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Tristan Harris: The Ethicist of Silicon Valley
Courtesy of Tristan Harris11/25

Tristan Harris: The Ethicist of Silicon Valley

When Tristan Harris sold his tech startup to Google, at age 26, he was already uncomfortable with tech's fixation on capturing users' attention. Studies show the average smartphone owner spends more than four hours a day on their device. And engineers in Silicon Valley are only fine-tuning algorithms to keep us using devices more. At Google, Harris took on the title "design ethicist and product philosopher" after his PowerPoint, "A Call to Minimize Distraction & Respect Users' Attention," went viral inside the office. Harris warned of the enormous power a few mostly white male employees wield over a billion minds. "There is this lie that all this stuff is good for people," he says. "What they actually have to do by their stock price is to capture not just the same attention as yesterday, but also more next quarter." Today, he runs Time Well Spent, a foundation fighting the "fundamental misalignment between the industry's goal of capturing attention and what would be best for society." "We have to be willing to confront something as big as the advertising model," Harris says. "We need to serve people, not serve Nike." TS

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