‘Time well spent’ is an illusion
This morning I enjoyed watching this Wall Street Journal video
featuring Silicon Valley engineers talk about their second thoughts about the addictive products they’d developed. There was no paywall for me, so you should be able to see it.
The inventor of infinitely scrolling pages, for example, thought he was on to a great thing until he realised how much time people must waste needlessly scrolling through rubbish as a result.
It’s great that Silicon Valley has woken up to its responsibilities, and is starting to see tech addiction as a potential public health issue. 'Time well spent’ initiatives at companies like Google and Facebook show that the problem is being taken seriously at the highest levels.
But this isn’t just kindheartedness, it’s self-preservation. Tech companies know if they don’t stay ahead of the issue themselves, they’ll be regulated into dealing with it. Better to address it on their terms than on those of governments around the world.
And that’s why I’m not sold on the idea of wholesome tech companies wanting to limit the time we spend with their products. The move comes at a time when tech firms are broadening their footprints as widely as possible. You’re being encouraged to have new products from Silicon Valley giants in your car, kitchen, TV, home security system. Even in your bedroom
Sure, you might end up using your phone a bit less, but Silicon Valley wants to be all around you, all the time. And taking a break from it is going to be increasingly difficult.