I agree with the issues raised in this video from a couple of years ago, but the way Mr. Harris addresses it is naive, to say the least, and maybe even hypocritical, perhaps (did nobody else note the clickbait title of the video?).

First, who’s to say whether the content a user is paying attention to is something they *want* to be focused on, as opposed to content on to which they were “scheduled” by their newsfeed, app, or influencer? How do you differentiate and calculate that segmentation? Who decides the nature of the relationship which that content is having with you? Did you *want* to read this post, or did your subscription schedule it? At the time you clicked on it, it was the latter, which would suggest you were manipulated to watch something you might otherwise not have chosen to watch. Yet, once you finish reading this and watching the accompanying video, you may come to the conclusion that you found the 6 minutes well spent, and the presentation helped you to think about an issue of import, so it became the former scenario, i.e.: you wanted to watch it. Chicken, meet egg.

Furthermore, while it’s a lovely idea in some sense, why should a company that is only profitable if users spend time on its site invest time and money encouraging people to *leave* its site? It’s as if you expect a gas station to greet you, as you drive in to refill, with a big sign saying “please leave now, and go ride your bike”. Those of you who know me are well aware of my hope that people will walk and bike more, but that does not mean I expect gas stations and car companies to invest in that movement, to their own detriment.

I find these sorts of speakers spend so much time telling us how we are all unwitting victims of some nefarious illuminati, instead of reminding us that we are each responsible for our own choices and world views, and we need to increase our active participation in how our days are filled. Stop waiting for Netflix and Facebook to program your content, and program it yourself! Take agency.

Mr. Harris does close with a worthy observation, in that human beings have certain boundaries that ought to be acknowledged and honored (“sleep” is the one he mentions, but there is also eating – and especially healthy food choices, learning more positive information about cultures other than our own, understanding the benefits of more thoughtful and well-informed choices, etc, etc…).

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