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Issue 12: The Silicon Valley Crisis of Conscience
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Issue 12: The Silicon Valley Crisis of Conscience

What happens when Silicon Valley, which has ruthlessly manipulated our time and attention for profit, has a crisis of a guilty conscious? In this issue of The Slow Scroll, we are examining how social media networks and tech giants must face the consequences of their power more than ever. We also chat with Co-CEO Lukasz Anwajler, of Poland-based tech company Mudita about how technology is used in different cultures. Read on for more!

The Limits of Self-Awareness in Silicon Valley

Don Draper, from Mad Men, in his wellness-backed epiphany to sell more Coca-Cola.

Nestled on the beautiful California coastline in Big Sur, the Esalen Institute is a non-profit haven for Silicon Valley bigwigs to escape and to find spiritual enlightenment. Following in the footsteps of Aldous Huxley and Timothy Leary, billionaire CEOs experiment with psychedelics, scream therapy, and dive into what it means to be a better human—which puts them at odds with their company's bottom line. 

This in-depth examination from The New Yorker is illuminating, and though it certainly calls the ethics of big tech into question and highlights their own self-awareness of how problematic their profits are, it brings up the same question over and over: now what? Nobody seems to have a concrete answer—yet.

Instagram Hiding Likes... For Its Own Profit?

Back in April, Instagram made big news when it started testing hiding the number of likes on posts. Their goal was to get "your followers to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get.” Currently, this is happening only in Brazil, Australia, Ireland, Canada, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand.

In theory, this move should make Instagram less 'sticky', though a user would still see the number of likes they get from the backend. This move even seems to be motivated by dollar signs: since Instagram is shifting their platform to allow advertisers to directly promote the posts of influencers, that would mean more money in Instagram's pockets. So despite the step that seems to be in the right direction, it's hard to tell what it'll change, or if it'll even be a global change. 

Interview: Co-CEO of Mudita, a tech company that creates 'humane products'

Is the future feature of cell phones... featureless? Much like the Light Phone, Poland-based tech company Mudita makes a cell phone that is designed to connect you to other people, and not distract. It features a a low SAR (specific absorption rate—a measure of the rate at which energy is absorbed by the human body when exposed to a radio frequency) and an eye-friendly E ink display.

We chat with Co-CEO Lukasz Anwajler (all the way on the left) about Read on to learn how to counter the cramp!

How do you think society's relationship with tech varies between cultures and countries?
It’s interesting to observe the various ways technology is used in different countries. For example, in Africa, you might notice more smart feature phones on KaiOS, as opposed to in the US, where you might notice more people using iPhones! You can see the particular ways phones are used culturally in terms of the way we consume data. 

Some cultures prefer to make and receive phone calls, whereas others prefer to send SMS or WhatsApp messages etc. We often take technology for granted, especially in the US or in Europe as we’re surrounded by it day in and day out, it’s very much an intrinsic part of our lives. According to a Pew Research Center study (2017) nearly half of Americans (46%) use digital voice assistants, mostly on their smartphones. In Poland, where there’s a language barrier, a lot of devices don’t support digital assistants in Polish. Digital assistants are more likely to be used in English speaking countries. Even something as simple as having an accent can make using digital assistants a problem, it’s generally not that inclusive yet. Technology still has a long way to go.
 

"In order to have a healthy relationship with technology, we need to make the environment around us more suited to the life we want. Making it more difficult to spend time with technology, will make it easier to spend time without it, it's a classic habit-forming strategy. Out of sight, out of mind."

What tips would you offer our audience on how to have a healthier relationship with tech? 
In order to have a healthy relationship with technology, we need to make the environment around us more suited to the life we want. Making it more difficult to spend time with technology, will make it easier to spend time without it, it's a classic habit-forming strategy. Out of sight, out of mind. Although it does come down to the individual and their current relationship with technology, realizing there’s a problem is the first step on the path to solving that problem.

We can work on some of our own bad habits in order to improve our relationship with technology. Don’t use your smartphone, laptop or tablet before bedtime. The last half an hour before going to sleep should be a time to wind down. Read a book instead of scrolling. Choose a time during the day that will always be free from your phone. A very good idea is not to use your smartphone during mealtimes or while you’re in the bathroom.

Organizing your whole life more efficiently has never been more popular. The Marie Kondo or Konmari effect is evident online, with several subreddit users such as those found on /r/konmari, /r/declutter, /r/simpleliving, /r/minimalism etc. encouraging us that less is more. We’re not just talking about Zuckerberging your wardrobe either (although, fewer choices usually means faster decisions).

 

Thank you, Lukasz! To find out more about Mudita, you can read their manifesto here. As always, thank you for your time and attention. Please feel free to email us your thoughts on what you see here!
Send this to a friend who needs to slow down. Then grab a cup of coffee with them.

Why ‘The Slow Scroll’?


Social Isolation is Killing Us. Tech companies are failing us. And we’re all hopelessly addicted to our screens.

Living IRL has never been more important.

That’s why we created The Slow Scroll, a weekly newsletter by IRL Labs, sent directly to your inbox (oh the irony). The Slow Scroll curates the latest and most inspiring content and resources, empowering readers to untether and live slowly.

Brought to you by...

Ivan Cash, Editor-in-Chief
Cyrena Lee, Editor and Lead Writer
Erin Ellis, Illustrator

Emily Lin, Producer


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