Tristan Harris and Aza Raskin of the Center for Humane Technology have penned a Medium post in which they pose the radical question, “How can tech step up for humanity?” They’re mostly thinking about social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, which have largely restricted themselves to simple attempts to provide reliable information and weed out actively harmful posts. Those are positive steps, of course.
But mere information will always struggle against the many insidious ways in which social media platforms are used to persuade and manipulate users. Just look at the reports from the UK of people torching cell towers because of insane conspiracy theories that claim 5G wireless is somehow responsible for the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. Deleting such posts would be helpful, but even more so would be to change the minds of the would-be arsonists.
Harris and Raskin suggest various ways that social media platforms could employ commonly used persuasion principles to accelerate the kinds of behavior necessary to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Give their thoughts a read and chime in—what other ways could these platforms benefit the public health at a time when it’s so critical?
Similarly, outside the social media space, major tech companies like Apple (see Tim Cook’s video), Google, and Microsoft have focused on donating money and supplies to support public healthcare efforts, helping distribute basic information, and keeping their systems running through traffic increases of 10 to 20 times normal. That’s all good, but is it really putting our best and brightest tech minds where they could have the most impact? What would you do if you were in charge of one of these tech giants?