Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Communications Google Microsoft Social Networks

A Small But Growing Group Of Silicon Valley Heretics Are Disconnecting Themselves From the Internet (theguardian.com) 142

The Guardian reports: Decades after he stayed up all night coding a prototype of what was then called an "awesome" button, Rosenstein belongs to a small but growing band of Silicon Valley heretics who complain about the rise of the so-called "attention economy": an internet shaped around the demands of an advertising economy. These refuseniks are rarely founders or chief executives, who have little incentive to deviate from the mantra that their companies are making the world a better place. Instead, they tend to have worked a rung or two down the corporate ladder: designers, engineers and product managers who, like Rosenstein, several years ago put in place the building blocks of a digital world from which they are now trying to disentangle themselves. "It is very common," Rosenstein says, "for humans to develop things with the best of intentions and for them to have unintended, negative consequences." Rosenstein, who also helped create Gchat during a stint at Google, and now leads a San Francisco-based company that improves office productivity, appears most concerned about the psychological effects on people who, research shows, touch, swipe or tap their phone 2,617 times a day. There is growing concern that as well as addicting users, technology is contributing toward so-called "continuous partial attention", severely limiting people's ability to focus, and possibly lowering IQ. One recent study showed that the mere presence of smartphones damages cognitive capacity -- even when the device is turned off. "Everyone is distracted," Rosenstein says. "All of the time."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

A Small But Growing Group Of Silicon Valley Heretics Are Disconnecting Themselves From the Internet

Comments Filter:
  • by thegreatbob ( 693104 ) on Friday October 06, 2017 @02:40PM (#55323769) Journal
    Sometimes you have to take responsibility for your actions, regardless of the original intent, even if your efforts are futile.
    • I don't recall the angry mob of villagers taking responsibility for their actions against the innocent Frankenstein's "monster" ("creation" is the preferred nomenclature, dude).

      • True, true. Sadly, I have not read much of the classics in the last 10-15 years :( I should probably set about fixing that :)
  • But... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by computational super ( 740265 ) on Friday October 06, 2017 @02:42PM (#55323787)

    technology is contributing toward so-called "continuous partial attention", severely limiting people's ability to focus

    Of course, the noisy, crowded, attention-impossible "collaborative" open office trend is just fine.

    • Re:But... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 06, 2017 @02:57PM (#55323903)

      I see what you're trying to say but people are capable of holding a conversation in a noisy environment (bars, restaurants, etc) however with a smartphone they choose not to, which is where the irritation stems from. I've watched my 67 year old father become this kind of annoying person over the last 6 years, every notification merits a glance - no matter the conversation. So many people do this it has become a reflex action. I catch myself doing it. Its becoming harder and harder to resist the urge for "notification gratification".

      It's hard to turn notifications off and put the phone away, but people gotta start making the effort.

      • Did you just put an equal sign between a bar chit-chat and actual work?

      • I get depressed when I haven't had a notification for a while.

      • The fact that this happens isn't new. Only the frequency. I would get really pissed when the phone rang cause then the person I talked to would stand up and walk to the land line to answer it "cause it might be important".

        The telephone set the stage where it was acceptable to rudely cut a conversation off and walk away. Modern notifications are just an extension.

      • Re:But... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by jenningsthecat ( 1525947 ) on Friday October 06, 2017 @05:48PM (#55324881)

        It's hard to turn notifications off and put the phone away, but people gotta start making the effort.

        Advantages of being old, contrarian, and largely self-employed - I never turned notifications on in the first place. Unless it's a (fairly rare) phone call or an (even rarer) text message, I don't receive notifications. I collect and check email when I want to - none of that 'push' shit to put my attention under someone else's control. I don't do social media; but even if I did, I wouldn't receive notifications very often, because both data and WiFi are turned off until I explicitly require them to look something up or to check mail. I can see that it may be difficult to 'unplug' - but it sure as hell was easy to not plug in in the first place.

        This often gets framed as a technological issue, but it's really a sociological and psychological one. People need to re-learn that their true self-worth isn't contingent on being available and attentive to everyone and his dog on a 24/7 basis. They also need to learn that somebody else's unavailability is simply that - it isn't rejection.

        • This often gets framed as a technological issue, but it's really a sociological and psychological one. People need to re-learn that their true self-worth isn't contingent on being available and attentive to everyone and his dog on a 24/7 basis. They also need to learn that somebody else's unavailability is simply that - it isn't rejection.

          For me, the only way somebody can remotely interrupt my train of thought is a phone call, and those have existed for over a century. But today there are less intrusive ways to convey a message, so phone calls feel relatively much worse. Personally, I feel phone calls are psychologically jarring because you need to engage with the person quite deeply, without getting all the clues of presence. I prefer either asynchronous messaging or actual presence. Then there's the interruption aspect, where the caller a

      • "I find it hard to turn notifications off and put the phone away, but people gotta start making the effort.

        Fixed it for you. Don't project.
      • by nnull ( 1148259 )

        It's because there are so many people that demand that you respond to them. Instant gratification. Some of my clients have people that will send me an email that I'm not responding to them in a "timely" fashion just because I read my messages an hour later. They will even start calling me if I don't respond to them in the next 5-15 minutes and if I don't answer they get even more angry. They try to paint me as the problem. This nonsense just eats away at my time or my peoples time and serves little purpose.

    • Of course, the noisy, crowded, attention-impossible "collaborative" open office trend is just fine.

      Where I work, these "open orifices" tend drive folks to work from home whenever possible . . . achieving just the opposite of "collaboration". Folks who used to put in unpaid overtime in the office just don't do it any more. And some folks who have to be in the office camp out in the halls in chairs. If you are a programmer trying to concentrate, a chair in the hall is better than sitting next to a sales person blabbing on the phone all day.

      • to be fair though, sitting anywhere near the sales/marketing team is pretty much in violation of not only OSHA, as well as a grey area in the eyes of the Geneva Convention.

    • by q_e_t ( 5104099 )
      I don't have a particular problem with open, collaborative offices, as long as they are not complete barns, and as long as there is some space apart for when you do need to use Skype or whatever for work, someone, or discuss things with or have a particular need for peace and quiet for a couple of hours. However, some offices are not laid out in a way that is particularly pleasant, and a better understanding of how to make a shared office a more enjoyable space would be welcome. Where I work now the group
  • by tomxor ( 2379126 ) on Friday October 06, 2017 @02:51PM (#55323845)

    Isn't this more a problem with social networks? I know browsing the web more generally can be addictive for some, but I feel like there is a distinction.

    I don't do the normal social network, no facebook, no twitter etc, I went down that road for a very short time and found the overall effect fairly negative and attention graby many years before it became news. I don't find my life very distracted as a non-social networker, I don't have a smart phone, and the closest I get to distracted is emails or pull requests on GitHub (which are periodic, not continuous).

    Does anyone have examples of "highly distracted" experiences outside of social networking on the web?

    • by Cajun Hell ( 725246 ) on Friday October 06, 2017 @04:19PM (#55324483) Homepage Journal

      Does anyone have examples of "highly distracted" experiences outside of social networking on the web?

      The arrival of a new email, maybe?

      My boss beats me at this!! He had tens of thousands of unread emails, so doesn't notice when a new one comes in. I keep it at 0 and when the thunderbird icon shows a little red number, I have to click it to make it go away, or else.

      (Or else what? Fuck if I know. Don't ask me to explain that; ask a psychiatrist.)

      • by tomxor ( 2379126 )

        The arrival of a new email, maybe?

        My boss beats me at this!! He had tens of thousands of unread emails, so doesn't notice when a new one comes in. I keep it at 0 and when the thunderbird icon shows a little red number, I have to click it to make it go away, or else.

        (Or else what? Fuck if I know. Don't ask me to explain that; ask a psychiatrist.)

        Yeah I can see this one, I think maybe not having a smart phone has allowed me to escape this, also even on the desktop, I ether keep it in my i3 scratchpad - out of sight, or close it all together if I need some high quality uninterrupted coding time.

        That reminds me of another actually, slack - I love and hate that thing, I hate it's huge size and It now absolutely must be close when i'm trying to get work done, other times it's indispensable when fast communication is needed between colleagues. Just gotta

    • Indeed. The technical term is a Skinner Box [wikipedia.org]

      99% of games are nothing more then a glorified, re-skinned, Skinner Box.

      --
      One of the Lies of Judaism: Murdering an innocent animal magically takes away sin. In fact the exact _opposite_ is true.
      Isaiah 66:3: But whoever sacrifices a bull is like one who kills a person, and whoever offers a lamb is like one who breaks a dog's neck; whoever makes a grain offering is like one who presents pig's blood, and whoever burns memorial incense is like one who worships an ido

  • Amish paradise (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 06, 2017 @02:53PM (#55323867)

    As usual, the right reaction isn't to shun new things, but to learn how to use them correctly. You can have a phone and not touch, tap and swipe all the time. You can have a Facebook account and not be constantly interrupted by notifications. And if you can't, then that's what you need to fix.

  • I also can do this through the use of host files.
    • the neurotic need to add to the hosts file, to futilely seek the unobtainable comprehensiveness, has been shown to be even more addicting and mentally crippling than smart phone use.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I have spent decades deciding which technologies I wish to support and which I do not. I support ones that (a) leave control in the hands of users, not $BIGCORP, (b) do not constantly spy and send back every bit of data they can collect to $BIGCORP and $PARTNERCORPS.

    Over decades the rest of the world has supported the exact opposite: technologies which leave them powerless, and spy on them constantly.

    That would be fine, except in that eventually your ability to interact with other people utterly disappears

  • by Anonymous Coward
    How many of us were adults when the Internet was just beginning to be offered to the general public? I helped the company I was working for at the time, back in the 90's, get a page on this newfangled 'world wide web' thing, email, and so on. We did everything on dialup modems because that's all there was. Then there was this new thing called 'broadband', and I had cable or DSL at home. Information was available in ways that it had never been before. Just like everyone else, I thought it was great, and had
  • Other reported side effects from smartphones being off include diminished cellular reception, darker display, and a less-responsible touch-screen.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 06, 2017 @03:38PM (#55324183)

    There's a lot of us who are disengaging from this BS level of connectivity, don't care about smart phones, and refuse to be tethered, tweeted at, and constantly checking our email.

    I've had managers who can't put down their phone for two minutes, they call a meeting so we can explain something to them, and check their email so often they keep saying "what? sorry, I missed that" and you have to repeat what you said.

    I now have a hard limit of two of those before I leave the meeting. If you aren't capable of listening, then I'm not going to bother trying. If you can put your phone down long enough, great, I'll happily explain it to you .. otherwise I'll send your ADD ass an email and you can stop wasting my time trying to have an in person meeting with you while you're doing everything but paying attention. It's a waste of everybody's time in a meeting when half of the people are looking at 5 other things.

    And I'm not wasting my time if you have the attention span of a 6 year old or can only digest information in tweet sized chunks.

    Maybe this is an age thing, those of us who remember BBS's, IRC, and usenet are no longer quite so enthralled with the shiny baubles, and we want to get our damned work done.

    When work day is done, my phone stays in my laptop bag, or on the desk of my home office. I may periodically bring it with me if something specific is happening, but otherwise I'm not interested in being leashed to my email 24x7, I'm not checking my email constantly once the work day is done. And I sure as hell don't want a twitter feed, and endless stream of texts, or some stupid game which feels it must alert me every two minutes to be sure I'm playing (you know, seeing ads and spending money).

    You kids should try it, walking away from technology and not being constantly harassed by beeping phones is much more relaxing, and a whole lot healthier than jumping at your phone in the hopes that something awesome is about to unfold.

    People are like crack junkies with their phone, twitching and jonesing for the next time it goes ping. No thanks, not interested.

    I'm no luddite, I've been in the tech industry for a few decades, and I'm currently surrounded by 5 LCD displays all over 22", plus two phones. And like most people who have, the immediacy of the cool technology has lost its luster.

    But when I walk away from this heap of technology which surrounds me, I don't give it a second thought.

  • It is true (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cjonslashdot ( 904508 ) on Friday October 06, 2017 @03:58PM (#55324319)
    I strongly believe that programmer productivity today is less than it was decades ago, partly a result of distraction and the inability to think deeply, and partly due to the poor quality of todayâ(TM)s tools and tool documentation. It is hard to measure programmer productivity, but I recall that when I worked on a DevOps team a few years back, there were things that should have taken minutes to do that I spent days on, âoebanging my head against a wallâ - because the tool did not work as advertised, or the API I wanted to use was poorly documented, and so I had to resort to trial and error. In addition, I recall that while I enjoyed working in an open room, I would often stop thinking and just stare at my screen, waiting for a nearby conversation to conclude. When I had to think deeply, I found that I could not - and so I would go home, do the deep thinking, and then return to the office the next day to code it up. I found that coding did not require deep thinking as long as the problem was "obvious", but if it was complex, I could not do it effectively in the open room. As for email, I learned long ago that I need to close my email program while I am working, and only check it at intervals. As for the phone, I don't use the phone that much - I am in the "older generation" and did not pick up the habit of always looking at it, and I discourage people from texting me, because I find that texting - which is pre-emptive - is very disruptive to deep thought.
    • by tomxor ( 2379126 )

      I recall that while I enjoyed working in an open room, I would often stop thinking and just stare at my screen, waiting for a nearby conversation to conclude. When I had to think deeply, I found that I could not - and so I would go home, do the deep thinking

      omg this! I enjoy the company of my colleagues, but the downside is that sometimes you have to wait for the "end of the working day" or WFH to get serious work done... headphones can work for me sometimes if I am driven enough and clear about what I am doing, but when as you say "deep thought" is needed, then it must be in a quiet environment. But I find this to be a huge dilemma for software development, because coding is only one part of it, sure it's the most important, but communication is necessary, an

    • by q_e_t ( 5104099 )

      I strongly believe that programmer productivity today is less than it was decades ago, partly a result of distraction and the inability to think deeply, and partly due to the poor quality of todayâ(TM)s tools and tool documentation.

      I don't think so, as automation, orchestration (DevOps), code generation, software models, and pre-written frameworks allows you to do more. It used to be if you wanted an OS-agnostic set of bindings for I/O you had to write something, now you just pull it off the shelf. You had to worry about vendor-specific extensions for languages, but now standards reduce that requirement. If you wanted to build a complex set of software over multiple platforms, it could be hard to orchestrate it, but now with Jenkins a

      • Yes, good points. Orchestration frameworks definitely add a-lot in terms of what one can do. And automated testing is better too, you are right on that. Guess I am just griping about the things that are worse, and forgetting that some things have improved!
  • by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Friday October 06, 2017 @04:16PM (#55324461)

    I'm calling BULLSHIT on this claim.

    Gee, if only there was a "Do-Not-Disturb" on my phone -- oh wait, there is!

    Moreover, just because more and more people can't focus on something longer then 10 seconds doesn't imply _everyone_ is this neurotic.

    Hmm, if only there was a word for this ... I guess no one remembers the term: Self-Discipline

    > swipe or tap their phone 2,617 times a day.
    Holy shit are these people insecure and slaves to their addictions. Let me guess, this is because of "Social Media."

    Guess what, you have a CHOICE. Start living your own life instead of following someone's virtual life.

    You can still have an "online" presence and live a balanced life.
    i.e.
    Check your email / facebook / etc. 3 times a day -- morning, noon, and evening.

    Anything more then 3-7 times a day and you probably should seek professional help.

    • Yeah, if I'm out in the carport wrenching on the car, I'm not thinking about anything but my busted knuckles and how much I wish I had a garage with a concrete slab. I'm not thinking about celebrity bullshit I wish I could block from my stream entirely, or about how my last Slashdot comment was received, I'm trying to keep dirt out of a fresh flex line during a brake job. My cellphone isn't even in my pocket, because that's a good way to break it while you're rolling around on the ground.

      Maybe just about ev

    • by Anonymous Coward

      As a greybeard I know what you're talking about. But youngn'z do not know what it is to live without such things.
      So to them self-discipline is just not responding right away, living disconnected is unheard of for them.

      It's like growing up with vices in the family. One invites those same things on one's life because it is natural to them.

  • by Qbertino ( 265505 ) <moiraNO@SPAMmodparlor.com> on Friday October 06, 2017 @04:50PM (#55324631)

    I do. As far as digital content and connectivity goes, we live in a world of abundance. Today true wealth lies in focus. And today, disconnecting from always-online can provide that to a very high degree, much better than trying to discipline yourself. Every time upgrading my smartphone is due, I think about going back to a feature phone and a paper calendar / filofax.

    I never really dug the Internet in whole. This always-online thing was suspicious to me back in the 90ies and - to a certain extent - still is today. I remember the Fidonet and pulling/pushing my stuff once a day. Perfect.

    Long story short, disconnecting is a good idea and I understand that for some only a radical move does the trick. I could be that one.

  • that someone has the courage to speak up. This addicition to live, real-time information is not healthy psychologically and physiologically. Every time I try to disconnect from the internet, the longest I've ever been able to make it has been 3 days.
  • We've been living in a world of fossil-fuel powered earth movers instead of shovels. A lot of people are weak and/or fat, but not everybody. Some people hit the gym. For simple jobs some of us still use shovels. Computers can be for the brain what construction equipment is for the muscles. They can help us build things faster and better; but we can't use them as a crutch all the time. We need to hit the *mental* gym sometimes. I'm not sure what that looks like. Maybe it's as simple as reading, playi

  • Only to those of us who own such devices. I've never seen the need.
  • There's another serious unintended consequence that I'm more worried about: Social Cooling. It describes how the reputation scores that databrokers like Equifax make and sell are increasingly influencing your job opportunities and other aspects of your life. As people become aware of this reputation economy they start to self-censor and avoid risk in order to have good scores.

    https://www.socialcooling.com/ [socialcooling.com]

    It will even get some attention in a public hearing on 'horizontal privacy' by the Dutch Governmen
  • And watch as a group of heretic TV producers disconnects from the medium because it's being used for advertisement instead of the arts...

To understand a program you must become both the machine and the program.

Working...