Steve Jobs said: “We limit how much technology our kids use in the home.”
What did he know that we don’t know and should know?
Steve Jobs understood the deep meaning of information and the power that comes with digitizing it and putting it on a worldwide Internet where it can travel at the speed of light to connect the world to itself. This “drug” is the addictive power of digital devices, and social media are the internet’s drug delivery systems.
(RJH Edits 10/25/2019)]
But more than this, digital technology opened the portal of Reality Distortion Fields Jobs had long practiced on everyone, a power previously held only by “mad geniuses” like Jobs, Einstein, and Telsa. These were individuals who created their own reality from their minds which became many others’ realities. Each distorted commonly accepted visions of Reality with new ” Visions and Fields” in their own way: Tesla with electrification, Einstein with gravitation, and Jobs with digitization.
Moving in a 3D Gravity Field
All of these paradigm mind-shifts happened during the short historical span of our most recent century, and they are impacting everyone on earth today. The global community is only now coming to grips with all of the new opportunities and challenges presented by these new mind-shifts of Reality. They are only beginning to meld into a new “generally-accepted common sense.”We have entered a new Global “Wild West” Era (GWWE)!
The video above of Scott Galloway interviewing Adam Alter explores the marketing power of digital addiction in Alter’s book, Irresistible., in which Galloway is admittedly an expert. Companies love this unintended addiction because is spells cha-ching for companies. The general public is now becoming woke in 2019 to the new reality that giving away personal information for free in exchange for on-demand connection to people, places, and things is not such a good deal. Billions of micro to macro adjustments in our many different cultures are underway to find new balance points in our new real-time digital Reality.
The same book by Alter was summarized by Alter in Wired two months earlier than Galloway’s interview and, interestingly, speaking for himself, emphasized the negative power of digital technology through the widespread practice of tech titans in Silicon Valley shielding their kids from digital startup successes. (just like the drug dealer who does not use his own stuff)
Steve Jobs was not alone in his caution with the addictive nature of digital technology. The following passage from Irresistible broadens this digital protection practice beyond Jobs to other tech titans:
“Chris Anderson, the former editor of WIRED, enforced strict time limits on every device in his home, “because we have seen the dangers of technology firsthand.” His five children were never allowed to use screens in their bedrooms. Evan Williams, a founder of Blogger, Twitter, and Medium, bought hundreds of books for his two young sons, but refused to give them an iPad. And Lesley Gold, the founder of an analytics company, imposed a strict no-screen-time-during-the-week rule on her kids. She softened her stance only when they needed computers for schoolwork.”
The question remains, what did the digital wizards know that most others did not know? It had to be this: They knew instinctively that Information had been released intellectually from the prison of matter, held there because matter is made of condensed energy (E=MC2), and information organizes energy “telling it” what to be and do. [A hotly debated binary question has been, “does information exist without energy?” “YES” in the abstract; “NO” physically. Together, they give us experienced realities we can share.]
Once released and put into digital form, information as patterns of “energy-bits” can theoretically be moved about and/or copy other things that exist as a pattern of information. Digital human-made information could now mingle with any other human-made information-pattern things, like power a grid, or any living information pattern, like a human.
The question now is who or what does the mingling, because information can pour right through the portals of your senses into your brain and affect your behavior just like a drug, according to Alter.
Think about that for a minute. In this vast interconnected world, who or what is the mingler? What information does the mingler mingle? What mingled information does the mingler create. What is the motive of the mingler? If the mingler is us then these are the questions we ask ourselves or a shrink, because we are supposed to be the one in control of our mingled lives.
[This semiotic triad of Mingler, Minglee and “The Mingle” between them brings to mind my Walking Sticks Story about Shakespeare’s long lost cousin of the HerdER, HerdEE, and “The HerdUM.”]
Alter, a PhD psychologists, points out from his research that the behavioral stimuli from a whole host of digital rewards trigger dopamine surges that can light up a person with momentary happiness just like drugs do. Digital designers know this and use this effect as a key part of their design strategy; they coined “racing to the bottom of the brain stem” to describe it.
Former Google computer scientist, behavioral economist and Ethic’s Officer, Tristan Harris, got concerned enough with the problem of digital addiction that he left Google to set up his own non-profit business, Time Well Spent, “to reclaim our minds from being hijacked by technology.” He demonstrates the problem of addiction in the short video below of a day in the life of his former self. Andersen Cooper recently explored the new direction of his work on a 60 Minutes segment.
Digital technology took a long while to get here. It not only broke through the material/mechanical handling limitations imposed by all material technologies of the last millennia from fire to nuclear energy and space flight; it took a giant leap when information could be represented by ever smaller digital forms down to the nano level.
This meant that man-made information could go to or into anywhere at anytime to any person or thing at the speed of light with virtually no restrictions (friction) whatsoever, and even to rearrange our DNA, or implant an information chip as part of our brain.
It took about a century of innovation—starting with Einstein and his quantum friends to understand energy, then Alan Turing’s brilliant computing ideas and his Enigma machine, and finally with the “leap-ahead-and-correct” American engineering knowhow, digital technology opened up the world.
Jobs, along with Google, Amazon, Facebook, others and the Internet, set loose unbelievable digital power on the world as information exchange i-Products. It only took a decade for over half the world’s 7.5 billion population to be plugged in and hooked, with the rest to follow quickly.
Jobs knew the genie was out of the magic lamp, and he knew that he owned the lamp. He also knew that digital technology was addictive and potentially dangerous.
The excellent NATGEO TV series introduced in the Melded Minds clip below gives an excellent picture of the future digital choices that we will have to make as artificial intelligence technology roars up the next innovation S-curve. Humanity will be faced with even more impactful choices than what we do about the digital addiction we face today. I am betting that we will find new solutions for new unintended problems as long as we know where we are on our current innovation S-curve.
Technology Innovation Principles
As we continue on our rapid innovation growth into the AI technology age of the #FrictionLessSociety™ it is important to recall the three principles that have guided America successfully through each of her major periods of technology innovation:
(1) We always leap ahead to create more powerful technology than we have at the present even if we don’t know exactly how it works, and just because we can;
(2) We always underestimate the unintended consequences of new technology, both the good and the bad, which gets our innovation cycle out of balance;
(3) We always wait until new technologies threaten our existence before we act to get things back in balance, hoping we are not too late.
An elegant English gentleman made this last point to me succinctly in 1999 when I was conducting a public lecture & workshop series at Liverpool University in England on Robert Pirsig’s new Metaphysics of Philosophy (MOQ). This elderly gentleman approached me during lunch after one session with a smile. He spoke courteously and directly, and looked me in the eye saying, ” I enjoyed your talk, and would like to make an observation, if I may:
“You Yanks are very different from us Brits, you know. We reflect a lot at first, and then act, hoping we did not act too late; You Yanks act first, and then reflect a lot, hoping you did not act too early; Not sure which is better; perhaps a timely combination.”