8 months ago for day 24, 2021 with 399 words.

Bad Software

Before good software, there was bad software. Software that stimulates negative behavior, or worse, is the negative behavior. Does 'bad' exists? That depends on the definition of negative but plenty if you include endless (doom)scrolling, ego-boosting likes, or dopamine notifications that hit your scull. We just came from ten years where we threw all humane principles out of the window. We have the smartest minds in the world working on ways to addict us. As Adam Wiggins describes: "In pursuit of connectivity, computers have come supremely good at begging for our attention. Red badges, notifications, inboxes, and feeds are baked into every operating system and most apps."

Bad can creep in. Instagram started as a well-built photo filter app. A way to share your life with friends. I'm pretty sure that the founders didn't anticipate that it would turn into a dopamine indulging app of self-centeredness. That was a pure second order effect of raising large amount of capital. The features that make the app bad are an attempt to please its shareholders. It is trivial that the 'user' comes second.

Bad can also be good with moderation. While this is the case for a lot of things in life, it is particular true for apps. As an individual you have to weaponize yourself against the temptation. For some people that means going cold turkey. Others use time limits on certain apps. I have experience this makes a difference. Twitter limited for half an hour per the day is a different experience than Twitter constantly open. I wish there was a Twitter app where you can only view 100 tweets per day. The limitations functions as a liberation for the mind, which would change your behavior towards these apps.

But I spot a gentle turnaround. The introduction of 'screen time' by Apple and Google is an admission of 'we screwed up'. And after Nir Eyal's first book "Hooked - How to Build Habit-Forming Products", his second book was a direct counter argument called "Indistractable - How to Control Your Attention".

Instagram is testing to remove likes, and even Facebook now understands that enough is enough.

We will enter the age of good technology. A world dominated by technology that serves us well. Our ancestors will be dazed by our relation with smartphones. But not for long, we will prevail, and we will do good.


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By Kent de Bruin

Building up the habit

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