Your Undivided Attention

By Tristan Harris and Aza Raskin, The Center for Humane Technology

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Subscribers: 1402
Reviews: 3

na
 Dec 18, 2020
absolutely fantastic 👏

Owain
 Sep 24, 2019
Brilliant analysis of Big Tech and addiction

m
 Jun 17, 2019

Description

In this podcast from the Center for Humane Technology, co-hosts Tristan Harris and Aza Raskin confront catastrophic risk with existential hope. How is technology both a symptom and a driver of broader social, political, and economic forces? How do we reimagine humane technology that supports our shared well-being, sense-making, and ability to tackle complex global challenges? And what can we do together to catalyze a more humane future? Tristan and Aza will treat your attention with care as they explore these questions with academics, activists, cultural & faith-based leaders, and experts on everything from sense-making in a post-truth world to the psychology of the climate crisis. After you listen, join our virtual Podcast Club, which features live Q&As with guests followed by small-group discussions. If you're new to the show, start with Kate Raworth on renegade economics, Audrey Tang on digital democracy, Daniel Schmachtenberger on global coordination, or Yuval Noah Harari on the co-evolution between technology and democracy. Your Undivided Attention is produced by the Center for Humane Technology. Our Executive Producer is Stephanie Lepp, and our Associate Producer is Noor Al-Samarrai.

Episode Date
Facebook Whistleblower Frances Haugen in Conversation
00:57:26

We are now in social media's Big Tobacco moment. And that’s largely thanks to the courage of one woman: Frances Haugen.

Frances is a specialist in algorithmic product management. She worked at Google, Pinterest, and Yelp before joining Facebook — first as a Product Manager on Civic Misinformation, and then on the Counter-Espionage team. But what she saw at Facebook was that the company consistently and knowingly prioritized profits over public safety. So Frances made the courageous decision to blow the whistle — which resulted in the biggest disclosure in the history of Facebook, and in the history of social media.

In this special interview, co-hosts Tristan and Aza go behind the headlines with Frances herself. We go deeper into the problems she exposed, discuss potential solutions, and explore her motivations — along with why she fundamentally believes change is possible. We also announce an exciting campaign being launched by the Center for Humane Technology — to use this window of opportunity to make Facebook safer.

Oct 18, 2021
Bonus — A Whirlwind Week of Whistleblowing
00:04:56

In seven years of working on the problems of runaway technology, we’ve never experienced a week like this! In this bonus episode of Your Undivided Attention, we recap this whirlwind of a week — from Facebook whistleblower France Haugen going public on 60 Minutes on Sunday, to the massive outage of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp on Monday, to Haugen’s riveting Congressional testimony on Tuesday. We also make some exciting announcements — including our planned episode with Haugen up next, the Yale social media reform panel we’re participating in on Thursday, and a campaign we’re launching to pressure Facebook to make one immediate change. 

This week it truly feels like we’re making history — and you’re a part of it.

Oct 06, 2021
Making Meaning in Challenging Times
00:43:03

What helps you make meaning in challenging times? As you confront COVID, the climate crisis, and all of the challenges we discuss on this show, what helps you avoid nihilism or fundamentalism, and instead access healing, inspiration, and connection? 

Today on Your Undivided Attention, we're joined by anthropologist and writer Jamie Wheal. Wheal is the author of Recapture the Rapture: Rethinking God, Sex and Death In a World That's Lost Its Mind. In the book, he makes the case that in order to address the meta-crisis — the interconnected challenges we face, which we talked about in Episode 36 with Daniel Schmachtenberger, we must address the meaning crisis — the need to stay inspired, mended, and bonded in challenging times. Jamie argues that it doesn't matter whether we're staying inspired, mended, and bonded through institutionalized religion or other means as long as meaning-making is inclusively available to everyone.

What we hope you'll walk away with is a humane way to think about how to address the challenges we face, from COVID to climate — by enabling us to make meaning in challenging times.

Sep 30, 2021
Bonus — The Facebook Files with Tristan Harris, Frank Luntz, and Daniel Schmachtenberger
01:05:12

On September 13th, the Wall Street Journal released The Facebook Files, an ongoing investigation of the extent to which Facebook's problems are meticulously known inside the company — all the way up to Mark Zuckerberg. Pollster Frank Luntz invited Tristan Harris along with friend and mentor Daniel Schmachtenberger to discuss the implications in a live webinar. 

In this bonus episode of Your Undivided Attention, Tristan and Daniel amplify the scope of the public conversation about The Facebook Files beyond the platform, and into its business model, our regulatory structure, and human nature itself.

Sep 21, 2021
The Power of Solutions Journalism
00:40:23

What is the goal of our digital information environment? Is it simply to inform us, or also to empower us to act? 

The Solutions Journalism Network (SJN) understands that simply reporting on social problems rarely leads to change. What they’ve discovered is that rigorously reporting on responses to social problems is more likely to give activists and concerned citizens the hope and information they need to take effective action. For this reason, SJN trains journalists to report on “solutions angles.” M​​ore broadly, the organization seeks to rebalance the news, so that people are exposed to stories that help them understand the challenges we face as well as potential ways to respond. 

In this episode, Tina Rosenberg, co-founder of SJN, and Hélène Biandudi Hofer, former manager of SJN’s Complicating the Narratives initiative, walk us through the origin of solutions journalism, how to practice it, and what impact it has had. Tristan Harris and Aza Raskin reflect on how humane technology, much like solutions journalism, should also be designed to create an empowering relationship with reality — enabling us to shift from learned helplessness to what we might call learned hopefulness.

 

Sep 03, 2021
Do You Want to Become a Vampire?
00:36:35

How do we decide whether to undergo a transformative experience when we don’t know how that experience will change us? This is the central question explored by Yale philosopher and cognitive scientist L.A. Paul

Paul uses the prospect of becoming a vampire to illustrate the conundrum: let's say Dracula offers you the chance to become a vampire. You might be confident you'll love it, but you also know you'll become a different person with different preferences. Whose preferences do you prioritize: yours now, or yours after becoming a vampire? Similarly, whose preferences do we prioritize when deciding how to engage with technology and social media: ours now, or ours after becoming users — to the point of potentially becoming attention-seeking vampires? 

In this episode with L.A. Paul, we're raising the stakes of the social media conversation — from technology that steers our time and attention, to technology that fundamentally transforms who we are and what we want. Tune in as Paul, Tristan Harris, and Aza Raskin explore the complexity of transformative experiences, and how to approach their ethical design.

Aug 12, 2021
You Will Never Breathe the Same Again
00:37:46

When author and journalist James Nestor began researching a piece on free diving, he was stunned. He found that free divers could hold their breath for up to 8 minutes at a time, and dive to depths of 350 feet on a single breath. As he dug into the history of breath, he discovered that our industrialized lives have led to improper and mindless breathing, with cascading consequences from sleep apnea to reduced mobility. He also discovered an entire world of extraordinary feats achieved through proper and mindful breathing — including healing scoliosis, rejuvenating organs, halting snoring, and even enabling greater sovereignty in our use of technology. What is the transformative potential of breath? And what is the relationship between proper breathing and humane technology?

Jul 23, 2021
A Facebook Whistleblower
00:28:08

In September of 2020, on her last day at Facebook, data scientist Sophie Zhang posted a 7,900-word memo to the company's internal site. In it, she described the anguish and guilt she had experienced over the last two and a half years. She'd spent much of that time almost single-handedly trying to rein in fake activity on the platform by nefarious world leaders in small countries. Sometimes she received help and attention from higher-ups; sometimes she got silence and inaction. “I joined Facebook from the start intending to change it from the inside,” she said, but “I was still very naive at the time.” 

We don’t have a lot of information about how things operate inside the major tech platforms, and most former employees aren’t free to speak about their experience. It’s easy to fill that void with inferences about what might be motivating a company — greed, apathy, disorganization or ignorance, for example — but the truth is usually far messier and more nuanced. Sophie turned down a $64,000 severance package to avoid signing a non-disparagement agreement. In this episode of Your Undivided Attention, she explains to Tristan Harris and Aza Raskin how she ended up here, and offers ideas about what could be done at these companies to prevent similar kinds of harm in the future.

Jul 09, 2021
[Unedited] A Problem Well-Stated is Half-Solved
02:02:49

We’ve explored many different problems on Your Undivided Attention — addiction, disinformation, polarization, climate change, and more. But what if many of these problems are actually symptoms of the same meta-problem, or meta-crisis? And what if a key leverage point for intervening in this meta-crisis is improving our collective capacity to problem-solve?

Our guest Daniel Schmachtenberger guides us through his vision for a new form of global coordination to help us address our global existential challenges. Daniel is a founding member of the Consilience Project, aimed at facilitating new forms of collective intelligence and governance to strengthen open societies. He's also a friend and mentor of Tristan Harris. 

This insight-packed episode introduces key frames we look forward to using in future episodes. For this reason, we highly encourage you to listen to this unedited version along with the edited version

We also invite you to join Daniel and Tristan at our Podcast Club! It will be on Friday, July 9th from 2-3:30pm PDT / 5-6:30pm EDT. Check here for details.

Jun 25, 2021
A Problem Well-Stated is Half-Solved
00:37:06

We’ve explored many different problems on Your Undivided Attention — addiction, disinformation, polarization, climate change, and more. But what if many of these problems are actually symptoms of the same meta-problem, or meta-crisis? And what if a key leverage point for intervening in this meta-crisis is improving our collective capacity to problem-solve?

Our guest Daniel Schmachtenberger guides us through his vision for a new form of global coordination to help us address our global existential challenges. Daniel is a founding member of the Consilience Project, aimed at facilitating new forms of collective intelligence and governance to strengthen open societies. He's also a friend and mentor of Tristan Harris. 

This insight-packed episode introduces key frames we look forward to using in future episodes. For this reason, we highly encourage you to listen to this edited version along with the unedited version.

We also invite you to join Daniel and Tristan at our Podcast Club! It will be on Friday, July 9th from 2-3:30pm PDT / 5-6:30pm EDT. Check here for details.

Jun 25, 2021
Mr. Harris Zooms to Washington
00:32:36

Back in January 2020, Tristan Harris went to Washington, D.C. to testify before the U.S. Congress on the harms of social media. A few weeks ago, he returned — virtually — for another hearing, Algorithms and Amplification: How Social Media Platforms’ Design Choices Shape Our Discourse and Our Minds. He testified alongside Dr. Joan Donovan, Research Director at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media Politics and Public Policy and the heads of policy from Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. The senators’ animated questioning demonstrated a deeper understanding of how these companies’ fundamental business models and design properties fuel hate and misinformation, and many of the lawmakers expressed a desire and willingness to take regulatory action. But, there’s still room for a more focused conversation. “It’s not about whether they filter out bad content,” says Tristan, “but really whether the entire business model of capturing human performance is a good way to organize society.” In this episode, a follow-up to last year’s “Mr. Harris Goes to Washington,” Tristan and Aza Raskin debrief about what was different this time, and what work lies ahead to pave the way for effective policy. 

May 10, 2021
Can Your Reality Turn on a Word?
00:47:27

Can hypnosis be a tool to help us see how our minds are being shaped and manipulated more than we realize? Guest Anthony Jacquin is a hypnotist and hypnotherapist of over 20 years, author of Reality is Plastic, and he co-runs the Jacquin Hypnosis Academy. He uses his practice to help his clients change their behavior and improve their lives. In this episode, he breaks down the misconceptions of hypnosis and reveals that despite the influence of hypnotizing forces like social media, we all still have the ability to get in touch with our subconscious selves. “What can I say with certainty is true about me — what is good, true and real about me?” Anthony asks. “Much of what we’ve invested in is actually transient. It will change. What is unchanging?” Anthony draws connections between hypnosis and technology and the impacts of both on our subconscious minds but identifies a key difference — technology is exploiting us. But maybe a little more insight into one more dimension of how our minds work underneath the hood can help us build better, more humane and conscious technology.

Apr 29, 2021
The Stubborn Optimist's Guide Revisited
00:59:56

[This episode originally aired May 21, 2020] Internationally-recognized global leader on climate change Christiana Figueres argues that the battle against global threats like climate change begins in our own heads. She became the United Nations’ top climate official, after she had watched the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit collapse “in blood, in screams, in tears.” In the wake of that debacle, Christiana began performing an act of emotional Aikido on herself, her team, and eventually delegates from 196 nations. She called it “stubborn optimism.” It requires a clear and alluring vision of a future that can supplant the dystopian and discouraging vision of what will happen if the world fails to act. It was stubborn optimism, she says, that convinced those nations to sign the first global climate framework, the Paris Agreement. In this episode, we explore how a similar shift in Silicon Valley’s vision could lead 3 billion people to take action for the planet.

Apr 22, 2021
Mind the (Perception) Gap
01:02:13

What do you think the other side thinks? Guest Dan Vallone is the Director of More in Common U.S.A., an organization that’s been asking Democrats and Republicans that critical question. Their work has uncovered countless “perception gaps” in our understanding of each other. For example, Democrats think that about 30 percent of Republicans support "reasonable gun control," but in reality, it’s about 70 percent. Both Republicans and Democrats think that about 50 percent of the other side would feel that physical violence is justified in some situations, but the actual number for each is only about five percent. “Both sides are convinced that the majority of their political opponents are extremists,” says Dan. “And yet, that's just not true.” Social media encourages the most extreme views to speak the loudest and rise to the top—and it’s hard to start a conversation and work together when we’re all arguing with mirages. But Dan’s insights and the work of More in Common provide a hopeful guide to unraveling the distortions we’ve come to accept and correcting our foggy vision.

Apr 15, 2021
Coded Bias
00:23:56

The film Coded Bias follows MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini through her investigation of algorithmic discrimination, after she accidentally discovers that facial recognition technologies do not detect darker-skinned faces. Joy is joined on screen by experts in the field, researchers, activists, and involuntary victims of algorithmic injustice. Coded Bias was released on Netflix April 5, 2021, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last year, and has been called “‘An Inconvenient Truth’ for Big Tech algorithms” by Fast Company magazine. We talk to director Shalini Kantayya about the impetus for the film and how to tackle the threats these challenges pose to civil rights while working towards more humane technology for all.

Apr 08, 2021
Come Together Right Now
01:16:50

How many technologists have traveled to Niger, or the Balkans, or Rwanda, to learn the lessons of peacebuilding? Technology and social media are creating patterns and pathways of conflict that few people anticipated or even imagined just a decade ago. And we need to act quickly to contain the effects, but we don't have to reinvent the wheel. There are people, such as this episode’s guest, Shamil Idriss, CEO of the organization Search for Common Ground, who have been training for years to understand human beings and learn how to help them connect and begin healing processes. These experts can share their insights and help us figure out how to apply them to our new digital habitats. “Peace moves at the speed of trust, and trust can’t be fast-tracked,” says Shamil. Real change is possible, but as he explains, it takes patience, care, and creativity to get there. 

Apr 01, 2021
Disinformation Then and Now
00:55:45

Disinformation researchers have been fighting two battles over the last decade: one to combat and contain harmful information, and one to convince the world that these manipulations have an offline impact that requires complex, nuanced solutions. Camille François, Chief Information Officer at the cybersecurity company Graphika and an affiliate of the Harvard Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, believes that our common understanding of the problem has recently reached a new level. In this interview, she catalogues the key changes she observed between studying Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and helping convene and operate the Election Integrity Partnership watchdog group before, during and after the 2020 election. “I'm optimistic, because I think that things that have taken quite a long time to land are finally landing, and because I think that we do have a diverse set of expertise at the table,” she says. Camille and Tristan Harris dissect the challenges and talk about the path forward to a healthy information ecosystem.

Mar 18, 2021
The Courage to Connect
01:00:01

It’s no revelation that Americans aren’t getting along. But it’s easier to diagnose the problem than come up with solutions. The organization Braver Angels runs workshops that convince Republicans and Democrats to meet, but not necessarily in the middle. “Conflict can actually be a pathway to intimacy and connection rather than division, if you have the right structure for bringing people together,” says Ciaran O’Connor, the organization’s Chief Marketing Officer. We’re delighted to have Ciaran and the Braver Angels National Ambassador John Wood, Jr. on the show to describe their methods, largely based on marriage counseling techniques, and talk about where to go next. “How do you scale that up and apply that to the digital space, given that that is the key battlefield?” asks John. Technology companies play a role here, and the wisdom of the people doing the work on the ground is a valuable guide.

Mar 04, 2021
A Renegade Solution to Extractive Economics
01:26:15

When Kate Raworth began studying economics, she was disappointed that the mainstream version of the discipline didn’t fully address many of the world issues that she wanted to tackle, such as human rights and environmental destruction. She left the field, but was inspired to jump back in after the financial crisis of 2008, when she saw an opportunity to introduce fresh perspectives. She sat down and drew a chart in the shape of a doughnut, which provided a way to think about our economic system while accounting for the impact to the world around us, as well as for humans’ baseline needs. Kate’s framing can teach us a lot about how to transform the economic model of the technology industry, helping us move from a system that values addicted, narcissistic, polarized humans to one that values healthy, loving and collaborative relationships. Her book, “Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist,” gives us a guide for transitioning from a 20th-century paradigm to an evolved 21st-century one that will address our existential-scale problems.

Feb 11, 2021
Two Million Years in Two Hours: A Conversation with Yuval Noah Harari
01:59:48

Yuval Noah Harari is one of the rare historians who can give us a two-million-year perspective on today’s headlines. In this wide-ranging conversation, Yuval explains how technology and democracy have evolved together over the course of human history, from paleolithic tribes to city states to kingdoms to nation states. So where do we go from here? “In almost all the conversations I have,” Yuval says, “we get stuck in dystopia and we never explore the no less problematic questions of what happens when we avoid dystopia.” We push beyond dystopia and consider the nearly unimaginable alternatives in this special episode of Your Undivided Attention.

Jan 15, 2021
Won't You Be My Neighbor? A Civic Vision for the Internet
00:48:25

You’ve heard us talk before on this podcast about the pitfalls of trying to moderate a “global public square.” Our guest today, Eli Pariser, co-director of Civic Signals, co-founder of Avaaz, and author of "The Filter Bubble," has been thinking for years about how to create more functional online spaces and is bringing people together to solve that problem. He believes the answer lies in creating spaces and groups intentionally, with the same kinds of skilled support and infrastructure that we would enlist in the physical world. It’s not enough to expect the big revenue-oriented tech companies to transform their tools into something less harmful; Eli is encouraging us to proactively gather in our own spaces, optimized for togetherness and cooperation.

Dec 23, 2020
Are the Kids Alright?
00:40:35

We are in the midst of a teen mental health crisis. Since 2011, the rate of U.S. hospitalizations for preteen girls who have self-harmed is up 189 percent, and with older teen girls, it’s up 62 percent. Tragically, the numbers on suicides are similar — 151 percent higher for preteen girls, and 70 percent higher for older teen girls. NYU social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has spent the last few years trying to figure out why, working with fellow psychologist Jean Twenge, and he believes social media is to blame. Jonathan and Jean found that the mental health data show a stark contrast between Generation Z and Millennials, unlike any demographic divide researchers have seen since World War II, and the division tracks with a sharp rise in social media use. As Jonathan explains in this interview, disentangling correlation and causation is a persistent research challenge, and the debate on this topic is still in full swing. But as TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat and the next big thing fine-tune the manipulative and addictive features that pull teens in, we cannot afford to ignore this problem while we sit back and wait for conclusive results. When it comes to children, our standards need to be higher, and our burden of proof lower.

Oct 27, 2020
Your Nation's Attention for the Price of a Used Car
00:43:17

Today’s extremists don’t need highly produced videos like ISIS. They don’t need deep pockets like Russia. With the right message, a fringe organization can reach the majority of a nation’s Facebook users for the price of a used car. Our guest, Zahed Amanullah, knows this firsthand. He’s a counter-terrorism expert at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, and when his organization received $10,000 in ad credits from Facebook for an anti-extremism campaign, they were able to reach about two-thirds of Kenya’s Facebook users. It was a surprising win for Zahed, but it means nefarious groups all over the African continent have exactly the same broadcasting power. Last year, Facebook took down 66 accounts, 83 pages, 11 groups and 12 Instagram accounts related to Russian campaigns in African countries, and Russian networks spent more than $77,000 on Facebook ads in Africa. Today on the show, Zahed will explain how the very tools that extremists use to broadcast messages of hate can also be used to stop them in their tracks, and he’ll tell us what tech and government must do to systematically counter the problem. “If we don’t get in front of this,” he says, “this phenomenon is going to amplify beyond our reach.“

Oct 06, 2020
The Social Dilemma
00:04:26

A new documentary called The Social Dilemma comes out on Netflix today, September 9, 2020. We hope that this film, full of interviews with tech insiders, will be a catalyst and tool for exposing how technology has been distorting our perception of the world, and will help us reach the shared ground we need to solve big problems together.

Sep 09, 2020
Facebook Goes '2Africa'
00:35:43

This summer, Facebook unveiled “2Africa,” a subsea cable project that will encircle nearly the entire continent of Africa — much to the surprise of Julie Owono. As Executive Director of Internet Without Borders, she’s seen how quickly projects like this can become enmeshed in local politics, as private companies dig through territorial waters, negotiate with local officials and gradually assume responsibility over vital pieces of national infrastructure. “It’s critical, now, that communities have a seat at the table,” Julie says. We ask her about the risks of tech companies leading us into an age of “digital colonialism,” and what she hopes to achieve as a newly appointed member of Facebook’s Oversight Board.

Sep 02, 2020
When Media Was for You and Me
00:37:07

In 1940, a group of 60 American intellectuals formed the Committee for National Morale. “They’ve largely been forgotten,” says Fred Turner, a professor of communications at Stanford University, but their work had a profound impact on public opinion. They produced groundbreaking films and art exhibitions. They urged viewers to stop, reflect and think for themselves, and in so doing, they developed a set of design principles that reimagined how media could make us feel more calm, reflective, empathetic; in short, more democratic.

Aug 06, 2020
Digital Democracy Is Within Reach
00:46:33

Imagine a world where every country has a digital minister and technologically-enabled legislative bodies. Votes are completely transparent and audio and video of all conversations between lawmakers and lobbyists are available to the public immediately. Conspiracy theories are acted upon within two hours and replaced by humorous videos that clarify the truth. Imagine that expressing outrage about your local political environment turned into a participatory process where you were invited to solve that problem and even entered into a face to face group workshop. Does that sound impossible? It’s ambitious and optimistic, but that's everything that our guest this episode, Audrey Tang, digital minister of Taiwan, has been working on in her own country for many years. Audrey’s path into public service began in 2014 with her participation in the Sunflower Movement, a student-led protest in Taiwan’s parliamentary building, and she’s been building on that experience ever since, leading her country into a future of truly participatory digital democracy. 

Jul 23, 2020
Beyond the Boycott
00:09:20

#StopHateforProfit is an important first step, but we need to go much further. 

Jul 10, 2020
The World According to Q
00:59:13

What would inspire someone to singlehandedly initiate an armed standoff on the Hoover Dam, or lead the police on a 100-mile-an-hour car chase while calling for help from an anonymous internet source, or travel hundreds of miles alone to shoot up a pizza parlor? The people who did these things were all connected to the decentralized cult-like internet conspiracy theory group called QAnon. Our guest this episode, Travis View, is a researcher, writer and podcast host who has spent the last few years trying to understand the people who’ve become wrapped up in QAnon and the concerning consequences as Q followers increasingly leave their screens and take extreme actions in the real world. As many as six candidates who support QAnon are running for Congress and will be on the ballot for the 2020 elections, threatening to upend long-held Republican establishment seats. This just happened to a five-term Republican congressman in Colorado. Travis warns that QAnon is an extremism problem, not a disinformation or political problem, and dismissing QAnon as a fringe threat underestimates how quickly their views can leapfrog into mainstream debates on the left and the right.

Jul 08, 2020
The Bully’s Pulpit
00:55:53

The sound of bullies on social media can be deafening, but what about their victims? “They're just sitting there being pummeled and pummeled and pummeled,” says Fadi Quran. As the campaign director of Avaaz, a platform for 62 million activists worldwide, Fadi and his team go to great lengths to figure out exactly how social media is being weaponized against vulnerable communities, including those who have no voice online at all. “They can't report it. They’re not online.” Fadi says. “They can't even have a conversation about it.” But by bringing these voices of survivors to Silicon Valley, Fadi says, tech companies can not just hear the lethal consequences of algorithmic abuse, they can start hacking away at a system that Fadi argues was “designed for bullies.”

Jun 22, 2020
The Dictator's Playbook Revisited
00:52:11

[This episode originally aired on November 5, 2019] Maria Ressa is arguably one of the bravest journalists working in the Philippines today. As co-founder and CEO of the media site Rappler, she has withstood death threats, multiple arrests and a rising tide of populist fury that she first saw on Facebook, in the form of a strange and jarring personal attack. Through her story, she reveals, play by play, how an aspiring strongman can use social media to spread falsehoods, sow confusion, intimidate critics and subvert democratic institutions. Nonetheless, she argues Silicon Valley can reverse these trends, and fast. First, tech companies must "wake up," she says, to the threats they've unleashed throughout the Global South. Second, they must recognize that social media is intrinsically designed to favor the strongman over the lone dissident and the propagandist over the truth-teller, which is why it has become the central tool in every aspiring dictator's playbook.

Jun 17, 2020
The Fake News of Your Own Mind
00:49:22

When you’re gripped by anxiety, fear, grief or dread, how do you escape? It can happen in the span of a few breaths, according to meditation experts Jack Kornfield and Trudy Goodman. They have helped thousands of people find their way out of a mental loop, by moving deeper into it. It's a journey inward that reveals an important lesson for the architects of the attention economy: you cannot begin to build humane technology for billions of users, until you pay careful attention to the course of your own wayward thoughts.

Jun 02, 2020
The Stubborn Optimist’s Guide to Saving the Planet
00:52:54

How can we feel empowered to take on global threats? The battle begins in our heads, argues Christiana Figueres. She became the United Nation’s top climate official, after she had watched the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit collapse “in blood, in screams, in tears.” In the wake of that debacle, she began performing an act of emotional Aikido on herself, her team and eventually delegates from 196 nations. She called it “stubborn optimism." It requires a clear and alluring vision of a future that can supplant the dystopian and discouraging vision of what will happen if the world fails to act. It was stubborn optimism, she says, that convinced those nations to sign the first global climate framework, the Paris Agreement. We explore how a similar shift in Silicon Valley's vision could lead 3 billion people to take action.

May 21, 2020
The Spin Doctors Are In
00:52:57

How does disinformation spread in the age of COVID-19? It takes an expert like Renée DiResta to trace conspiracy theories back to their source. She’s already exposed how Russian state actors manipulated the 2016 election, but that was just a prelude to what she’s seeing online today: a convergence of state actors and lone individuals, anti-vaxxers and NRA supporters, scam artists and preachers and the occasional fan of cuddly pandas. What ties all of these disparate actors together is an information ecosystem that’s breaking down before our eyes. We explore what’s going wrong and what we must do to fix it in this interview with Renée DiResta, Research Manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory.

May 07, 2020
When Attention Went on Sale
00:45:22

An information system that relies on advertising was not born with the Internet. But social media platforms have taken it to an entirely new level, becoming a major force in how we make sense of ourselves and the world around us. Columbia law professor Tim Wu, author of The Attention Merchants and The Curse of Bigness, takes us through the birth of the eyeball-centric news model and ensuing boom of yellow journalism, to the backlash that rallied journalists and citizens around creating industry ethics and standards. Throughout the 20th century, radio, television, and even posters elicited excitement, hope, fear, skepticism and greed, and people worked together to create a patchwork of regulation and behavior that attempted to point those tools in the direction of good. The Internet has brought us to just such a crossroads again, but this time with global consequences that are truly life-and-death.

Apr 28, 2020
Changing Our Climate of Denial
01:06:31

We agree more than we think we do, but tech platforms distort our perceptions by amplifying the loudest, angriest and most dismissive voices online. In reality, they’re just a noisy faction. This Earth Day we ask Anthony Leiserowitz, Director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, how he shifts public opinion on climate change. We’ll see how tech platforms could amplify voices of solidarity within our own communities. More importantly, we’ll see how they could empower 2 billion people to act in the face of global threats. 

Apr 22, 2020
Stranger than Fiction
01:02:44

How can tech companies help flatten the curve? First and foremost, they must address the lethal misinformation and disinformation circulating on their platforms. The problem goes much deeper than fake news, according to Claire Wardle, co-founder and executive director of First Draft. She studies the gray zones of information warfare, where bad actors mix facts with falsehoods, news with gossip, and sincerity with satire. “Most of this stuff isn't fake and most of this stuff isn't news,” Claire argues. If these subtler forms of misinformation go unaddressed, tech companies may not only fail to flatten the curve — they could raise it higher. 

Mar 31, 2020
Mr. Harris Goes to Washington
00:42:10

What difference does a few hours of Congressional testimony make? Tristan takes us behind the scenes of his January 8th testimony to the Energy and Commerce Committee on disinformation in the digital age. With just minutes to answer each lawmaker’s questions, he speaks with Committee members about how the urgency and complexity of humane technology issues is an immense challenge. Tristan returned hopeful, and though it sometimes feels like Groundhog Day, each trip to DC reveals evolving conversations, advancing legislation, deeper understanding and stronger coalitions. 

Jan 30, 2020
Trust Falls
00:51:22

We are in the middle of a global trust crisis. Neighbors are strangers and local news sources are becoming scarcer; institutions that used to symbolize prestige, honor and a sense of societal security are ridiculed for being antiquated and out of touch. To replace the void, we turn to sharing economy companies and social media, which come up short, or worse. Our guest on this episode, academic and business advisor Rachel Botsman, guides us through how we got here, and how to recover. Botsman is the Trust Fellow at Oxford University, and the author of two books, including “Who Can You Trust?” The intangibility of trust makes it difficult to pin down, she explains, and she speaks directly to technology leaders about fostering communities and creating products the public is willing to put faith in. “The efficiency of technology is the enemy of trust,” she says.

Jan 14, 2020
The Cure for Hate
00:41:17

“You can binge watch an ideology in a weekend,” says Tony McAleer. He should know. A former white supremacist, McAleer was introduced to neo-Nazi ideology through the U.K. punk scene in the 1980s. But after his daughter was born, he embarked on a decades-long journey from hate to compassion. Today’s technology, he says, make violent ideologies infinitely more accessible and appealing to those who long for acceptance. Social media isolates us and can incubate hate in a highly diffuse structure, making it nearly impossible to stop race-based violence without fanning the flames or driving it further underground. McAleer discusses solutions to this dilemma and the positive actions we can take together.

Dec 19, 2019
Rock the Voter
00:52:20

Brittany Kaiser, a former Cambridge Analytica insider, witnessed a two day presentation at the company that shocked her and her co-workers. It laid out a new method of campaigning, in which candidates greet voters with a thousand faces and speak in a thousand tongues, automatically generating messages that are increasingly aiming toward an audience of one. She explains how these methods of persuasion have shaped elections worldwide, enabling candidates to sway voters in strange and startling ways.

Dec 05, 2019
The Dictator's Playbook
00:50:44

Maria Ressa is arguably one of the bravest journalists working in the Philippines today. As co-founder and CEO of the media site Rappler, she has withstood death threats, multiple arrests and a rising tide of populist fury that she first saw on Facebook, in the form of a strange and jarring personal attack. Through her story, she reveals, play by play, how an aspiring strongman can use social media to spread falsehoods, sow confusion, intimidate critics and subvert democratic institutions. Nonetheless, she argues Silicon Valley can reverse these trends, and fast. First, tech companies must "wake up," she says, to the threats they've unleashed throughout the Global South. Second, they must recognize that social media is intrinsically designed to favor the strongman over the lone dissident and the propagandist over the truth-teller, which is why it has become the central tool in every aspiring dictator's playbook.

Nov 05, 2019
The Opposite of Addiction
00:48:58

What causes addiction? Johann Hari, author of Chasing the Scream, travelled some 30,000 miles in search of an answer. He met with researchers and lawmakers, drug dealers and drug makers, those who were struggling with substance abuse and those who had recovered from it, and he came to the conclusion that our whole narrative about addiction is broken.  "The opposite of addiction is not sobriety," he argues. "The opposite of addiction is connection." But first, we have to figure out what it really means to connect.

Oct 22, 2019
Pardon the Interruptions
00:43:54

Every 40 seconds, our attention breaks. It takes an act of extreme self-awareness to even notice. That’s why Gloria Mark, a professor in the Department of Informatics at University of California, Irvine, started measuring the attention spans of office workers with scientific precision. What she has discovered is not simply an explosion of disruptive communications, but a pandemic of stress that has followed workers from their offices to their homes. She shares the latest findings from the “science of interruptions,” and how we can stop forfeiting our attention to the next notification, and the next one, ad nauseam.

 

Aug 14, 2019
From Russia with Likes (Part 2)
00:28:53

In the second part of our interview with Renée DiResta, disinformation expert, Mozilla fellow, and co-author of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation, she explains how social media platforms use your sense of identity and personal relationships to keep you glued to their sites longer, and how those design choices have political consequences. The online tools and tactics of foreign agents can be very precise and deliberate, but they don’t have to be -- Renée has seen how deception and uncertainty are powerful agents of distrust and easy to create. Do we really need the ease of global amplification of information-sharing that social media enables, anyway? We don’t want spam in our email inbox so why do we tolerate it in our social media feed?  What would happen if we had to copy and paste and click twice, or three times? Tristan and Aza also brainstorm ways to prevent and control disinformation in the lead-up to elections, and particularly the 2020 U.S. elections. 

Aug 01, 2019
From Russia with Likes (Part 1)
00:45:47

Today’s online propaganda has evolved in unforeseeable and seemingly absurd ways; by laughing at or spreading a Kermit the Frog meme, you may be unwittingly advancing the Russian agenda. These campaigns affect our elections integrity, public health, and relationships. In this episode, the first of two parts, disinformation expert Renee DiResta talks with Tristan and Aza about how these tactics work, how social media platforms’ algorithms and business models allow foreign agents to game the system, and what these messages reveal to us about ourselves. Renee gained unique insight into this issue when in 2017 Congress asked her to lead a team of investigators analyzing a data set of texts, images and videos from Facebook, Twitter and Google thought to have been created by Russia’s Internet Research Agency. She shares what she learned, and in part two of their conversation, Renee, Tristan and Aza will discuss what steps can be taken to prevent this kind of manipulation in the future. 

Jul 24, 2019
Down the Rabbit Hole by Design
00:54:29

When we press play on a YouTube video, we set in motion an algorithm that taps all available data to find the next video that keeps us glued to the screen. Because of its advertising-based business model, YouTube’s top priority is not to help us learn to play the accordion, tie a bow tie, heal an injury, or see a new city — it’s to keep us staring at the screen for as long as possible, regardless of the content. This episode’s guest, AI expert Guillaume Chaslot, helped write YouTube’s recommendation engine and explains how those priorities spin up outrage, conspiracy theories and extremism. After leaving YouTube, Guillaume’s mission became shedding light on those hidden patterns on his website, AlgoTransparency.org, which tracks and publicizes YouTube recommendations for controversial content channels. Through his work, he encourages YouTube to take responsibility for the videos it promotes and aims to give viewers more control.

Jul 10, 2019
With Great Power Comes...No Responsibility?
00:55:41

Aza sits down with Yael Eisenstat, a former CIA officer and a former advisor at the White House. When Yael noticed that Americans were having a harder and harder time finding common ground, she shifted her work from counter-extremism abroad to advising technology companies in the U.S. She believed as danger at home increased, her public sector experience could help fill a gap in Silicon Valley’s talent pool and chip away at the ways tech was contributing to polarization and election hacking. But when she joined Facebook in June 2018, things didn’t go as planned. Yael shares the lessons she learned and her perspective on government’s role in regulating tech, and Aza and Tristan raise questions about our relationships with these companies and the balance of power. 

Jun 25, 2019
Should've Stayed in Vegas
00:39:11

In part two of our interview with cultural anthropologist Natasha Dow Schüll, author of Addiction by Design, we learn what gamblers are really after a lot of the time — it’s not money. And it’s the same thing we’re looking for when we mindlessly open up Facebook or Twitter. How can we design products so that we’re not taking advantage of these universal urges and vulnerabilities but using them to help us? Tristan, Aza and Natasha explore ways we could shift our thinking about making and using technology.

Jun 19, 2019
What Happened in Vegas
00:40:51

Natasha Dow Schüll, author of Addiction by Design, has spent years studying how slot machines hold gamblers spellbound, in an endless loop of play. She never imagined the addictive designs which she had first witnessed in Las Vegas would go bounding into Silicon Valley and reappear on virtually every smartphone screen worldwide. In the first segment of this two-part interview, Natasha Dow Schüll offers a prescient warning to users and designers alike: How far can the attention economy go toward stealing another moment of your time? Farther than you might imagine. 

Jun 10, 2019
Launching June 10: Your Undivided Attention
00:03:16

Technology has shredded our attention. We can do better.

Apr 16, 2019