That’s an argument being made these days because research indicates that, 1) humans are prone to addictions, and, 2) Apple’s customers are human, and, 3) it looks as if smartphones are addictive, and, finally and as always, 4) Apple is to blame.
I see where this thought bucket is going but there are enough holes in the argument to ensure it will never arrive at its destination with the same thoughts before the journey started. Humans crash cars. Are automobile makers responsible for those crashes?
Crazy Town, U.S.A.
What’s goin on here? Well, people who get paid for writing a perspective piece on ludicrous ideas are all the rage these days, especially Farhad Manjoo writing in The New York Times.
The headline says it all.
It’s Time for Apple to Build a Less Addictive iPhone
OK. But are not such addictions– like the opioid craze– more personal choice than anything else?
It’s not Apple’s fault that you feel enslaved by your phone.
OK, I do not feel enslaved by my iPhone X. Do you? Are you? Or, maybe the choice and use of various applications makes you appear and feel like maybe you’re addicted to, say, Notifications?
But if Apple is not to blame for such enslavement, why are we talking about Apple taking the brunt of responsibility that customers and users take?
[Apple] has a perfect opportunity this year to create a brave and groundbreaking new take on that device: a phone that encourages you to use it more thoughtfully, more deliberately — and a lot less.
Why would Apple do that? Do Apple’s customers want that? If they do, then why not just point such encouragement at ourselves instead?
Tech “addiction” is a topic of rising national concern. I put the A-word in quotes because the precise pull that our phones exert over us isn’t the same as that of drugs or alcohol.
But it’s an addiction and a headline in a once-major publication still generates eyeballs.
Researchers who study how we use digital technology have for years been warning of its potential negative effects on our cognition, psyche and well-being.
And we still elect a president every four years. Go figure. Frankly, there is a lot going on that has definite negative effects on our cognition, psyche, and well-being but people still watch the same TV news channels, flip open Facebook to read drivel, and find their way to Breitbart News even without the inspiration of Dear Leader’s dear leader.
Recently, a parade of tech luminaries, including several former Facebook employees, have argued that we’re no match for the sophisticated machinery of engagement and persuasion being built into smartphone apps.
I agree with that. Humans are sad. Down with humans.
They’re worried about distraction, productivity, how social networks alter our emotional lives and relationships, and what they’re doing to children.
First it was rock’n roll, then sex, then sex, drugs, and rock’n roll, yet here we are; earth’s dominant creature about to be destroyed not by cock roaches, but by an unending stream of addictive breeding Notifications.
Companies that make money from your attention — that is, ad-supported apps like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube — now employ armies of people who work with supercomputers to hook you ever more deeply into their services.
Wait a minute. Are we talking about Apple? Or, companies supported by online advertising; companies that depend upon addicted eyeballs to pay the freight of existence?
What does Apple have to do with policing Facebook, Instagram, Google, YouTube, et al?
I got to thinking about Apple’s responsibility last week when two large investors wrote an open letter asking the company to do more about its products’ effects on children.
True story. Funny, too. They are not large investors. Combined, they own about $2-billion of Apple’s more than $920-billion stock valuation, so, put another way, it’s about .002-percent, so, yes, more than I own, but no, not much, relatively speaking.
Former Google design ethicist Tristan Harris:
I do think this is their time to step up. In fact, they may be our only hope.
Then we’re doomed as a species– at least, the Apple-toting component of the species, because this addiction does not seem to be an Android smartphone problem; nobody is talking about Android or Google here– because most of the so-called controls critics mention are already available.
Apple’s business model does not depend on tech addiction. The company makes most of its money by selling premium devices at high profit margins. Yes, it needs to make sure you find your phone useful enough to buy the next one, but after you purchase your phone and sign up for some of its premium services, Apple doesn’t really need you to overdo it.
Then why are we talking about Apple? What did I miss? Oh, yeah. “They may be our only hope.” Got it. Onward!
With a single update to its operating system and its app store, Apple could curb some of the worst excesses in how apps monitor and notify you to keep you hooked (as it has done, for instance, by allowing ad blockers in its mobile devices). And because other smartphone makers tend to copy Apple’s best inventions, whatever it did to curb our dependence on our phones would be widely emulated.
Hahaha. LOL. Batterygate.
I’m all for more granular controls over Notifications gone amok, and that’s something Apple can do, likely is working on for future iOS updates, but our favorite iMaker does not have the ability to make us implement such features short of a comprehensive cognitive test before purchase.
Yes, Apple can help us out, but Apple isn’t responsible for our behavior so lets tune down to hysterics.
I have a theory about elections and politicians that is related to iPhone addiction. Everyone is disappointed in Congress, right? The majority of voters are disappointed in President Trump. I get that. But the real problem is not elected officials. The problem lies in those who did the electing. The voters. They need to know how to vote better. They don’t. So, let’s come up with a better voter education and performance system. And why is there a one-person, one-vote system anyway? If you’re a smarter voter, shouldn’t you get more votes?
Likewise, if you’re an iPhone customer, aren’t you already knowledgable about the dangers of smartphone addiction and shouldn’t we be talking to Google instead of Apple?
No. Wait. Money trail. Sorry. My bad.