Former Google, Facebook Execs Rebel Against Companies They Helped To Create

The race to catch the attention of people and keep them tuned in online seven days a week makes it more difficult to disconnect and causes stress, according to a group of technologists who helped to build companies like Facebook, Google and Mozilla.

Center For Humane Technology, alarmed at the effect on humanity, says these companies have gone too far -- and have created a society of people who would rather interact virtually on social sites than in real life. They say today's social networks would rather reward outrage and false facts that capture greater attention, which divides humanity so people can no longer agree on the truth.

That's a pretty harsh statement coming from a group of early innovators who helped to build the internet economy.

As first reported by The New York Times, the group Center for Humane Technology, along with a nonprofit media group Common Sense Media, plans an "anti-tech addiction lobbying effort and an ad campaign at 55,000 public schools in the United States."

The Truth About Tech campaign aims to educate students, parents and teachers about the dangers of excessive technology use.

Comcast and DirecTV are partnering with the campaign, donating media and airtime. Facebook early investor Roger McNamee joined the Center for Humane Technology after realizing the effects of what he helped to create.

"We were on the inside," Tristan Harris, a former in-house ethicist at Google who heads the group, told the New York Times. "We know what the companies measure. We know how they talk, and we know how the engineering works."

Harris said the largest supercomputers in the world are inside Google and Facebook, and they are pointing them at the brains of children.

It's all about the effect of technology on human minds, especially those of children.

"Facebook appeals to your lizard brain — primarily fear and anger," McNamee told The New York Times. "And with smartphones, they’ve got you for every waking moment."

Venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya, an early Facebook employee, told The Verge in November that the social network was "ripping apart the social fabric of how society works."

The group is recruiting site visitors, asking for their assistance on getting the word out to educate others. 

Interestingly, I have done many of the things suggested by the group to move away from always being connected, such as charging your mobile phone at night in the other room, removing social media apps from your phone, and sending audio notes or calling rather than texting. 

What will this mean to advertisers? Will consumers become more sensitive to these messages? Perhaps then they may pay more attention to search, video and display ads when they see them.


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