An interview with Aza Rakin of the Center of Humane Technology
By: Dominick Wojtas
Recently, The Los Angeles Times published a transcript of a conversation between interviewer Patt Morrison and Aza Raskin, co-founder and chief strategy officer of the Center of Humane Technology.
The center’s purpose is to raise awareness and produce solutions regarding the belief that technology and tech companies manipulate reality and truth, shred our attention, and cause us to feel isolated. Their mission statement is “Technology is hacking our minds and society.”
In my opinion, the responses provided to the Morrison’s questions were quite inarticulate. I believe this is arguably the most pressing first-world issue but Raskin does not have the answers.
Regarding the business models of social media platforms, Raskin says “We make money when people spend time in our site, and this creates a whole bunch of bad incentives to stick around.”
This statement is too open ended. Facebook makes money on ads.
The more time spent on site, the higher the probability for someone to view or click on an ad. But this doesn’t necessarily imply that sites like Facebook need to create “bad” incentives.
Frankly, I don’t understand the incentives that Aza is referring to; he would need to define them. Instagram has no other incentive than to watch what your friends are up to and surely this can’t be defined as ‘bad’, yet people stay on.
He said in regards to social media and tech companies that they are deciding what we see and what we believe is true – ultimately, what our sense of reality is.
I believe in this notion but indirectly.
On Facebook, I see content posted by my likes and friends. I consciously let this content in.
And on sites like Reddit, the self-proclaimed front page of the internet, is formulated by an upvote system; the content that the community likes gets pushed to the front page, while everything else gets pushed down into the abyss. If anything, we have more control of what we read now than we’ve ever had before.
Yet, I am not completely defending Facebook. I believe they have allowed themselves too much data for their own good. They could very well concoct some harmful serum based on my data that could be detrimental to my well-being.
Yet all I see while scrolling through my Facebook feed is now content from mediums that they let in. I’d blame these mediums for my brainwash and not Facebook, the gracious host.
Lately, it seems that companies like Cambridge Analytica have been able to harness the power of Facebook for evil. Facebook should certainly work on this, perhaps indite stricter policies and not allow third party companies to suck up so much of their data.
Raskin also stated that in order for Facebook to restructure their product properly, they must take a hit on their revenue. This statement to me seems extreme as 97% of their data comes from advertisements, which to my understanding doesn’t necessarily correlate with misuse of data.
I understand that Facebook is allowed to hone “my” data to target advertisements, but this doesn’t bother me. Rather, I might get advertisements that may actually be of interest as a result.
I trust that these tech companies use algorithms that are fair. I do believe that with the internet, I am given enough credible information to form an educated opinion about a topic.
I don’t believe Facebook itself is evil. I believe it can be used by third parties with an evil intent and that should definitely be looked into.