Entertainment & Technology

Get to Know Tristan Harris

A former Google Design Ethicist discusses how we are manipulated by internet search engines and social network providers.

by Bill Wood

If you’re reading this you’ve already displayed two interests. You’re on the web, which means you have a comfort level with technology. And you’re reading a column on media. Tristan Harris is an expert on both and you’ll enhance your own life by knowing who he is and what he does.

Tristan Harris was a Design Ethicist at Google. For those who think Silicon Valley has no conscience, understand that it did when Harris worked at Google.

“I’m an expert on how technology hijacks our psychological vulnerabilities,” Harris wrote in May, 2016, on the Thrive Global website. Harris spent three years as a Design Ethicist at Google, learning that “once you know how to push people’s buttons, you can play them like a piano.”

Magicians depend on it. So do advertisers. I’ve long argued that eliminating philosophy from grade school educations left young people unable to differentiate when arguments and presentations turn left unexpectedly. We don’t know when “if/then” statements fall apart. But most of all, we don’t know when our minds can be captured by colors, music and images of beaches in Hawaii.

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