Making Addiction Hands-On

Last night, Anderson Cooper reported a story for 60 Minutes featuring ex-Google product manager Tristan Harris who outlined what he called “the race to the bottom…of your brainstem.” It’s a fascinating piece on how some of our finest minds engineer addiction into the cellphone experience. And yes, in a bit of irony not lost on me, I watched this piece on my phone via a Facebook link. Regardless, it is well worth your fourteen minutes to watch here.

Applying neuroscience to create dependent behavior.

Harris contends that intentionally manipulating our dopamine and cortisol levels builds dependency, making your cell phone the neurological equivalent of a slot machine or a cigarette. Which makes total anecdotal sense. You don’t even have to watch the video to relate to how our compulsion to check and recheck keeps all of us in a constant state of anxiety.

But another unsettling thought entered my mind as I finished watching this provocative piece; why now? Why talk about Silicon Valley overreach at this particular moment? It wouldn’t have anything to do with the new Tom Hanks movie The Circle based on Dave Eggers novel about, well, a neurologically manipulative Silicon Valley company, coming out in theaters April 28th?

Nahh, that’s just a coincidence.


Leave a Reply