This week CBC’s ‘The Current‘, the most popular radio program in Canada, aired a segment about “calm technology,” featuring thought leaders in the digital distraction and productivity space.
Guests for the segment were Fred Stutzman, Freedom’s founder and CEO, Tristan Harris, Co-founder of the Time Well Spent campaign and former Google Philosopher in Residence, and Peter Reiner, professor at the National Core for Neuroethics at the University of British Columbia.
The segment addressed the growing need for healthier digital practices as problems of scattered attention, screen-time stress, and digital addiction continue to become increasingly prevalent.
As first guest, Fred Stutzman discussed the severity of the problem and how solutions like Freedom enable us to break habits and develop better focus and work habits. Here’s a short excerpt:
Anna Maria Tremonti: How serious are people’s problems with attention, or focus, or managing their time then if technology like Freedom is necessary?
Fred Stutzman: So there are all these technologies that are co-located inside these devices that are designed to distract you. Facebook, Twitter – they are great services, but they want your attention so they’re competing for your attention and it’s up to us to find a way and strategies to deal with that. I think it’s a huge problem. I think it’s one that is if we resort to pure willpower, it’s quite challenging and so there’s a real interesting area for where technology can come in and solve that problem, so that’s where we are.
Anna Maria Tremonti: At the same time, is an app like yours complicit in feeding the idea that users cannot disconnect from technology in any other way through their own willpower?
Fred Stutzman: I think our app harnesses that willpower. …What we see in the data, is that when people use an enabling technology like Freedom or any other app out there, it’s working with them. It’s not replacing willpower. There still is some willpower in getting it set up and deciding you want to use it. It’s basically translating that intention into action.
The second guest, Tristan Harris, reiterated Fred Stutzman’s point for the growing need for ethically designed tech. Harris explained,
“There is this attention economy where everyone has to escalate their persuasive tactics in order to get more of people’s attention. To get you to use it means tapping into the psychological triggers which kind of activate you to come back, spend some time, invest and then get hooked so that they can bring you back the next time and that results in this increasingly persuasive internet.”
The third and final guest, Peter Reiner, delved into the the ways in which digital technologies have become almost seamlessly integrated into our daily life, and the ways in which we use technology to extend our minds’ abilities. He explained that although there has been an undeniable increase in productivity over the years, this increase has flatlined with the introduction and growth of social media.
Read more and listen to the segment [24:55 total for 3 guests] here: