I love science. For that reason, I feel like I need to say something about how we are abusing it.
There are so many great articles and statistics being posted here about the negative impacts of screen time! The science and the expert opinions are pretty convincing to anybody who cares to take the time to investigate.
But I did a little thought experiment: What if someone came on here and made a post saying that they love Facebook, they love Snapchat, they use screens 10 hours a day, and couldn’t be happier? How would I respond to that? Well, I would probably reach into my bookmark folder and pull out an article by Tristan Harris, an article by Sherry Turkle, a study from Common Sense Media, and google some statistics about sleep loss. I would bludgeon that person with all this information and call it a good, convincing response.
That kind of response, which is certainly a pretty common way of talking about these issues, worries me. I can’t help but think that Humane Tech will suffer from the same issues that the environmental movement has - we rely so much on studies, statistics, and experts (the subject matter being very complicated, of course) that we don’t trust our own voices and experiences to tell the story. Humane discourse in the environmental movement (that is, centered around the lives and direct experiences of humans) is all too often crowded out by a culture which reflexively prostrates itself before the omnipotent excellence of Father Science. For an example, look at how people who question (simply question!) climate change are branded as despicable scientific blasphemers, a shaming different from the trial of Galileo only by a matter of degree.
When we lose the courage to think for ourselves, speak out, and tell our stories in our own voices, it doesn’t matter whether Science or the oracle of Delphi dictates the direction of our society. In both instances we are at the mercy of an abstract authority whose conclusions we accept without question. I know that by saying this I will be accused of all kinds of nasty things like anti-intellectualism and conspiracy theories. But if I didn’t make this post, I would be giving in to the very same fear that I am warning about in this very post itself! - A fear of being “wrong”.
Science is a human institution, not a set of pure principles as we often like to imagine. I will make the risky move of suggesting that we try to find a way to tell the story of humane tech without timidly deferring to one scientific study or another as it fits our narrative. Let Sherry Turkle or Adam Alter or Tristan Harris speak for you if you want; they are probably up to the task. But a more personal, individual-centric discourse needs to thrive alongside the expert voices if we want this thing to really go anywhere.