Monday September 23, 2019
Home Lead Story Technology Ca...

Technology Campaigners Want Firms to Connect People in Positive Ways, Fight ‘Human Downgrading’

YouTube and other companies have said they are cracking down on extremist speech and have removed advertising revenue-sharing from some categories of content

0
//
youtube
FILE - Signage is seen inside the YouTube Space LA offices in Los Angeles, California, Oct. 21, 2015. VOA

Technology firms should do more to connect people in positive ways and steer away from trends that have tended to exploit human weaknesses, ethicists told a meeting of Silicon Valley leaders on Tuesday.

Tristan Harris and Aza Raskin are the co-founders of the nonprofit Center for Humane Technology and the ones who prompted Apple and Google to nudge phone users toward reducing their screen time.

Now they want companies and regulators to focus on reversing what they called “human downgrading,” which they see as at the root of a dozen worsening problems, by reconsidering the design and financial incentives of their systems.

apple, technology, youtube
Technology firms should do more to connect people in positive ways and steer away from trends that have tended to exploit human weaknesses. VOA

Before a hand-picked crowd of about 300 technologists, philanthropists and others concerned with issues such as internet addiction, political polarization, and the spread of misinformation on the web, Harris said Silicon Valley was too focused on making computers surpass human strengths, rather than worrying about how they already exploit human weaknesses.

If that is not reversed, he said, “that could be the end of human agency,” or free will. Problems include the spread of hate speech and conspiracy theories, propelled by financial incentives to keep users engaged alongside the use of powerful artificial intelligence on platforms like Alphabet Inc’s YouTube, Harris said.

YouTube and other companies have said they are cracking down on extremist speech and have removed advertising revenue-sharing from some categories of content.

Active Facebook communities can be a force for good but they also aid the dissemination of false information, the campaigners said. For example, a vocal fringe that oppose vaccines, believing contrary to scientific evidence that they cause autism, has led to an uptick in diseases that were nearly eradicated.

facebook, technology, human downgrading
Facebook said in March it would reduce the distribution of content from groups promoting vaccine hoaxes. Pixabay

Facebook said in March it would reduce the distribution of content from groups promoting vaccine hoaxes. In an interview after his speech, Harris said that what he has called a race to the bottom of the brainstem – manipulation of human instincts and emotions – could be reversed.

ALSO READ: Microsoft Profits Rises by 14 Percent Making its Value Close in Trillion Dollar Mark

For example, he said that Apple and Google could reward app developers who help users, or Facebook could suggest that someone showing signs of depression call a friend who had previously been supportive.

Tech personalities attending included Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, early Facebook funder turned critic Roger McNamee and MoveOn founders Joan Blades and Wes Boyd. Tech money is also backing the Center, including charitable funds started by founders of Hewlett Packard, EBay, and Craigslist. The big companies, Harris said, “can change the incentives.” (VOA)

Next Story

Tech Giant Google Testing ‘Incognito Mode’ in Maps

In July 2019, Maps also added more than 45,000 community and public toilets as part of the Central government’s “Loo Review” campaign that covers 1,700 cities in India

0
google, build, quantum computer, supercomputer
One of the main building at Google's headquarters for European operations in Dublin Ireland. Wikimedia Commons

Google Maps may soon have an “Incognito Mode” for better privacy on your location data.

The “Incognito Mode” in Google Maps is currently being tested in the Android app, reports XDA Developers.

Just like in Google Chrome, “Incognito Mode” for Maps will have several specific privacy features when rolled out globally.

“The Google Maps 10.26 version also hints at a new ‘Eyes Free’ walking navigation mode,” said the report.

The “Eyes Free” mode will reduce how often you need to look at your phone when you’re using it to navigate as you walk.

This mode would “add more detailed voice guidance during walking navigation”.

google, online tracking
A man walks past a Google sign outside with a span of the Bay Bridge at rear in San Francisco, May 1, 2019. VOA

Last month, Google Maps added a new “Live View” navigation mode that overlays walking directions in augmented reality.

Google Maps has started rolling out privacy features to beta testers.

To make Maps more useful for users, Google is also adding support for bike-sharing stations to let people be informed on docked bike sharing services near them.

Also Read: Apple to Unfold iOS 13.1 with CPU Throttling Feature to iPhone XR and iPhone XS

After running tests in the US and elsewhere, earlier in May, Google rolled out speed limits and mobile radar locations in over 40 countries, including India.

In July 2019, Maps also added more than 45,000 community and public toilets as part of the Central government’s “Loo Review” campaign that covers 1,700 cities in India. (IANS)