something you said which is this is not dr evals lair for you know i'm a levelant 20-year-old uh you know the code wizards it and bj actually in other classes focused on things like uh peace and world peace and it was difficult to get people this is a great example of language it was very difficult for to get people to agree on

BJ Fogg: True intentions for BJ's class on happiness (55:32)

what that actually meant yeah so he would focus on defining antecedents what are some components antecedents that would be necessary to lead to what anyone in the class would consider world peace and then he was able to get people to agree on some of the the uh the smaller antecedents and that ended up being the focus of the class right so it's very smart way to approach it he's he's a good guy so i want to underscore that and he just add on to what you're saying i mean do you know that the the full story of the peace thing which was awesome he actually had for a while back in i think it was 2006 or seven um multiple tech companies start a peace dot domain so it was like peace dot facebook dot com peace dot linked it dot com peace dot kab surfing dot com yeah he petitioned a few of the tech companies and the idea was could they each do something that would be the way that they are contributing to world peace um and so with facebook they had a running wall of new friendships and connections formed between israelis and palestinians it was a it was like a live feed of how many new relationships had formed in the last you know whatever day or something like that and couch surfing uh the cto of couch surfing actually was my collaborator on this time well spent uh initiative which later we'll talk maybe about uh took over facebook and apple and google in terms of some recent changes that they've been making to their products um you know he he had started uh couch surfing or worked on couch surfing which was a website before airbnb for finding free space to crash out when you're trying to stay with a friend and they also were part of this peace dot um initiative that bj started and they showed i think the number of people who'd stayed in each other's couches that were also from different um ethnic backgrounds that that would have been otherwise at war or something like that and so to bj's credit and so people really understand and get this it was not a diabolical dr evil lab for training you know psychological manipulation it was you know explaining the techniques and he also petitioned the ftc in the late nineteen nineties about uh at the ethics and the need for ethics and persuasive technology but uh i just want to make sure people got that before we go go deeper yeah and and on top of that uh we're just to add to that uh you know technologies are tools and tools of almost any type can be used misused abused they can be uh applied in many different ways and you know one of the one of the questions i've been kind of dying to ask you is focused on incentives i mean we have so many different direction we could go with this conversation but ultimately

Technologies Are Tools (58:06)

uh when i've read a lot of of what you've written when i've listened to you speak it becomes clear that uh at least to me that um much like the quote you you sometimes use from sociobiologist eel wilson the quote the real problem of humanity is the following we have paleolithic emotions medieval institutions and god like technology right and so this this this hypothetical situation that was a more of a thought experiment or a question from students in bj's class then manifested in a political campaign uh can really um paint a foreboding picture of the future right this very dystopian picture and what i'd would love to hear from you as we as we look at some of the the risks involved uh we're we're companies who are uh who are fueled and driven by advertising based models have cognitive neuroscientists phds i mean armies of highly intelligent trained people developing highly intelligent trainable technology to predict us better than we can predict ourselves yeah uh how do you incentivize companies engineers etc to do the right thing if and i mean it's presumptive to say that i know what the right thing is but let's just say that that for the sake only one right thing yeah let's just say for the sake of argument that we agree uh that uh is you've noted or at least another data reflects i mean let me find it here because i have a note here that just is like horrifying um when i look at it here we go so a few examples right so and uh feel free to fact fact check any of this stuff but you know with over a billion hours on youtube watch daily 70 percent are from the recommendation system the most recommended keywords in recommended videos where get schooled shreds debunks dismantles debates rips confronts destroys hates demolitions right so we have this extremism reflected in yeah uh technology which which we could talk about i mean we could talk about whether that's a reflection of or informing um the you know mass behavior but the ones that really uh paint a terrifying picture for mail i'll only give two examples but 2018 if you were a teen girl starting on a dieting video youtube's algorithm recommended anorexia videos next because those were better at keeping attention and then one more this was from a new york times articles uh adults watching sexual content were recommended videos that increasingly featured young women then girls to then children playing in bathing suits i mean it's just like oh it's it's really it can paint a horrifying terrifying picture uh at the same time i i know people who work at all these big companies uh as you do and yeah on a one-on-one basis these are good people uh the yeah but the business models sort of the incentives to shareholders and so on are such that these seem like very uh almost kind of predictable side effects like perverse side effects of the incentives that are in place so how do you how do you incentivize people to change this who are kind of at the at the at the at the driving you know in the driver's seat uh putting these things together yeah well i'm so glad you laid all that out because i mean that is what you've last said there which is that we shouldn't even be surprised by these consequences i mean they're the direct consequences you know we always say it's like these harms are not by accident they're by design they're not by designed by the people like you said the good

Business Models And Monopolies In The Tech World

Predictable and direct consequences of the business model. (01:02:10)

people who are say there's no way to facebook is like hey how do we are youtube or like how do we make this recommend as many pedophilia style rabbit hole videos as we can or let's recommend white nationalism or let's recommend you know hate you know the most extreme sort of hate inducing speech that is not what any one of these companies wakes up and does but we have to recognize this race to the bottom of the brain stem race to the deepest paleolithic instincts towards tribal warfare tied you know towards survival we're under attack the other side's going to come get us we got to get those immigrants this is our nature and a race for attention is a race to get consequences and you have to you know resonate at a deeper level than the other guys and so the game theory progresses so that you have to go deeper into social validation you have to go deeper into self-worth you have to go deeper into tribal warfare language um and so just just approach layout that you know these consequences are predictable and direct consequence of that business model when you say the business model we should also be clear it's not like the advertising business model causes this it's not it's not the rectangle that is the ad the Nike shoes that are causing outrage and polarization it's more the engagement business model the fact that i am not as youtube or facebook a neutral tool waiting here like a hammer waiting to be used at you know just when you want me i actually have a necessity i'm like a hammer sitting here with the stock price that depends on you using the in particular ways towards particular nails that cause other hammers to be activated so that other people keep using it um and i have five or a billion dollars at stake at keeping people using these hammers in particular ways and that is the disincentive that is the subversion of autonomy that is you know directly coupled with the the success of the product the success of the business model and the subversion of the social fabric unfortunately and so in terms of your question the first thing i wanted to do is to make sure we're all clear on that consequence being you know direct from you know falling out of the business model because you know i've been working in this for this field for a

When business success and capturing human behavior are aligned. (01:04:23)

long time and it's taken a while for the world to accept that that is the case i mean at the beginning i had conversations with people at some of these big attention engagement seeking companies you know five six years ago saying hey i think you know the business model here is addiction the business model here is whatever works at getting attention they're like yeah you might be right but maybe culture will wake up and see that on their own there was never a sense of responsibility in the part of some of those people and i think that's part of what we've had to do is just make it utterly clear that this business model does cause predictable harms at scales that are really hard to fathom but no comes the question of like okay so now we recognize that what do we actually want to do about it and you know i think anybody let you know like you you were here in Silicon Valley 20 years ago and i think it's how long were you it was like 15 years ago you were here i was i was in Silicon Valley from 2000 onward up until about a year and a half ago okay right but i just mean the center you know yeah the 2000 period to 2010 issue or you were in the thick of it i was yeah and i think you know the point being that all the people i know in the fenders of instagram and you know my friend is Araskan who you know was early at Mozilla and started the center for the main technology with me we we all got in the industry not because we wanted to to create big i don't know i mean this is unusual but we actually wanted just to help people we wanted to build really empowering tools technology that's more like a cello you know go back to the days of the Macintosh where it's it's a bicycle for the mind you know the whole point of of what what a computer was and Steve Jobs idea was you know if you take a human being and they've got their own locomotive capacity to expend some energy and then move a certain distance and they're not very efficient compared to the condor but if you give them a bicycle suddenly a human can like use a little bit of energy with their legs and the pedals and they're going further than a condor in terms of the locomotive efficiency and so his metaphor was technology could be a bicycle for the mind and i'm all for that and that's what so many of us got into this industry to do but then somewhere along the way um you know the the set of incentives that were at play forced that the thing would monetize as human behavior and that's that's where the the first problem comes in that success in the Macintosh was not directly tied to how many of your friends i could sign up to using and then getting them clicking on things and setting you notifications about when they click this desktop icon versus that desktop icon or you know there's no problem with the dovey photoshop there's no problem with microsoft word microsoft word wasn't tilting the world towards conspiracy theories or algorithmic extremism and setting notifications about when your friends didn't check the word document that you didn't send them it didn't have any of this stuff so the thing that the fundamental place that we went wrong is when we attached financial success directly to the capturing of human behavior the controlling and shaping of human behavior because that's where the persuasive technology stuff comes in because those principles became applied to how do i keep you engaged and so if you take an example like the follow button you know if you remember you know twitter and instagram were two of the first services that did this where instead of just adding someone as a friend which is the facebook model a bidirectional connection model of followers uh that follow button and model created a reason why you would always get new email like every day you get new email being like you've got two new followers you've got five new followers you've got six new followers and you always want to say oh i wonder who followed me today and so that was this beautiful invention that got people coming back um and ultimately to become addicted to getting attention from other people and the same thing with the like button so you know instead of persuading to get to capture your attention it was much cheaper to get people hooked to seeing how much attention they got from other people because now you autonomously like i don't have to do anything to you you are now autonomously going back to see how many views that i get on that youtube video how many views that i get when i played that video game and i posted it on twitch how many views did i get like did i get when i put that post up um and so i think that's that's what we went wrong is when we tied business success and billions of dollars to the amount that we captured attention and we have to go through a mass decoupling between business success and capturing human beings um and that's going to be uncomfortable transition it's a big transition i think that's of the scale of you know going from an extractive energy economy of fossil fuels to a regenerative energy economy you know that the metaphor we make is you know there's only there's only so many environmental resources and drilling for oil and that that worked great at generating um you know a whole energy economy that you know gave us all this up prosperity but now unless we want to deal with you know climate catastrophe we got to switch to a regenerative energy economy that doesn't directly couple you know profit with um extraction and the same thing is here except the finite substrate that we're extracting from is our own brains like we're scooping out the attention from ourselves because it takes nine months to put a new human being into the attention economy and uh and and we have to decouple this relationship that profit is directly coupled with the extraction and move it to a more regenerative model where we are not the the cow or the or the product but we're the customer what's um what might motivate or force say a facebook to change their model in the sense that if

How does a monopoly on attention develop? (01:09:50)

you look at Wall Street which is as a metaphor for investment and i'm not going to say it all investors are immoral that's not true at all but a lot of them are somewhat morally agnostic in the sense that if facebook can better and better monetize the capturing of attention this uh is a non-renewable resource of the mind yeah money will flow into facebook and then facebook will be positively reinforced and rewarded for doing what we're describing right uh so how do you how do is it possible to to divert the flow of that river i mean what what would is it going to take high-level policy change what what what what levers could be pulled that would that would catalyze a change yeah well i think just to name very concretely what you're pointing out is that this you know all the incentives point to continuing this sort of self-extraction right so why why would we stop scooping the attention out of ourselves destroying democracy and debasing our mental health when that's the thing that makes the most money and Wall Street is not going to stop funding it so to deepen that example you're giving um back last year in august when facebook sorry when twitter shut down 73 million fake accounts these were you know um what are called sock puppet accounts or fake accounts it could have been russian bots they could have been whatever uh they should have been rewarded for taking down these 73 million accounts but of course what happened when Wall Street saw this was that their stock price had previously been tied directly to how many users they have so when they take down 73 million accounts they're like oh well your company is worth a lot less than before but we actually have to do the opposite which is that we need to reward the companies for basically having a high integrity um public square and there's so many different facets to this tim but the to answer your question we're going to need policy that basically does you know helps this decoupling process happen we're going to need shareholder activism that puts board resolutions on the companies to make this change we're going to need internal employees advocating for this change saying you know hey i don't i want to move to a more regenerative model that's like the equivalent of people um last year advocating for time while spent which ultimately became part of the the design goal for marx zakoburg and facebook um in 2018 um so it's gonna it's a transition it's just like moving from fossil fuels like you know exon does not have an incentive to not be exon you know and sometimes that we wake up in even comfortable circumstances where you know our business model is based on a thing we didn't know it was bad at the time but we're starting to realize it was bad and you know in a couple of metaphor i've used for this in the past it's like let's say you run the nfl national football league like great sport we've been doing it for you know decades and decades and decades and uh you know lucky you your CEO of nfl and one day you know your your sports scientist um health guy comes up to you and says hey i think that when we smash people's heads together like this it's causing concussions and you wake up and realize that your business model is smashing people's heads together and selling it against advertising on tv and it's kind of the essence of the sport and no one wanted it to be this way but that's where we landed and now what do we do and it's really hard i mean everyone's going to try to put in the padding and we're going to try to increase safety standards and you do whatever you can but at some point the essence the existential essence of what football is about is that you know is this sort of process that does endanger people's people's heads uh and i think that's a situation that we're near now which is that we can't ask for internal change from companies who whose entire you know incentives are otherwise but with policy uh that decoupled success we can talk more about that but there's some ways to do it from the outside i'd love to yeah i'd love to talk more about this uh but the and uh this is this is relatively new territory for me i mean not as a user but certainly at a policy level or a sort of replacing business model perspective with some of these these gigantic companies uh you have far more time in the trenches than i do it is is uh what what are any of the kind of

Business models in uncharted territories (01:14:00)

archimedes levers or proof points that could cause a shift if any such thing could exist for example is there a company that is pursuing a different model though they could use the extraction the attention extraction model who if they succeed on a large scale could be get a a trail of similar companies or provoke a change in business model at some of these other companies are there any uh particular you know models to mimic or companies that are doing something that that reflects a viable alternative uh or or is it really just plant canvas at this point yeah i mean we're an uncharted territory because we have this situation where there's a monopoly on attention between you know a handful of major technology companies facebook twitter youtube you know snapchat instagram whatsapp kind of own the attentional environment and there aren't an alternative place to reach ten thousand people when you want to upload a video right you can't just get that same level of audience when you push it to vimeo and so these are kind of attention monopoly which is why one of the issues and one of the fun little things we got to deal with is competition um we one reason we're not getting different business models is you can't compete and get access to that same attention monopoly um so we we need this word you know chris use the co-facebook co-founder writing that op-ed in the new york times saying we have to break up facebook is there needs to be more diverse ways of people competing to produce products that are of different business models that support societies well-being that better protect the public square but then the response from the tech companies is going to be i think zakoberg said that you know they spend more money on protection and trust and abuse and russian misinformation protection and you know trust and safety and all that stuff then all of twitter's revenue combined so like take all of twitter's revenue in a year and they spend more money on that than on trust and safety than what twitter spends in in a year on whatever what they gain in a year on revenue so that puts us in this uncomfortable position where it's going to cost us something we can't just do it you know this is kind of like a non um i forget his last name but the book the winner take all you know it's we keep looking for these win-win solutions but sometimes we have to lose a little bit so that everybody wins and that's not a good message for um you know capitalists uh because that's not how we like to roll but um you know sometimes it works that way with organic food right like you realize that maybe regular food isn't so good and we want to get the clean food that's better uh that's organic it doesn't have the same pollutants even though there's some uh marketing and narrative that's baked into that assumption uh and we can sell it for higher price so the thing that's good for people um we can actually make money off of an a premium product but in this world these are the products that run the public square that run the world belief system so talking about beliefs the first you know however long we were talking just consider that youtube shapes more than a billion hours of watch time daily and there's two billion people which is uh who use it every day which is about more than the size of christianity in terms of a psychological footprint um youtube facebook

The World Belief System (01:17:24)

is 2.3 billion people um youtube is 2 billion people if you add up instagram and what's up it's another uh billion or so so you're talking about couple christianities of of psychological influence total uh this is an insane level of psychological influence so we better be really thoughtful this is why i think you know i my from my background i mean where i look at these things from is let's get really nuanced and hold up a microscope to what these things are doing to the psychological timelines of people you know what happens in your nervous system whether it's with the word climate change the word death tax or the word you know um send our sons and daughters to war you know between you know two billion people going down a railway where if you pull the lever they experience these set of consequences on youtube and if you don't pull the lever they experience these set of consequences that's like the trolley problem in philosophy uh that's kind of what i was thinking about when i was at google as a design ethicist is how do you ethically shape two billion people's thoughts where you don't even really get to make that ethical decision because your business model and your incentives are making that decision for you um and this is where we have to decouple it and we can talk about some concrete solutions i mean apple by the way is kind of the government of the attention economy they're like the central bank and they people don't look at them that way because they're just making this product called the iphone but they control the dials on basically what it means to get attention from people um and and where the you know the app store policies on business models and you

Apple As the Government of the Attention Economy (01:19:05)

know things like screen time that help you limit how much time you're spending their ways in which from top down you can change the incentives or do some quantitative easing on you know how people navigate through an incentive system that's fundamentally about manipulating their attention but then there's some deeper changes that we can talk about too yeah let's get into it what are some what are some deeper changes i like the sound of it we'll see so let's i know i i know let's be sort of giving you an opening here i mean the the window i'll swing at this saw at the soft pitch i'll take it yeah you know feel free to jump in the the one simple example is what happened with energy companies and utilities in the united states so it used to be if you think about it energy companies make more money the more energy you use so technically you know if they're running out of profits and they want you to use more they're incentivized to have you leave the lights on leave the faucet on leave the shower on just waste as much energy as possible because that's how they rake in the money right right mm-hmm okay so and clearly that's not right like you don't want a world where we're basically we profit from our own self-destruction except that's kind of what we're trying to avoid here in all the circumstances so uh what happened with energy is at least for i think at least half of us states went through this decoupling regulation where energy companies profit the more energy you use linearly so you use a little bit more energy they make some more money more energy they make some more money and then at some point you hit a tier where they want to disincentivize you they want to disincentivize you from using more so they say double charge you so now you use the same amount of energy but now they're charging you twice as much so that disincentivizes you from using it except they don't hold on to all of the profits from that to x cost they instead reinvest that extra cost into a renewable fund a fund that basically uh invest in renewable energy infrastructure so in other words the disincentive to use more energy is used to fund the transition to renewable energy right

Fresh Perspectives On The Attention Economy

Renewable Attention and the Attention Economy (01:21:00)

and now you can imagine something similar happening with technology where you can have an attention or advertising based business mom not saying this is the solution i believe in by the way but i think this is uh you know a piece in the toolkit is you can have a situation where you make money the more attention you get from someone but up until a very small point because beyond that point you're basically incentivized to create mindless consumption and zombification and teen mental health problems and loneliness and the whole thing right so you can imagine a world where we decouple attention success from business success um decouple the capturing of human behavior and manipulation of human behavior from business success and and then most importantly to reinvest that money into you know the equivalent of what renewable attention renewable human life you know things would look like and um that that could happen that's something that you could help regulate um uh with with laws uh you know ask a call phone or i'm sorry go ahead don't don't lose track yeah paul rummer go ahead paul rummer yet use a noble prize when you're economist had proposed something recently called like an attention data tax that has some similar characteristics that you want to progressively price um the attention companies because they have this this bad incentive where would you if it were up to you where would you apply those funds um so i mean in the long run i think that you can't have you know i said this on you know it's some other things i mean i you know i knew you've had mark and recent on the uh on the podcast and he has this this line that's pretty famous from 2011 that software is eating the world right um because fundamentally it's like okay if you could have taxis and our whole transportation infrastructure run without software or and it's not done with any intelligence and there's no demand side you know supply matching etc for you to do it with technology and you get all that efficiency of course software is going to eat the world it's going to eat up everything it's going to eat up media it's going to eat up advertising it's going to eat up taxis and transportation it's going to eat up every domain of life because it can always do it more efficiently but if you think about it what that means is take a morning take an area like saturday morning cartoons so that used to be run not by software used to be run by some human beings and some laws and editors curating what happens for children but then you let youtube for youtube just gobble up saturday morning and it also gobbles up with it all of the saturday morning protections and so as software eats the world like for example facebook you know we used to have equal price campaign ads on um on tv as regulated so tuesday night seven p.m it should cost the same amount for hillary clinton and donald trump to reach the same audience otherwise it'd be unfair we wouldn't be in democracy but you suddenly let facebook gobble up election advertising and now the price has no assurances that it's going to be the same equal price so what happens is as software starts eating the world what happens is private incentives eat the world we lose the public protections so to answer your question about where it goes for renewable uh funds is we we have to have some notion of things that are built to serve the public interest and not just private interests um i know this is happening in some discussions around ai were past a certain amount of wealth creation because these ai things once you really let them go can generate so much wealth by continuing to produce innovations and efficiencies and revenue and all the stuff that you know after some certain point shouldn't we just give that money back to the people you know give that money back to sort of extracting from us shouldn't it be ultimately for improving the greater lot for all of society and i think that's something that we may feel uncomfortable with but we have to do with these large technology companies because if they're running a constant for-profit shareholder maximizing extraction you know racket and they've got to keep maximizing and they've got to keep extracting they there's never a point to the end of their growth it's no wonder that they're over extracting from democracy and mental health and kids and all this other stuff if they have to keep growing their flow of attention i suppose also i mean this is just me kind of talking out my ass for a second but it's a

Technology Damages (01:25:05)

bad habit i have so here we go uh if even if one can't settle on a plausible alternative there could be a reasonable consensus on the undesirable side effects of the model right so you could as a stop get measure say a portion of funds past this point and it would be tricky to define whatever that point is is applied to say some mechanism for trying to alleviate uh teen mental health issues let's just say or film the blank right to try to offset the damage that is being done at the very least and and that could be a uh you know at least a possible discussion for a plausible stop gap until a viable supplemental model or alternative model is found towards which things get steered through uh some type of suppose it would have to be policy or regulation or something along those lines yeah well what i hear you saying fundamentally is about um you know this is a classic externalized externalizing harm model right like you know so oil is the most profitable you know form of creating energy and moving around the world and you know portable and all these great things but it so it

Externalizing Harm Model (01:26:30)

makes the most economic sense to go with oil um except if you account for the externalities if you account for the balance sheet of society the balance sheet of the commons a balance sheet of nature which get hurt by this seemingly most efficient cheapest form of energy and the same thing is true of advertising like it feels like while why in the world would we unite and pay for facebook when it's free i mean why in the way we do it like the problems the harm shows up on the balance sheet of you know our sleep of our of our collective democracy of our public sphere of the quality of our sense making the information ecology mental health it shows up everywhere and so what i hear you saying is hey well that's at least put a fund aside to pay for some of those externalities almost like carbon offsets or mental health offsets or democracy offsets but the challenge is that you know it's like wouldn't be better it's like there's this joke about capitalism it's like capitalism is prefer to give you diabetes and then get you subscribed to a profit maximizing diabetes cure that i keep you so you know on a subscription where i make money as i sell you the subscription for the solution versus just not creating the diabetes at all in the first place right and i think the question is how do we create systems that don't create the diabetes the informational diabetes the democracy diabetes the mental health diabetes with technology and us how do we not do it in the first place and by the way it's totally possible like you know instagram at the very beginning i remember when those guys first started and i was one of the early users because we we actually used uh was it called bourbon was the first yeah urban predecessor to instagram and you know used to be just about friends keeping up with each other's lives and it had some of the addictive qualities and you know had some of the infinite scroll and all that stuff but it didn't have this focus on celebrities and girls who basically competed on who would wear the you know fewer clothing and then be most recommend in the discover tab you know to get maximum audience and then kids basically realizing they could make money in selling their instagram page for the million followers to brands and that everyone wanting to compete and being a bigger influencer like all that culture of we're all addicted to being influencers and addicted to getting attention that is an externality of culture of cultural values that are not real but that actually came from instagram going down this over-extractive kind of growth-oriented path that you know that that they needed to not because you know they were evil people or anything like that but because the the business model once they're acquired by facebook they had to keep growing they had to get a bigger and bigger attention footprint and what you really want is you want it back to the early days i mean let's take it back to the you know the instagram guys and just following 10 friends and seeing where they are on the world and keeping in touch with our friends that's great you know and there's people who use instagram that way now and that's also awesome but we also have to account for the fact that the interface is not tuning towards keeping it just for that use case like instagram could be if it was truly humane just trying to you know help us pick those 10 friends that we really want to keep in touch with as opposed to let's maximize discovery and influencers and you know millions of followers and get lots of people looking at stuff that's that's an incentive of a for-profit public company that now has to run that incentive and you know the same thing with true with facebook by the way if you go back to early interviews with zuckerberg in 2005 at stanford he gives a speech at stanford with jim briar the uh entrepreneurial thought leaders seminar and he said you know well what is facebook and he said it's it's like an address book it's like a public it's like a utility for your social life it's a social utilities what he called it and that was closer to a model where it's more of a tool back to what you were saying about technology being just a tool like i'm i'm all of that i mean technology being an empowerment tool and i think there's beautiful things that can come from these things when they are operating as tools but the business model of advertising and engagement is is the anti-tool it does not want to be a tool it wants something from you and that's what we have to to you know draw that line there and decouple business success from not being a tool might sound aggressive i mean this is the no it's hard for you know i get it it's it's tough i mean this is we're talking about highly uh you know systems with extreme financial rewards associated with the problems that are manifesting and compounding right and yes it's a very thorny problem so let's it's just like climate change though right because it's like you know we're all addicted to the growth but like growth towards what growth towards our own self-terminating you know catastrophe it's like yeah we can't we can't get off oil because that's the only way we're going to get the thing and it's like yeah but the alternative is that we have self-terminating end point so we have to recognize that you know it's like Paul Hocken if you know him and his work on drawdown it's a it's like the top 100 ways to to address climate change and he says oh but people tell him like oh but it's holding climate change is so expensive it's going to cost us so much money it's like no it's actually the opposite way around if we don't do it it's going to cost us way more um we have to make the transition towards something renewable because it's actually going to be completely self-terminating if we don't because I you know the the information ecology the the thing that fuels how we make sense of the world in our democracy like democracy only can outcompete the Chinese authoritarian model if we have really good bottom-up information sources like diverse rich ideas marketplace type things and this business model of engagement the race to the bottom of the brainstem towards the salacious the outrageous the hateful speech the extremism stuff the pedophilia is not feeling our democracy with the best sources it's like we have the talk about you know personal life optimization and keto diets and you know nutrients like we're we're feeling ourselves the opposite of a democracy democracy keto diet right and we we have to flip this around and it's not a matter of this being my opinion or something like that or this being you know just being a motivated activist this is like I'm actually concerned about this because if we don't the alternative is a thousand billion times worse yeah for sure I uh it reminds me of a quote by and I never know how to pronounce this guy's name but Chuck palanek I think I'm getting it right uh and the it's the partial quote is big brother isn't watching he's singing and dancing he's pulling rabbits out of a hat big brother's busy holding your attention every moment you're awake he's making sure you're always distracted he's making sure you're fully absorbed and just goes on to say yeah by doing so you're no threat and I don't want to turn this into some you know viva lo resistance

How technological changes are fostering a new 1984 - governed by Huxley (01:32:50)

type of uh I'll tell you I mean this represents the um Neil I've never had amusing ourselves to death by Neil Postman I have not but I've I have heard of it it's uh there's this quote I'm gonna pull it up if I that's just worth reading really quick um we're all keeping eye out for 1984 um and uh you know we we thought about the dystopia that we would get was the big brother one but alongside Orwell's dark vision there was this other slightly older and less well-known but equally chilling vision of Huxley's brave new world it's Aldous Huxley and um you know he summarizes this way it says beautifully it says what Orwell feared were those who would ban books what Huxley feared is that there would be no reason to ban a book because there would be no one who wanted to read one Orwell feared uh those who would deprive us of information Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance Orwell feared we would become a captive culture Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelings the orgy porgy and the centrifugal bumble puppy this is 1930s as Huxley remarked in brave new world the civil libertarians who were ever on the alert to oppose tyranny they failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions um the ends by saying Orwell feared those uh that what we feel will ruin us Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us oh and that's that's essentially the premise of the work it's like there's two ways to kind of fail here and as in most systems there's almost always two ways to fail one more of a fail is the authoritarian big brother censorship sort of mode but with so little information that we don't have any and we're all restricted in top down control etc but then the bottom up way to fail is just overwhelmed in irrelevance in distraction and overstimulating our magic trick sort of brain with paleolithic uh social validation and tribal warfare and moral outrage and all that stuff that isn't actually adding up to anything and human agency which is unique to the world like choice is that thing that's sitting in between those two worlds you know informed effective choice good choice and that's what we right now like as a human civilization like that's where we got to be because those other two models are really bad and uh and self terminating in some cases if we cannot I mean my biggest fear about these issues is we have to be able to agree on a common reality a common truth because that's the only way if we don't agree on what's real or if we don't believe there is truth then we can't construct shared agendas to solve problems like inequality or climate change or whatever like we have real problems and we have to find ways that we actually can see those agreements and then construct actions together to to change it and I think that right now technology is kind of taking us away from that but the reason that we work on these topics is I want to live in a world where technology is giving us the superpowers to do that like superpowers for common ground superpowers for constructing shared agendas superpowers for instead of getting learned helplessness by seeing climate change news you know pounded into our nervous systems dosed to you know to two billion people a day uh to instead have you know mass empowerment like mass coordinated action that we can all take um and feel optimistic about all the progress we're making and all the things we can do next so that's that's kind of the project here is like we are trapped in this one paleolithic meat suit that's got these you know these kinds of bends and contortions that that bend reality in a way that can be hacked and we can also use those bends and contortions in a

Calming the noise of technology (01:36:54)

way that gives us the most empowerment and if we ever needed those superpowers it's right now this is a perfect segue I have I have a question for you that is personalized and I'm gonna I'm gonna start by finishing the quote that I ended up only breeding partially it's a big brother this is from Chuck Pelenak big brother isn't watching this is very close to what you were just saying with Huxley he's singing dancing he's pulling rabbits out of a hat big brothers busy holding your attention every moment you're awake he's making sure you're always distracted he's making sure you're fully absorbed he's making sure your imagination withers until it's as useful as your appendix and that would be a problem uh both on an individual level and certainly on a collective level and there's a there's a quote of yours that was in the uh I guess it TEDx Brussels if I'm getting the location right uh presentation I spend a lot of my time thinking about how to spend my time and I'd love for you to talk about what you do on a personal level to whether it's a firewall your attention or to sort of mitigate some of the damage slash distraction that every economic force seems to want to impose on you and uh so there's there's you know on one hand there's defeating Skynet and then there's like the day-to-day life of John Conner right so if you're John Conner like what what are some of the things that you do on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis to defend against some of these uh you know some of these forces some of these yeah some of these technologies it's funny when you mentioned this sort of John Conner and both living a personal life and defeating Skynet I just realized in you saying that that's basically both both my life is both of those things right now like every single day of my life is how do we defeat Skynet whether it's on Capitol Hill and just coming back from that last week or um you know the personal level of of just being being uh being effective so I'm well-rested so I can do that um you know it's really hard and part of why I worked on these topics for so long I mean that first head talk in 2014 was about time well spent and about the power of persuasive technology to make us distracted which is kind of how this all started was I found myself so easily distracted like I hated seeing this happen over and over again like you know you get one of these emails saying you've been tagged in the photo or someone commented mentioned you in a comment like this is appealing to really deep instincts like you're the protagonist of the show called your life and when someone tags you in a photo it's like oh something about me social proof is online what do they say is it good is it bad I have to see right now and it's really powerful stuff and the reason that I work on this is because I actually feel more sensitive than other people or I feel certainly very sensitive to these forces so it's why I think it's so important to protect them and protect against them and I think of it like we have to build these like exoskeletons for our paleolithic brains I mean the military kind of takes this stuff seriously right with you know in military combat and the kind of flight instrumentation you see in a aircraft military aircraft or something like that it's all about managing attention like with crazy levels of discipline and science and research about how do you build that exoskelet and that gives us that level of focus and and thinking about through the right questions and not the wrong questions and being well-rested and you know being able to stay up for many hours and focused on one single task and all that so now to completely answer your question what are the things that we do um you know I first of all like I said I struggle it's hard especially now because defeating Skynet comes with a lot of email and communications and it's like being part of and running a social movement for how to fix these things I mean we have a non-profit for those who don't know called the Center for Humane Technology where we focus on this and we get emailed by every major world government and you know people who are dying to fix these problems and we're trying to be of assistance and catalyzing that change so it comes with a ton of work and it's and social obligation to get back to people um and uh but some things that I found have been helpful I mean one thing I've been doing since I was uh in college is uh since we're mentioning these tips like the grayscale tip um which just to make sure your audience knows what that is so that the idea there is when your phone has colorful rewards it it's invisibly addictive it's like showing the chimpanzee part of your brain a banana every single time you you uh you look at the color of the icons and all that stuff and so one thing that you can do is you can go into and I think that you're probably going to list

Turning attention-sucking apps into mindfully useful tools (01:41:24)

this in the comments but it's something like I think it's general and then if you go to the settings app on your iPhone and then uh general and then if you scroll to accessibility and scroll to the bottom there's this thing that lets you triple click to set your phone grayscale and so you say why would I so I said my phone grayscale well it just strips out those color rewards so now when you look at your phone it doesn't have that just just a little bit less luster and psychological animation of your nervous system um and we help popularize that and it's mostly also for the social effect because when you do that people say oh your phone's grayscale why is that happening and it lets you tell the story about why you would do this and the attention economy and if you heard about time well spent that's kind of why we did that quick quick quick addendum on that uh so the triple click can turn it grayscale and back to color uh and I'll put that in the show notes so people can find that at the the another benefit of that uh which is which is one way to sell it uh is or an additional way to sell it is that it increases battery life also yeah uh quite substantially increases battery life uh and it makes it harder to find your icons which so might view as a bug but it's a feature if you're trying to use social media less yeah well so that speaks to a secondary uh thing that you know I've recommended for for a while which is if think of it your phone is um you know there's like a filter uh or other it's it's unfiltered so it accepts both unconscious mindless uses of it and conscious mindful uses of it and it can't tell the difference between when you're a zombie and you're out of anxiety reaching for it to just check again the thing you already checked 10 seconds ago uh and when you're actually saying no no no I really need to find directions to that party I'm going to I need to find those directions right now right I can't tell so you don't want to put up these arbitrary speed bumps or roadblocks between you and what you want uh generically because then you can't distinguish between those two uses so um another thing you can do is if you basically take off all of your your apps from your home screen um almost all of them except for the we recommend we call them the tools so like tools are your quick in and out utilities uh things like calendar things like lift or uber uh things like um you know messages that just let you quickly do something and then you're done um so those are fine to have in your home screen but if you move everything else off the home screen and instead train yourself to pull down from the top on an iPhone and type like I want to launch mail or I want to launch instagram or I want to launch twitter because if you type you have to be making more of a conscious choice I like that that's great so think of it as like you're you're putting like a a band pass filter between you and your phone that's only accepting conscious uses and rejecting mindless uses so that's like another thing you can do um another thing that I do if you want to be really militant about it is if you think about one of the problems with the way that phones vibrate it's gotten so bad that we now experience this thing called phantom vibrations where we we believe that our phone is vibrated even when it hasn't and we're we're simulating so often that we're we're just constantly you know reaching in our pockets to feel if it actually did vibrate and we check it again just in case and it's just a mess and um one of the things that would help alleviate this is if you have a custom vibration signature for different kinds of notifications so for example when I get a message through iMessage uh from from a contact I actually it buzzes three times in quick succession like biz biz like really fast and I can tell therefore when I'm getting a message from someone uh versus when I'm getting like a calendar notification like you're 10 minutes late for Tim's interview and that is a is a helpful thing because if you think about it your phone is like a slot machine it's buzzing in the same ambiguous way every time which forces you to say oh I wonder if that could be that thing I was looking for and then that's the excuse to get sucked in and then you get sucked into the rest of the thing so in general you want to minimize your your use of of you know you're you're needing to even check the thing in the first place and that's what that helps do and so you can do that by going to your notifications and unfortunately apple doesn't let you split up all of your um your your major categories of notifications I mean this is why when we push on technology companies and this is one way apple could be like a better government a better central bank is if they enable in the next version of the phone a thing that showed you basically here are the top three kinds of notifications that you're getting like here's like a continent map um of the major five categories of notifications do you want to set up a unique buzz signature for each of these five to distinguish them yeah or disable them or disable them right exactly so I mean but both and it and the whole point is we should have a whole this is like the environmental movement right it's like imagine there's this this is the thing we're trying to catalyze is that if everybody treated human attention as something sacred that we're trying to minimize our footprint on it as opposed to maximize how much we manipulate take extract scoop out of your nervous system um that's the fundamental change and if we treat it if everything was treating your attention as something sacred that like we want to move and change the minimal number of pixels on your screen we want the minimal number of vibrations to ever occur we want the minimal number of psychological anxiety concerns I mean this is another category people don't talk about is even when you're not looking at the phone the anxiety loops of concerns that are looping in your mind as a result of the 10 minutes ago when you were using your phone like oh did that person get back to me oh I wonder if I got new likes on that thing oh I wonder if i'm gonna get the address for that event you know if they sent that yet um there's ways in which the phones could silence those concerns by for example letting us set up a um like let's say when you go and do not disturb for two hours it said is there any it give you the option to say is there anyone who if you heard from them in the next two to three hours you would want it to make a special noise for uh and you could mark that out and that way you could now you can now not use the phone and have complete like separation from it because you have the certainty that you won't miss something important because that fear that we can miss something important is uh really powerful so that even when you go on do not disturb or airplane mode people still go back to their phones and they check so I think people just don't really realize the extent to which their deeper level nervous system and habits for reaching for this thing have been hijacked and this is about kind of un-hijacking your whole nervous system not just you know the way that the phone works but kind of alleviating and um you know releasing your whole nervous system from its deep connection to these expectations yeah totally and uh it's it's it's the

Technology Integration And Human Centered Design

Prompting deeper thinking about tech use patterns (01:48:20)

effect on the nervous system right like the actual biological cost is is something that is hard to fully take stock of until it's removed and it's huge and I at least once every six months try to go a few weeks without any use of social media and I find it I find it useful I find it fun I enjoy connecting with people through twitter and polling and there are some fantastic uses of of social media and I enjoy looking at it pretty pictures on instagram of cabins that i'm sure i'll never visit and things like this but the there there is a a like neuro biological cost and yeah one way one thing that I do that that people might also consider is if if you feel like you absolutely can't survive without social media or maybe that type of sentiment is disguised as I need this for my career in ab and c ways or I need this for my company in ab or c ways uh there are many instances where I will schedule using something like buffer or edger or one of these other tools for several weeks so I'll batch my taking of photographs those or whatever

Humane technology design patterns. (01:49:17)

it might be have those scheduled out for a few weeks and I give myself then a vacation from any type of active monitoring or responding to social media and the feeling at the tail end of that let's call it week or two weeks most pronounced after a week is not that this is going to sound really maybe ridiculous but it is not that dissimilar uh from a seven-day silent vipassaner retreat it is such a de-loading phase yeah uh that it's it's it's it sounds unbelievable until you actually try it um totally I mean I think what you're speaking to in general is something that we would call a humane technology design pattern which is you you know the there are going to be moments when we think of a thing we need to do and the inability to do it at that moment um uh leads us to have to open up twitter and and write that thing or send that email to ourselves or whatever and it you know it if we can't do it then when we have to um leave it on our nervous system is a looping concern so now for the rest of your day until you get to a computer or whatever until you do it's like looping and you like don't forget the same don't forget the same and there's a way in which if technology we're truly respecting um you know the fact that we're better off offloading these things into somewhere else where it's not taxing our nervous system um it could be a universal design pattern that you could enter something you want to do and schedule when you want it to happen and not do it immediately whether it's sending an email to someone or sending a you know uh the text message when you're um I think the way the iMessage thing works on an iPhone you send a message to someone while you're on airplane mode but it won't just say oh I'll send this when you get back I just won't send it and it forces it to be on you to go back and send it yes yeah and imagine if it said it like hey when do you want this thing to send it's like baked into the way iMessage works right yeah and we're baked into slash like Gmail offline right it would it would automatically send when you're connected as opposed to forcing you to go in click on this exclamation mark and confirm that you want to resend it's like yeah I do want to resend it because clearly it didn't get delivered the first time this should be pretty easy to logically to do this and and you have to have the certainty that it's going to work because if you don't have the certainty even if it does work like 90 percent of the time like you it's going to generate that extra layer of like an anxious timeline like just imagine this anxious timeline plopped down into your nervous system so that for the next two hours there's this extra 3 percent that your nervous system is just taxed by the fact that you're not sure for sure if this thing sent like you know Gmail is supposed to send it because it was an offline mode and they promise that they will but if you don't have that that certainty um you know that we have to have that kind of confidence and I think this is actually one of the simplest things that technology could do is there's a lot of uncertainty about um stuff just doesn't work consistently you know like a lot of this a lot of the

The fantasy of conscious and unconscious usage. (01:52:06)

the stress and the background radiation of of anxiety would go down if we just had more consistency in the way that we believed that these things would would work as opposed to um yeah the ways that they they are periodically broken I mean another one I wanted to mention that I do in terms of creating a fortress or firewall of attention I actually haven't talked about this one but if you turn on um in accessibility settings on a Mac um the zoom feature I don't know if you ever use this but you can like zoom in to a certain part of the the screen yeah um and I do it where you hold down the control key and then you just use two fingers to sort of zoom in and zoom out but what I do is when I'm trying to write for example um I easily get distracted by any other pixels that happen to pop into the screen like it really affects me I'm hypersensitive and so when I'm doing any writing I'll just zoom into that text field so it actually occupies the full 15 inches of my MacBook Pro screen and it helps me really focus and using things like that if you if you just imagine that I'm trying you're literally trying to conserve the number of pixels that change in an unexpected way because that will hijack and make it easier to forget or otherwise detour you from something that you're doing and all of us again is like currently on us to do right this is like this extra cost that we all have to pay to know these tricks and listen to these podcasts and you know fiddle with these settings a hundred times but the whole premise of this kind of work is imagine a humane and regenerative world where this is how it works by default where everything is trying to minimize its footprint on our attention and all the defaults are set to make it as seamless as possible and to do it the way that you would want it to work and to not have to double think and think oh maybe did send I got to send that again just that certainty that I can actually have peace of mind I can actually do not disturb per day because I know that you know out of office messages or I'm not going to respond for two days

Tech integration optimus redux (01:54:08)

to email was built into the native functioning of how email worked on every email app or messaging app right we don't we don't get that chance to they don't get in WhatsApp doesn't have a move that says hey I want to go on vacation for a week and this is the message I want to send to the people that are in this class of contacts like that could be baked into the way that messaging works the ability to disconnect without missing something important and that's the premise of what has to happen is a deeper redesign that treats human attention as sacred and that treats our cognition as something that we need to conserve for the areas we most need it in the big decisions we have to make in our lives that's what love to see yeah me too and I suppose a part of that is people developing the awareness of the value of their attention so that they are perhaps willing to pay for things that preserve and that attention and treated as sacred by design right exactly attention is a scarce resource I mean it is a certainly a limited resource I know we only have perhaps a handful of minutes left and I'd love to ask you as someone who I would I would imagine has read quite a few books in your day and you mentioned if you've mentioned a few you mentioned metaphors we live by you mentioned abusing ourselves to death are there any particular books that you have gifted often to other people or tend to recommend most often or have recommended a lot to other people do any come to mind that's a great question um you know Neil Postman in general was a media thinker about some of the topics we discussed today is just excellent I mean he foresaw so many of the problems in his books and using ourselves to death and another one by him is called Technopoly which also is about how when culture surrenders to technology and especially the quantification of metrics and SAT scores and time spent and GDP and these kinds of things he covers in that book I highly recommend there's another book called finite and infinite games do you know this one yes I do my cars yes James Carr's the religious studies professor do you interview him your mouth no I haven't I would certainly be open to it

Book recommendation: Finite and Infinite Games by James Carse (01:56:22)

it's a fascinating fascinating book yeah yeah and that's just a general philosophy one about life and how to I don't know navigate in a more improvisational way and ask like what what game am I really playing in an interaction am I playing for a finite game outcome to win the game or am I playing to keep playing which has a lot of overlaps with improvisation and things like that yeah that's a that's a fantastic book people can get a very good taste of it by going to good reads and looking at highlighted portions for finite and infinite games also highly recommended by Stuart Brand and a lot of other a lot of other really really folks I respect a whole lot before we I'm sorry I was just a recommend one more if you're into podcasts but someone who I've learned a lot from in terms of the civilization level dynamics around you know finite games operating on a or infinite growth games operating on a finite playing field and the kind of the fundamental problems of capitalism I recommend looking at Daniel Schmachtenberger there's a future thinkers podcast episodes with him and his thinking has been hugely informative to my own so recommend that for listeners wonderful and I will figure out how to spell that and that will go into your show notes as well I this has been so much fun uh Tristan I really appreciate you taking the time these are important topics these are these are timely but uh only going to become more relevant and more important is there anything else you would like to say anything else you would like to point people to suggestions you'd like to make anything at all that you'd like to share is closing comments uh before we wrap up um well no first just thank you for for having me I've enjoyed it as well it's nice to finally connect I think if we had many friends who've been trying to connect us for a while yeah um and uh you know I think if you're interested in how we reform the attention economy and how technology's been working I just recommend people check out our work at the center for humane technology um you could find me on twitter @tristanharris or the center for humane technology website um but uh you know this is going to take a village to make

The Center for Humane Technology > (01:58:47)

these changes and I think it might seem really hard but then what I would encourage people to do is recognize that you know our paleolithic brains are not meant like if you ask like is our paleolithic instincts are they designed to do well to look at a massive problem like climate change and just be like great let's get to work or are they more designed to look at a huge problem like that and say oh my god I have no idea what to do let me put my head in the sand and it's definitely the latter and I

Closing Thoughts And Final Recommendations

Tristan's last big lesson (01:59:01)

think that the thing that we have to recognize is that when you see big problems recognize the way that our instincts would bias us to put our head in the sands and ask instead well what if there's no one else who's going to solve these problems but us um because my last big lesson that I'll share with people because I had a crazy couple of years I've been in the rooms with heads of state and um you know the the highest rooms possible considering these problems there there are no higher rooms and I used to think in my life that there was this magic room of adults somewhere that you know we're actually thinking about all these problems and they had it all figured out and don't you worry Tim you know pat you on the head they they've you know we've got this one son you know we really have this one figured out and I've my lesson this year is no such room exists around some of these big problems like with climate change there there isn't some master plan that everyone's working on and with this one there isn't some you know just group of people at Facebook or like that's nice just on but we're gonna fix this whole thing like it really is this emerging issue that I think people need to get used to each of us who can especially who have the bandwidth to take responsibility for the world that we live in and ask what can we do because it was frightening and terrifying to realize at first that there wasn't a bunch of other adults you know or at least not that many adults in these rooms who knew the answers to these questions and that suddenly I was one of them and then the second part is

Tim and Tristan's parting message (02:00:36)

realizing wow okay here we go what what can we now do to navigate what levers can we pull and I think if everybody saw that they really were an active agent in the system and not just a passive participant they would we get there a lot faster so I really encourage people to do that we are all John Connor we are all John Connor that's a great that's a great episode title well these it's a very important message and look forward to hopefully spending some time together in person perhaps we can rope in Eric and some others yeah let's

What's next (02:01:11)

do that let's do that I miss Eric and and really appreciate you taking the time again this is this has been a lot of fun for me and very very enlightening very insightful and I have a whole sheet of notes that have taken on things that I want to follow up on I will link for everyone listening to all of the the social links the and so on in the show notes also all the books we've mentioned everything else will be linked at if you just search for Tristan or Harris although then Sam will pop up a couple times as well so I'll have to parse that and until next time yeah thank you so much Tristan thank you so much for having me Tim and to everybody out there thank you so much for listening. Hey guys this is Tim again just a few more things before you take off number one this is 5 bullet Friday do you want to get a short email from me would you enjoy getting a short email from me every Friday that provides a little more soul of fun for the weekend and 5 bullet Friday is a very short email where I share the coolest things I've found or that I've been pondering over the week that could include favorite new albums that I've discovered it could include gizmos and gadgets and all sorts of weird shit that

5-Bullet Friday (02:02:22)

I've somehow dug up in the world of the esoteric as I do it could include favorite articles that I've read and that I've shared with my close friends for instance and it's very short it's just a little tiny bite of goodness before you head off for the weekend so if you want to receive that check it out just go to that's I'll spell it out and just drop in your email and you will get the very next one and if you sign up I hope you enjoy it.

LinkedIn Jobs (02:03:22)

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