Distracted? Let’s make technology that helps us spend our time well | Tristan Harris | TEDxBrussels


Translator: Camille Martínez
Reviewer: Ivana Korom Morning. What does it mean to spend our time well? I spend a lot of my time thinking about how to spend my time. Probably too much –
I probably obsess over it. My friends think I do. But I feel like I kind of have to,
because these days, it feels like little bits of my time
kind of slip away from me, and when that happens, it feels like parts of my life
are slipping away. Specifically, it feels like little bits of my time
get slipped away to various things like this. Like technology – I check things. I’ll give you an example. If this email shows up – how many of you have gotten
an email like this, right? I’ve been tagged in a photo. When this appears, I can’t help but click on it right now. Right? Because, like,
what if it’s a bad photo? So I have to click it right now. But I’m not just going
to click “See photo,” what I’m actually going to do
is spend the next 20 minutes. (Laughter) But the worst part is that I know
that this is what’s going to happen, and even knowing that that’s
what’s going to happen doesn’t stop me from
doing it again the next time. Or I find myself in a situation like this, where I check my email
and I pull down to refresh. But the thing is that 60 seconds later, I’ll pull down to refresh again. Why am I doing this? This doesn’t make any sense. But I’ll give you a hint
why this is happening. What do you think makes more
money in the United States than movies, game parks
and baseball combined? Slot machines. How can slot machines make all this money when we play with such small
amounts of money? We play with coins. How is this possible? Well, the thing is… my phone is a slot machine. Every time I check my phone, I’m playing the slot machine to see, what am I going to get? What am I going to get? Every time I check my email, I’m playing the slot machine saying, “What am I going to get?” Every time I scroll a news feed, I’m playing the slot machine to see, what am I going to get next? Right? And the thing is that again knowing exactly
how this works – and I’m a designer, I know exactly how
the psychology of this works, I know exactly what’s going on – but it doesn’t leave me with any choice, I still just get sucked into it. So what are we going to do? Because it leaves us
with this all-or-nothing relationship with technology, right? You’re either on, and you’re connected
and distracted all the time, or you’re off, but then you’re wondering, am I missing something important? In other words, you’re either distracted or you have Fear of Missing Out. Right? So we need to restore choice. We want to have
a relationship with technology that gives us back choice
about how we spend time with it, and we’re going to need
help from designers, because knowing this stuff doesn’t help. We’re going to need design help. So what would that look like? So let’s take an example that we all face: chat – text messaging. So let’s say there’s two people. Nancy’s on the left
and she’s working on a document, and John’s on the right. And John suddenly remembers, “I need to ask Nancy
for that document before I forget!” So when he sends her that message, it blows away her attention. That’s what we’re doing all the time,
we’re bulldozing each other’s attention left and right. And there’s serious cost to this, because every time
we interrupt each other, it takes us about 23 minutes, on average, to refocus our attention. We actually cycle through
two different projects before we come back
to the original thing we were doing. This is Gloria Mark’s research
combined with Microsoft’s research that showed this. And her research also shows
that it actually trains bad habits. The more interruptions we get externally, it’s conditioning and training us
to interrupt ourselves. We actually self-interrupt
every three-and-a-half minutes. This is crazy. So how do we fix this? Because Nancy and John are in this
all-or-nothing relationship. Nancy might want to disconnect, but then she’d be worried: What if I’m missing something important? Design can fix this problem. Let’s say you have
Nancy again on the left, John on the right. And John remembers,
“I need to send Nancy that document.” Except this time, Nancy can mark that she’s focused. Let’s say she drags a slider and says, “I want to be focused for 30 minutes,” so – bam – she’s focused. Now when John wants the message her, he can get the thought off of his mind – because he has a need,
he has this thought, and he needs to dump it out
before he forgets. Except this time it holds the messages
so that Nancy can still focus but John can get the thought
off of his mind. But this only works
if one last thing is true, which is that Nancy needs to know
that if something is truly important, John can still interrupt. But instead of having constant
accidental or mindless interruptions, we’re now only creating
conscious interruptions. So we’re doing two things here. We’re creating a new choice
for both Nancy and John, but there’s a second, subtle thing
we’re doing here, too. And that’s that we’re changing
the question that we’re answering. Instead of the goal of chat being: “Let’s design it so that it’s easy
to send a message” – that’s the goal of chat, it should be really easy to send
a message to someone – we change the goal to something
deeper and a human value, which is: “Let’s create the highest
possible quality communication in a relationship between two people. So we upgraded the goal. Now, do designers
actually care about this? Do we want to have conversations
about what these deeper human goals are? Well I’ll tell you one story which is about a year ago, a little over a year ago, I got to help organize a meeting between some of technology’s
leading designers and Thich Nhat Han. Thich Nhat Hanh is an international
spokesperson for mindfulness meditation. And it was the most amazing meeting. You have to imagine – picture a room – on one side of the room,
you have a bunch of tech geeks; on the other side of the room, you have a bunch of long brown robes,
shaved heads, Buddhist monks. And the questions were about
the deepest human values, like what does the future
of technology look like when you’re designing
for the deepest questions and the deepest human values? And our conversation centered
on listening more deeply to what those values might be. He joked in our conversation that what if, instead of a spell check, you had a compassion check, meaning, you might highlight a word
that might be accidentally abrasive – perceived as abrasive by someone else. So does this kind of conversation
happen in the real world, not just in these design meetings? Well the answer is yes, and one of my favorites is Couchsurfing. If you didn’t know,
Couchsurfing is a website that matches people
who are looking for a place to stay with a free couch, from someone
who’s trying to offer it. So, great service – what would there design goal be? What are you designing for
if you work at Couchsurfing? Well you would think
it’s to match guests with hosts. Right? That’s a pretty good goal. But that would kind of be like
our goal with messaging before, where we’re just trying
to deliver a mesasge. So what’s the deeper, human goal? Well, they set their goal as the need to create lasting,
positive experiences and relationships between people who have never met before. And the most amazing thing
about this was in 2007, they introduced a way to measure this, which is incredible. I’ll tell you how it works. Every design goal that you have, you have to have
a corresponding measurement to know how you’re doing – A way of measuring success. So what they do is, let’s say you take two people who meet up, and they take the number of days
those two people spent together, and then they estimate how many
hours were in those days – how many hours did those
two people spend together? And then after they
spend that time together, they ask both of them: how positive was your experience? Did you have a good experience
with this person that you met? And they subtract
form those positive hours the amount of time
people spent on the website, because that’s a cost to people’s lives. Why should we value that as success? And what you were left with is something they refer to as
“net orchestrated conviviality,” or really just a net “Good Times” created. The net hours that would have never
existed had Couchsurfing not existed. Can you imagine how inspiring it would be
to come to work every day and measure your success in the actual net new contribution
of hours in people’s lives that are positive,
that would have never existed if you didn’t do what you were
about to do at work today? Can you imagine a whole world
that worked this way? Can you imagine a social network that – let’s say you care about cooking, and it measured its success
in terms of cooking nights organized and the cooking articles
that you were glad you read, and subtracted from that the articles
you weren’t glad you read or the time you spent scrolling
that you didn’t like? Imagine a professional social network, that, instead of measuring its success
in terms of connections created or messages sent, instead measured its success in terms
of the job offers that people got that they were excited to get. And subtracted the amount of time
people spent on the website. Or imagine dating services, like maybe Tinder or something, where instead of measuring the number
of swipes left and right people did, which is how they measure success today, instead measured the deep, romantic,
fulfilling connections people created. Whatever that was for them, by the way. But can you imagine a whole world
that worked this way, that was helping you spend your time well? Now to do this you also need a new system, because you’re probably thinking, today’s Internet economy – today’s economy in general – is measured in time spent. The more users you have, the more usage you have, the more time people spend, that’s how we measure success. But we’ve solved this problem before. We solved it with organic, when we said we need
to value things a different way. We said this is a different kind of food. So we can’t compare it
just based on price; this is a different category of food. We solved it with Leed Certification, where we said this
is a different kind of building that stood for different values
of environmental sustainability. What if we had something
like that for technology? What if we had something
whose entire purpose and goal was to help create net new positive
contributions to human life? And what if we could
value it a different way, so it would actually work? Imagine you gave this different
premium shelf space on app stores. Imagine you had web browsers
that helped route you to these kinds of design products. Can you imagine how exciting it would be
to live and create that world? We can create this world today. Company leaders, all you have to do – only you can prioritize a new metric, which is your metric for net positive
contribution to human life. And have an honest
conversation about that. Maybe you’re not
doing so well to start with, but let’s start that conversation. Designers, you can redefine success;
you can redefine design. Arguably, you have more power
than many people in your organization to create the choices
that all of us live by. Maybe like in medicine, where we have a Hippocratic oath to recognize the responsibilty
and this higher value that we have to treat patients. What if designers had something like that in terms of this new kind of design? And users, for all of us – we can demand technology
that works this way. Now it may seem hard, but McDonald’s didn’t have salads
until the consumer demand was there. Walmart didn’t have organic food
until the consumer demand was there. We have to demand
this new kind of technology. And we can do that. And doing that would amount to shifting
from a world that’s driven and run entirely on time spent, to a world that’s driven
by time well spent. I want to live in this world and I want this conversation to happen. Let’s start that conversation now. Thank you. (Applause)

40 thoughts on “Distracted? Let’s make technology that helps us spend our time well | Tristan Harris | TEDxBrussels

  1. Merging humanity with technology "Time Well Spent" this is a cutting edge concept!  Tristan Harris this is out of the box stretch your mind and heart type of thinking.  I especially like that this concept can provide opportunities for us to become compassionate toward those on the other side of my computer.  Choosing to live and work towards being respectful, purposeful and efficient in our daily task while using technology.  Fantastic Idea !  Elizabeth would agree!
    Carrie Forest

  2. Moving from Time Spent to Time Well Spent?

    In this TEDx talk by Tristan Harris, he campaigns for a change in design philosophy. Too often products are designed to simply suck you in and waste your time. The success metrics for such products are "the more time spent, the better"… the outcome is addictive designs that manipulate users with slot-machine psychology, and have no respect for users' time or their desire to live fulfilling lives.

    To fix this fundamental nastiness in products, we need to change the metrics for design success, such that they measure actual good outcomes for users. (Tristan gives some examples.) We need to choose design goals that will make the world a better place.

    And this is truly possible – he suggests a solution by which such technology could be marketed, which should help make such design goals economically viable for all kinds of corporations.

    #fb   #Mindful  

  3. Love it. There was a TED Talk a while back related to this issue that focused on creating maps apps that could optionally direct you to the most pleasant route rather than the fastest route.

  4. A New Internet Economy: Software that Check the Social Aspect of Your Text.
    Is there an option to file a bypass, under FoS?

  5. very interesting view on technology. enjoyed it.

    The subtitles need some rework… for example he says "get sucked into' and the subtitles say 'get fucked into' (no kidding), but also things not really related like, 'this coin' becomes 'this clean'.

  6. I propose we have google etc search on key words not key words and what they think we want to see. Back to the basic Internet. Recommendations are good but individuality separate from algorithms is better. Lets keep auto play however 🙂 loved the talk very humane which is rare these days online or offline. Ps I hate ads on google and YouTube. I feel lots of time wasted is on silly marketing techniques that just annoy us. We already pay the ISP's websites should make money from these. As for measuring them success vs time spent should be plenty as people would be using sites they want and not 'think' they want

  7. As I have understood ,Your talk was about marketing your System of (Customized Social Network),it was NOT ABOUT spending time well ,I hope you change the video title ,because THAT REALLY DID NOT HELP IN SOLVING DISTRACTION ,you are only trading in people 's distraction over internet to buy your system.

  8. Turning off sound and vibration notifications made my life easier. This way you only check your phone when you want to…

  9. When he says everything you can get is based on demand, I demand PC enterprises to seriously consider creating environmentally friendlier computers, because the electronics market hasn't produced anything like this yet.

  10. Wow. The talk was worth the distraction.
    "net orchestrated conviviality" = +ve. This will alter the way I look at things.

  11. I still find this a very neo-liberalist position. We want to spend our time (time is money) well, but still we want to spend that. As a kind of free choice. But a part from that, isn´t also a bad experience good for our understanding of the world? I can´t imagine a heavenly life on earth. Let´s be serious. You want to give the choice to spend time well, than maybe we should extend this choice to everybody, not only to those who can afford it.

  12. So sad, yet not a suprise, to see that this video only has 50,000 views compared the other ones about technology with millions. This is such an important issue…

  13. I'm really glad I can't relate to this at all. I check my emails once or twice a day. I rarely use my phone, and never check emails on my phone. There was a time where I definitely did and it's great now to see how much progress I've made after listening to this. No more Facebook, no more mindless browsing. There is intent behind my decisions to use YouTube for educational value, and other than that I'm not on social media platforms. I feel sorry for people who are a slave to their technology and who can't delay gratification. Even worse, I feel sorry for those who are actually gratified by the amount of trivial nonsense social media brings to their lives.

  14. Thank you for this TEDx talk, I saw Tristan in the film "What Makes Us Click?" and was immediately amazed by his ideas. Thank you again 🙂

  15. I like the idea. The idea about messages can't be sent when the user is working on something else. That's amazing. Thank you Tristan Harris.

  16. Friends having lunch at cafetaria and yet they still glance ang looking at their smartphone. Husband and wife on the same Bed, but each one with staring at their phone screen. a Mom chit chat on whatsapp Group while she let her 2 years old son playing alone. We are digital zombie. it is bad. From Now on Don't bring smartphone to work, don't put your phone in table while dinner, and read real book on airport.

  17. 'My phone is a slot machine'. Correct. The link between the two is behaviorist B.F. Skinner's variable ratio schedule, which he used in his experiment to condition pigeons to compulsively respond to randomly distributed stimuli. We are pigeons.

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