Can addictive products lead to Technological Dystopias?


Can addictive products lead to Technological Dystopias?

If you check your phone every five minutes, even if there is no ‘new message incoming’ tone to make you do that – then, my friend, you are addicted. According to Time Magazine, recent research has claimed that Americans usually grab their phones, on an average, 46 times in a single day. However, even ABC News has covered the same topic a few years ago, where the result was drastically different – it went up to 150 times a day!


It is not that hard to reach out to your phone for these times a day, even if the number is appalling to our ears. Greg Hochmuth, a former Instagram software engineer, has some interesting input on this subject. “The same design qualities that make an app enthralling…may also make it difficult for people to put down.”


According to The Atlantic, in other words, “That itch to glance at our phone is a natural reaction to apps and websites engineered to get us scrolling as frequently as possible”. A question then arises, whether technology companies should be under the obligation to make their products less addictive, or if they should warn the consumers when there will be possibilities of addiction. John Basl, an assistant professor of Philosophy at Northeastern University, has an answer to this question.


Basl thinks it’s fair to let the consumers know about the technology – whatever it will be, from a website to a video game – and the properties it will consist of that will cause addiction; rather, it should be an ethical obligation. However, when it comes to making technology less addictive, Basl thinks it’s a bit more complicated. He thinks that it largely depends on the level of addiction that technology can reach, what are the companies’ expectations and many other factors.


Basl thinks that the emergence of more accessible VR devices can be a little harmful; it is taking us a step towards the technological dystopias we are trying so hard to avoid. As he puts it, “I do think we’ll have to think hard and make some tough choices about how we’ll use technologies that enable immersive experiences and what those choices will mean for our way of life. Some of us will probably yearn for the good ol’ days while others might very well welcome a life that is fully integrated with technology.”


Pranjali Wakde

pranjali wakde

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