Do you feel in control of your life or enslaved by your devices? Have you risked your life texting and driving? Do you sympathize with a test group of students who endured painful shocks rather than be separated from their phones?
Digital technology is wonderful, but it's making us miserable, say former tech executives Vivek Wadhwa and Alex Salkever. There's a reason Apple CEO Tim Cook told the Guardian he won't let his nephew on social networks. We've become a nation of tech addicts—although it's not entirely our fault, and it is possible to enjoy the benefits of technology while taking our happiness back from the bots.
Wadhwa and Salkever describe the applied neuroscience techniques developers are using to make their products so insidiously habit-forming and, drawing on the latest research, detail the negative impact of technology in four key areas: love, work, play, and life. There are dozens of vivid examples. Online dating apps like Tinder encourage users to evaluate people like products, leading to superficial, unsatisfying relationships. Workers check their email an average of seventy-seven times a day, wreaking havoc on productivity. Children now spend nearly twice as much time playing inside with their screens as they do outside in the natural world—it is any wonder childhood obesity is a problem? The light from the devices so many of us look at right before we go to sleep suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone vital for sleep and healthy organ functioning.
But there's a way out. Wadhwa and Salkever lay out simple, common-sense ways to disrupt developers' efforts to get you hooked, including six simple questions to help you decide what role any given technology should play in your life. Ironically, they even describe some emerging technologies designed to give users more control. Get back to making technology serve you, not the other way around!