Beware your iPhone- it might be addling your brain. Two prominent Apple investors warned this week the technology is disrupting children’s lives and causing addiction. The products that Apple introduces to the world could effect the shaping of the next generation.
Technological advances are happening too quickly for the human brain to adapt. In less than one generation our society has gone from marveling that cell phones could capture video to sleeping next to the devices. Many Westerners admit that they feel anxious when they don’t have their phone with them.
“Apple can play a defining role in signaling to the industry that paying special attention to the health and development of the next generation is both good business and the right thing to do,” billion-dollar investors Jana Partners and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, a pension fund, wrote in a letter published online.
“In the case of Apple, we believe the long-term health of its youngest customers and the health of society, our economy, and the Company itself, are inextricably linked, and thus the only difference between the changes we are advocating at Apple now and the type of change shareholders are better known for advocating is the time period over which they will enhance and protect value.”
In other words, if Apple doesn’t start trying to make its technology more appealing to parents, someone else will. Kids think that they love Apple products, but evidence shows that too much social media and cell phone usage leads to depression in teens.
“The problem lies not with our desire to connect, but with our form of connection. Our technology gives us a form of connection with the whole world, but at the same time it can limit the depth of our connection to the world around us, to those closest to us, and to ourselves,” Arianna Huffington wrote in a piece for NBC News.
“We are at an inflection point in our relationship with technology. Technology allows us to do amazing things that have immeasurably improved our lives. But at the same time, it’s accelerated the pace of our lives beyond our ability to keep up. And it’s getting worse. We’re being controlled by something we should be controlling…”
It’s not clear, however, what steps Apple or any other technology company can take. The human brain is wired to seek rewards, and the ping of an incoming text message or the thrill of seeing someone “like” your social media post is addicting. People, especially young ones, naturally want more, more, more.
“God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains,” Sean Parker, Facebook’s founding president, told Axios.
Technology companies can’t ignore the problem. There will be an eventual backlash to the way that new products are marketed toward children. “There is a developing consensus around the world including Silicon Valley that the potential long-term consequences of new technologies need to be factored in at the outset, and no company can outsource that responsibility,” Apple’s investors wrote in their letter.
Multiple leading technology experts have bemoaned the course that’s being taken today. Profits are driving every concern. Companies like Apple and Facebook have figured out how to get their customers hooked.
“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth… This is not about Russian ads,” Chamath Palihapitiya, who was vice-president for user growth at Facebook before he left the company in 2011, said.
“This is a global problem. It is eroding the core foundations of how people behave by and between each other.”