Technology undermines human willpower by stealing our attention and supercharging information distribution. We are stuck in a gif loop of variable rewards while bombarded with trivial “breaking” news.
We can’t escape the ‘hypnotic effect’ of digital stimuli because it’s got us hooked. We are stuck in destabilizing habits that resist self-regulation. Like lemmings, we keep coming back for more. Writes Nir Eyal:
“Ubiquitous access to the web, transferring greater amounts of personal data at faster speeds than ever before, has created a more potentially addictive world. According to famed Silicon Valley investor Paul Graham, we haven’t had time to develop societal “antibodies to addictive new things.” Graham places responsibility on the user: “Unless we want to be canaries in the coal mine of each new addiction— the people whose sad example becomes a lesson to future generations— we’ll have to figure out for ourselves what to avoid and how.”
Profiting from all distraction are companies that offer free services in exchange for advertising. Facebook, Google, et al. have turned their users’ eyeballs into lab experiments for clicks where humans get lost in a zoo of status updates and amplification. We show zero restraint to our technology vices, what professor Ian Bogost calls the ‘cigarette of this century.’
How do humans push back against addictive technology?
Computers intend to make our lives better, what Steve Jobs called, “bicycles for the mind.” What he didn’t foresee is the rapidity of change. Even radio and tv took time to evolve. What we’re experiencing now in the internet-era is hyper-speed beyond human comprehension.