Within the first 10 minutes of the first class of the first semester of tech school, my professor said something to my class that I will never forget:
Unchecked technology is ultimately dehumanizing.
One particularly insidious form of this grew up within the context of our present day “attention economy”—our phones. Now, it’s not that our phones are bad, it’s just that they are designed to keep our attention.
According to Dr. Thomas Ramsoy3, an expert in Neuroscience and a critic of “Neuromarketing” practices common today, one trick used to keep us glued to our phones is color. It can be used to induce “subconcious decisions.” Ever wonder why the notification badges on your phone are red? It’s because they draw your attention.
Tristan Harris, who used to work at Google as their Design Ethicist equates this phone douchbaggery to a slot machine.4 When you pick up your phone you’re pulling the handle. If you get a text message you win, if you get nothing you lose, but the dopamine hit is enough to keep you coming back.
And that’s how the entire world got a legitimate phone addiction.
The Center for Human Technology (Harris’ new gig) has a list of tips for combatting phone addiction. One novel idea is to put your phone in grayscale mode. This basically disables mind-control.
For the last week I have “gone gray”, disabled all notifications except for text-messages, and removed all social media from my phone5, and I can tell you that it reduced my compulsive behavior by at least 80%.
So I don’t know if I’m cured, or even if I want to be cured but I definitely feel more in control of my phone than I have in some time. And that’s the point isn’t it? To put tech in check. Hey I like the sound of that.