videoOctober 29 2015

An ethical attention economy

Tristan Harris

Databite No. 58

In the Attention Economy, the competition for a billion people’s attention (on screens, apps, the web or virtual realities) has become a race to seduce their psychological instincts. What if technology were instead designed to make the best use of people’s time that’s in line with their own values and long-term goals? Tristan, a design ethicist at Google, explores how we might address this problem with something like a B-Corp or Organic movement for technology, and a certification and rating that measures “Time Well Spent” to replace the maximization of “Time Spent.” He will also explore hidden inequalities and biases in the existing attention economy and how new standards, like a Universal Basic Rights to Attention or new Design Standards for Choicemaking on Screens, might address them.

Tristan Harris has spent more than a decade studying the influences that hijack human thinking and action. From his childhood as a magician to his work in the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab where he studied persuasive technology, Tristan became concerned about the need for ethical and humane technology.

About Databites
Data & Society’s “Databites” speaker series presents timely conversations about the purpose and power of technology, bridging our interdisciplinary research with broader public conversations about the societal implications of data and automation.