How Evil Is Tech?

Our devices consume our time and dilute our social interactions.

Comments: 174

  1. Imagine if, in America, we used tech to enrich lives rather than to impoverish them. Imagine if we stopped telling people that they are useless if they can't find jobs. Imagine if Americans weren't seeing their jobs going overseas. Even better would be using technology to enhance communities rather than to penalize them. Here's the problem with technology and how it's being used in America. We're being told to do all sorts of things online: shop, make friends, find jobs, pay bills, do our banking, entertain ourselves, have one sided political discussions. Yet what we've eliminated is human contact for most interactions and as we've eliminated it we've lost our communities. But our politicians are so entranced by these tools that they won't restrict the abuses that are occurring online. Apply for jobs online. The applications ask illegal questions: your SSN, when you graduated from high school and college. If you want to submit the application you have to answer the questions somehow. And then the company will look you up on Google to see how old you are. Bank online and you have to give out your SSN to set up the account. But you have no guarantee that that information will remain confidential. The problem in America is that we do not think about how to use things well. We use them and let the disasters occur and then maybe we figure out how to do it right.

  2. Thanks for the comment. But what needs much greater emphasis in the media is the impact of technological change (think robots) as a very important factor, possibly exceeding international trade, as the source of decreased demand for workers in the US.

  3. You got that right hen3ry! And know, is not in the USA only. This is a global phenomenon of unimaginable scale. Now, for an Orwellian point of view, imagine for a while that all this digitally well organized and classified data bases fall in a not to distant future into the hands of an Eichmann or Stalin (you choose) character. Talking about disaster?

  4. New technologies can have a massive effect on societies. Think of atomic energy and the computer, probably the two most important technological innovations of the twentieth century. They are neither intrinsically bad or good. But the technology companies cannot self-police. They need to be regulated by government, national government or international agreement in the case of atomic energy.

  5. When I taught at a theological seminary I would tell students that the Bible programs (which can do complex analysis of Hebrew and Greek texts in less than a second instead of 30+ minutes using books) should be used to save time, no replace normative reading. There are great time saving Apps (Waze has probably saved me 40 driving hours in the last year) and that's what they should do, help us have more time for life, not become substitutes for life.

  6. I think part of the problem that wandering is wasting time. This accelerated pace, this squeeze in every minute, this consume more info, jump to more info, is perhaps what is shredding our humanity - pondering, meandering, puzzling, even delays, might just be ways of accessing our deepest humanity . . . . .

  7. "... Bible programs (which can do complex analysis of Hebrew and Greek texts in less than a second instead of 30+ minutes using books) ..." I have no idea what you are talking about. Could you give an example of such a "Bible program" and explain what you mean by "complex analysis"?

  8. Thank you, David Brooks! Humility is antithetical to social media. There is, in fact, no benefit to humility online, but a huge push toward celebrity. Celebrities have inherited the earth, leaving little space for the meek. Having just finished Lincoln in the Bardo, a book about a moment in 19th century time seems more relevant to our contemporary moment than most. How strange to compare the celebrity president of today with the contemplative president portrayed in Saunders's book. The more we become phone slaves, the more celebrity presidents we will elect.

  9. You can't ignore the World of Twitter The Sad spot where mean folk are bitter, The place where a POTUS Can garner much notice By tapping out Internet litter.

  10. "Eighth graders who spend 10 or more hours a week on social media are 56 percent more likely to say they are unhappy than those who spend less time. " Rationalists would ask themselves, what might account for this correlation, besides the facile hypothesis that time on social media creates unhappiness? Perhaps isolated lonely individuals seek out even the minimal connection afforded by Facebook. There is a correlation between low exercise and depression. It is plausible that physical inactivity is linked to internet addiction. But David is an anti-rationalist in the tradition of Hayek and Burke.

  11. Technologies change us. I'm very concerned about the ways in which reading on very small screens has altered the reading process for some of my students. They read the way inexperienced translators of Latin translate by grabbing words and combining them, without paying attention to their context and hence their sense. They go with their impressions of what passages say rather than what the words actually mean.

  12. "They go with their impressions of what passages say rather than what the words actually mean." There is no such thing as "what the words actually mean". "Passages" are always subject to interpretation.

  13. I work in Tech and I assure I am not working to addict anyone. There are many more companies than the 4 you listed working on all sorts of technology. It isn't the Tech industry's fault that parent's use a smart phone to raise their children. It isn't the tech industry's fault that people give their babies tablets so they don't bother them while they are working on their Facebook page. It IS the tech industry's fault that they capture every tiny bit of info they can on your and sell it for big bucks to marketing companies. I am old enough to remember similar complaints about television. Here is the thing, raise your children. Listen to them. Spend time with them. Teach them that their phone is device to make things simpler, not a magic portal into "babe-land" or "dude-heaven". It's not something you use because you're too lazy to leave the house. It's not a toy. It's not the be all and end all of existence. It's not important. People are important. But first of course, Mom and Dad have to learn this too.

  14. That's good advice, but the tech industry needs to face the fact that many people won't take it, and that many people try to take it but fail.

  15. @Mj, First, you are wrong about the addictions. It is well-known that tech companies hire psychologists to develop strategies to make their product addictive to people, including children. Second, you are wrong to blame parents. The tech companies bribe schools to adopt their technology. Schools are spending billions on counter-productive technology. Third, you are wrong not to blame tech. Technology companies deliberately make it hard for parents to monitor their children and regulate their children's use to technology. The tech companies want children to get addicted to their product.

  16. The tobacco companies have nothing to do with the addictive properties of nicotine or marketing of cigarettes. Smoking is a choice. The food industry has nothing to do with addictive properties of sugar. Eating sugary foods is a choice. The big tech companies are not concerned about their advertising revenue. They are just making serious devices to help make life just a little easier and more productive. The fact is that individual Mom and Dad are no match for Apple, Google, Facebook giants. The kids are social outcasts without smartphones these days, and the neighbor moms and dads have given up and/or are addicted themselves. Computers and tablets are even required by schools (fully loaded with social media bullc..p). By the way, when is the last time you had a doughnut or a pastry?

  17. Our school district has subjected our kids to a great experiment involving iPads for all and no alternative to opt out. No consent was solicited and for those of us struggling to limit screen time and distractions it has been an absolute nightmare. There has yet to be an iota of evidence to suggest that introducing these technologies improves outcomes and if we are trying to establish this then we should be allowed to choose not to participate in this prospective study. I suspect that there are good intentions smeared with the allure of tech's attention and dollars securing future customers who will know of no other way of doing things. Resistance is futile and all we can do is hope for the best because home schooling for a family with two parents working is not an option.

  18. This is an enormous generalization but also thought provoking offering the reader an opportunity to dig deeper beyond the few words possible in a brief column. Nice work, David Brooks.

  19. Perhaps, Mr. Brooks, it is a tool like any other and one has to know how to use it in a moderate productive way, without becoming addicted or dependent on the above. This can be difficult and one does not like to receive threatening messages that if one does not subscribe to the newest protective shield, one's whole life is up in flames. Earlier before reading this essay, I thought this is not my favorite time nor era, and anything that smacks of math, or computer science is my undoing. A distinguished elderly Frenchman places this American in the time of Montaigne before the Revolution, and it is a standing joke among some friends that I am living in the 19th Century. But frivolities aside, I remember your exchange with Gail Collins 'In Praise of Modern Technology' which was used as a topic for a small international speakers workshop and found it encouraging. Recently a friend gave me a tablet with access to movies, games and more, which I am longing to give away. The T.V. with over 100 choices remains idle. The cell phone is used when venturing out, in case it is needed in an emergency. The last time I heard from my big bro on the phone was when our mother died. He had some kind of fit in Paris without the internet and started 'barking'. Humility seems out of reach, but T.S. Eliot writes that the only wisdom we can hope to acquire is the wisdom of humility, and sending you greetings for a Happy Thanksgiving, while counting multiple blessings.

  20. I have designed and managed inter-networks for 40 years. By the time the general population understands the answer to the question, "How evil is Tech?" it will be too late. For instance, do you know how fast Google has taken over the information processing for U.S. K-12 education? Do you know why they have? No, I thought not.

  21. "No, I thought not." You are making false assumptions about people you don't know. In fact, the Times has published articles on the use of tech products in education. How Silicon Valley Plans to Conquer the Classroom By NATASHA SINGER and DANIELLE IVORY NOV. 3, 2017

  22. We have refused to join Facebook in spite of requests and general disbelief from some friends, family, and even businesses. Hearing yesterday that Manson's official page has thousands of followers only affirms that decision. A "platform" that enables validation for such disordered interests can't justify itself. We need mature moderation in our discussions and expert content curation in our media. The idea that such controls are anti-democratic is absurd: our democracy has never been in such peril as it is now in the digital age.

  23. I may be naive, but I don't have any major issues with Apple as a technology company. As far as I'm aware, they do not collect data on their users and sell it, and they tend to make products that are recyclable. I'm not even sure they make any addictive apps, unless you want to count text messaging. And do they have a monopoly share of anything? However, I do have a problem with Apple as a corporate citizen for hiding their massive earnings overseas and not paying their fair share of taxes.

  24. You take the good with the bad. For me personally the smartphone revolution has enriched my life markedly. From audiobooks and ebooks to apps that outline a breath-hold training program to sky maps that guide me to the constellations, to a clinometer that allows me to estimate the height of distant objects, my phone has enriched, not dimished my being-in-the-world. In the past few years I have read/listened to War and Peace three times in different translations! Without the phone, it never would have happened.

  25. Hey Aaron, me too. Instead of TV after school, my ten year old son has listened to Huckleberry Finn and Treasure Island on Spotify. Spotify itself is a music cornucopia, opening up vast stores of music I barely knew existed. And yet, what about folks who come to the web without adult sensibilities developed before the web was invented? I fear a tidal wave of stupid. Maybe the web could be fixed with an updated version of the fairness doctrine. For instance, instead of Google serving up websites predicted to generate clicks, it could be required to serve up contrary material outside the searchers field of vision. That kind of regulation would cut into revenues, but the web is a public utility and maybe ought to be regulated like one.

  26. Completely agree! I now walk to work and can listen to all kinds of podcasts, or any kind of music. If I have trouble communicating with someone who doesn't speak English - well, there is an app for that! I love your comment about three different translations... I do a similar thing with music - love to listen to the same piece of work performed by different conductors/orchestras. Some of the music is not available electronically, but it is so easy to get from - online! - stores and then digitize at home. My life is better, richer, much more fun because of technology. Love it.

  27. The assumption here is that someone or some group is in charge at some abstract place called "tech." In fact, tech is now audience- and power-driven. The many-headed hydra of the masses is devouring tech faster than anyone can react, much to the delight of tech's founders. Sabotage, deceit, fraud, cruel ambition, and mindless addiction are only early symptoms of a toxin that could consume reflection and critical consciousness long before anyone develops an antidote. Donald Trump seized on Twitter and the Russians on Facebook because they realized the power of media's new vectors to spread totalitarian poison. The plague is already upon us.

  28. "Shallower forms of consciousness" - nicely put. I can't resist - is this what put our current President in office, as a living embodiment of tech's impact?

  29. The problem with today's "tech" is not so different than earlier "tech" called TV, which promoted tobacco shamelessly, in spite of the reality that it would kill millions. "More doctors prefer Camels" was not so different than contemporary fake ads that claim Hillary was operating a pedophile sex ring in the basement (with tunnels!) of a Comet Ping Pong Pizza. Except of course, the tobacco ads killed millions.

  30. Comparing TV with today's tech is like comparing candy to heroin. 1. Most homes had one TV and it was in the family room where parents could monitor it. 2. It had limited offerings - no endless stream of applications. 3. It did not mix news, movies, cartoons with, for example, pornography. 4. Communication went one way, so TV did not collect data on you. 5. TV was not required. It was not the only source for certain information. 6. The schools did not integrate TVs into the curriculum.

  31. How about tech is just kinda boring.

  32. Tech sure beats reading the NY Times in print. Tech is not evil. It brings information to the masses. How the masses use tech is up to the individuals.

  33. Yes, and we wouldn't be able to comment on Brooks' columns without it!

  34. One word: SkyNet. Just saying.

  35. I feel EXTREMELY guilty about having read this on my iPad. Sorry!

  36. At least half his readers are on tech devices. I'd not be surprised if it were more like three quarters of his readers.

  37. Me too!

  38. The main problem that Mr. Books fails to enumerate is that the only operative driver of social media businesses and most search engines is to make money by capturing attention for as much time as possible to sell as many ads as possible. They are now doing this using AI tools to exploit human behavior that evolved in a completely different social environment and is now dysfunctional in our current environment. Translated: they exploit human weakness for the profit motive. This is now the overarching driver—lets call it the dominant algorithm—of their implementation of AI. Collateral damage is not part of the calculation.

  39. Interesting that this piece should be published in the NYT the same day as Benjamin Y. Fong's "The Climate Crisis? It’s Capitalism, Stupid." Everything Fong says about the impossibility of our adequately addressing CO2 emissions into the world's atmosphere applies to the problems Brooks identifies as being caused by the massive tech companies. So long as the latter are for-profit entities, answerable first and foremost to their shareholders, how could they not continue on their current path, addicting the young, etc? They are maximizing-profit machines, programmed by the competitive marketplace.

  40. Thanks for this great article and things for the TECH heads to consider. As far as I'm concerned "social media" is a STD Socially Transmitted Disease with no known cure.

  41. Well put. Got of facebook 2 years ago when I came upon to realize everything you wrote. Snapchat gone, too. Even now use Bing to search to help the monopoly aspect. thanks .

  42. It could be that the world created by tech is just boring.

  43. Another critique not cited here is the unchecked peddling and propagation of fake news and it's impact on national politics.

  44. The bad drives the good out of any human activity that fails to enforce minimum standards of conduct. This blog is as good as it is because the host has good judgment of what is fit to print. The larger internet is policeable only by collective behavior, such as shunning.

  45. The problem is not tech! The problem IS lousy parenting! Educated involved parents are raising more intelligent and creative and super competent and happier kids than ever before in history. They will go on to become fulfilled adults who can move humanity into a new dimession of humanistic progress for all. The weak minded and stupid -as always -will become increasingly irrelevent and dependent on the illuminated techies in the next dimesnsion of human evolution - transhumanism!

  46. Obviously you are not a parent. The schools introduce the computers to the children as young as kindergarten. Then everyone in the neighborhood except your child has phone and is arranging social events with the phone.

  47. If acing the SAT's because your parents have had you tutored, practically beginning in-utero, then yes we are living in a golden age. In some people's valuation, taking 5 AP courses means you're super-competent and not just super-obedient.

  48. "How evil is tech?" Why isn't "zero" considered as a possible answer? The "destroying the youth" argument has been used since time began. "In my day television was called BOOKS!" The "near monopoly" argument is silly. All the GAFA, etc compete fiercely with one another, in markets that barely existed a few years ago. I think the main point is that newspapers are struggling and blame tech for it. Recent election tampering by evil people (using tech as a tool) have given columnists an excuse to rail about technology, but each time you read a "is tech your friend" article substitute "this reporter" or "this newspaper" for "tech".

  49. No. I wonder how old you are. I have never seen so many young people who think they know something but have never cracked their books. These are my own sons I am talking about. It makes me sad for them, for what they are missing. But I trust in time they'll figure out how empty these pasttimes are. And there are great things that technology can do, like providing full texts of many BOOKS to read. I can't help but think how vastly ignorant this next generation must be.

  50. What possible free market incentives could exist to coax Facebook et al into lowering their sights and pitching themselves merely as efficiency devices for helping us get offline faster? There are none. If this is a problem, the solution would seem to lie outside free markets -- as seems increasingly the case here on Planet Earth.

  51. Says he who uses tech to spread his opinions.

  52. And he wouldn't have even half as many readers without tech.

  53. A medium as impersonal as this is a test of the raw virality of opinions.

  54. In a responsible and courteous manner.

  55. Frequently I see people using smartphones as a prop to avoid acknowledging or interacting with strangers. Enter an elevator car and immediately the person opposite you lifts his mobile and fixes his eyes on it. You ride in silence. Ditto in corporate hallways. It might be shyness or fear or perhaps a prejudice peculiar to that person, but it can also be foolishness, as when people stride across streets with their eyes riveted to a smartphone instead of on crosswalk traffic around them. Does this head-in-the-sand behavior during one of the riskier common activities in urban street life confers a false sense of safety? ("I'm connected to someone I know so I'm safe among the strangers around me.") I'm an older man and know some young people, particularly here in the USA, are uneasy around adult strangers, which perhaps explains why so many look to their mobiles in order to avoid eye contact with older people. Whatever the psychology behind these rituals of willful self-isolation, the loss of casual cordiality and polite acknowledgement of others in situations traditionally considered appropriate to it seems to me a loss to all.

  56. People have always ridden elevators with strangers in silence. This is such a cliché that I have been in two management training programs in which the instructor gave an assignment to enter an elevator in the hotel, when at least two strangers were in the car, and loudly ask to the car in general: "Is this a happy elevator?" Speaking to strangers in elevators has long been a social semi-taboo.

  57. The airplane effect. We used to travel so little that it was somewhat an adventure and we would talk at least briefly to our seat mates. Now it’s almost an assault to do more than make brief eye contact.

  58. People want to look "connected" now.

  59. Very good column. The interconnected mass media can provide more information to anyone than ever before. Anyone who has developed profound intellectual skills and has a deep understanding of any given subject has the means to accomplish a great deal. On the other hand it can serve as a diversion which provides a lot of information to those with only a shallow appreciation that mostly has no significance or confuses or which recipient cannot use effectively because they have not learned how. Discussing things face to face, reading, being in the presence of people, are all part of learning how to think and communicate with others. Those experiences form the mind. Then the media can be used well.

  60. Get ready for hundreds of thousands of well paid jobs to be wiped out by software automation, also known as machine learning and artificial intelligence. Software will be able to write itself forward, mutating with no human intervention, Eventually, this will spread around the world and a few billion will be affected. It's not far away. People need to understand how to steer away from this. However, the young generations coming up are the digital addicts who will be least likely to see how they are being entrapped. This is on an acceleration curve. It could be rationally argued it's too late.

  61. All capitalist industry does what Mr. Brooks describes here. It takes advantage of human wants in order to make money. Candy and soda and high-carb fast foods are beloved and make us obese. Tobacco and alcohol can be addicting but give us pleasure. Fast cars and the advertising that surrounds them encourages speeding and risky driving. For-profit "colleges" encourage people to go into debt in search of non-existent jobs. Industries that produce products that we not only want but actually cannot live without, like medical devices and drugs, pollute and overcharge. Tech is just one more example. Capitalism, often allied with government research, has produced marvels. (The Internet is a good example. We now have a world of information in our pockets.). But there are costs. Blaming "tech" instead of working to mitigate the costs is just scapegoating.

  62. Money is the hydraulic fluid of activity in technological economies.

  63. Tech has changed the way some teens hangout. Now some kids gather to play games online. They wear headphones and talk. They form teams and concoct strategies. This seems more healthy than watching sitcoms alone. Also, tech has enabled many to find their own artistic voice. Some artists are posting their own music on SoundCloud. Teen authors are emerging in creative writing forums. Some websites encourage creative photography, graphic design and digital art. I know one teenager who is creating his own comic series/graphic novel and is "publishing" it online. There is another side to the coin. It's not all bad. Parents just need to encourage the artistic opportunity social media offers. And be open to new forms of communication. I think it's a mistake to paint a dismal picture for our youth. Instead, better to shine a light on the cool things, the opportunity, the art.

  64. In my day, back in the 60's as a teen, the private line phone was the culprit. Or, cruising in a beat-up Chev. with a friend or two. Those were available, but somehow I spend all my time from 5:00pm Friday through 7:00pm Sunday studying, doing homework and once in a great while going on a date. Somehow I survived. Just because we old folks don't get the new ways younger folks socialize or communicate doesn't mean it's all bad. Choice, life is made of making good choices. Always was, always will be. The Tech companies give you choices, it's up to you to make better ones.

  65. When I was a teenager I went to the park to be outside alone or with friends. We wandered around and looked at things, or talked. We went to movies and museums and music concerts. We went to the library to read. We danced. We rode our bikes. We had parties. That was our recreation. We interacted with each other and the real world and we cared about real things, unless you consider art and books and movies not real things. They seem not to be real on the surface but they enlighten the soul and heart and spirit, and believe it or not, those are very real things. "Stop! Let us speak of real things!"

  66. It would be helpful if these photographs didn’t perpetuate stereotypes – try selecting a subject that needs to shave more than once a week (male OR female). I love it. David regularly stares at an app that tells him how regularly he stares at his phone. (I do not stare at any such app and do not regularly stare at my phone.) I’m not at all sure that what David sees as discouragement of intimacy and social cohesion isn’t merely standards and enablers of intimacy and social cohesion morphing from forms recognizable to old white men like him and me to forms UNrecognizable to us but with which the young are increasingly comfortable. I’m not at all sure that the symptoms David describes aren’t caused by an increasingly complex and disjointed society, and not by how kids engage with it and one another. Despite the fact that David is a few years younger than I am, he might consider how advancing age and generational assumptions might be driving his perceptions. I consider these factors every day as I listen to today’s music that sounds every bit as pointless to me as the music of my youth sounded to my parents. Tech is under no obligation to operate within the interactive boundaries that David or any of us who have occasionally checked Amazon for deals on canes and hearing aids deem appropriate. They have every right to push the envelope with definitions of newer interactive boundaries that they believe are more socially engaging. And none of that is ”evil”.

  67. I rarely agree with your politics, Richard, but I am in complete agreement with this comment. I have often complained about David's endless navel-gazing. But I love your characterization, "David regularly stares at an app that tells him how regularly he stares at his phone." Perfect!

  68. The criticism of the tech world goes far beyond what you outline here. In his book "World Without Mind," Thomas Foer describes what he sees as the existential threat of big tech. The tech giants began with a seemingly well-intentioned hope for the kind of collectivism that enables us to share knowledge. But their arrogance has made some of them believe they know what is best for all of us. Many, not just fringe thinkers, dream of a time when humans and machines will merge into a “singularity” that will make the world a better place. Some researchers into AI have turned what they see as the liberation of the brain into an engineering challenge, ignoring what it means to be fully human, imagining something superior. They cast themselves as creators. The new name for all that Google has become, Alphabet, even suggests a kind of Alpha and Omega mentality, the creator and sustainer of a new age. In Foer’s book one of Silicon Valley’s best thinkers, Peter Diamandis, is quoted as saying. “Anybody who is going to be resisting this progress is going to be resisting evolution. And fundamentally they will die out.” I don’t have the space to write much more, so I’ll simply suggest that Foer’s book is one that should be read by all of us concerned about the future of big tech.

  69. Every exponential growth process eventually exhausts the resources it consumes. Kurzweil's "singularity" is a black hole.

  70. It's nobody's fault that the children are addicted to tech gadgets. The parents buy them the smartphone, lest the kids be left out of digital friendships. The tech companies just give people what they want, defined by what they are willing to spend money on. The kids themselves are too young to know any better. So who will break the cycle of more tech and more unhappiness?

  71. Yes, indeed it is evil only you’ve missed most of the picture. Trump won because of the gross income inequality running rampant in this nation. It is going to become even worse unless we take notice and very soon build in some safeguards. The third largest factory in South Korea, a Hyundai factory, has 100 employees. Raw materials go in one end. At the far end a few employees drive completed cars to the storage area to ship them to overseas markets. Most of the employees are robotics engineers. They wear lights because the factory interior is unlit. Where does the wealth this factory generates go? It’s not into pockets of the several thousand it doesn’t employ. You’ll find them at the nearby railroad station peddling dried octopus. They return home to shanties. That’s America’s automated future if we don’t wise up. Self-driving trucks are hot tech news. How many hundreds of thousands of those good-paying jobs will be displaced? What will the unemployed do for income? Likewise, retailers are eager to replace cashiers with checkout kiosks. I was in Target the other day at about 10 AM. There were zero clerks; only a supervisor for the self-checkout stations. I no longer shop at Target. Indifference to this tech problem has already brought ugly outcomes. Continue blithely replacing people with "tech" and pretending the magical marketplace will pop up an employment solution and ugly will turn to brutal, evil behavior on a scale not seen since WW II.

  72. Articulate, spot-on comment. This is why I read NYT.

  73. This is right on. Also imagine who the reality-bending social media will tell the heavily-armed displaced to blame for their vanished jobs? Definitely not the robots. When push comes to shove, tech will side with fascist opportunists whipping the flames rather than countenance any reform, enhancement of the social safety net, or anything progressive beyond a basic universal income that can be siphoned by rent seekers. Brooks’ concerns are quaint by comparison, more than likely triggered by all the screens in the quiet car on the Acela, or witnessing a child being pacified with an iPad at Per Se.

  74. "Income inequality" wrote a letter re-opening a politically motivated hit job on the Democratic candidate while voting was taking place ? I did not know that !!

  75. Tech did not invent the consumer addiction model but certainly has made great strides toward perfecting it. Since World War II the consumer economy has been increasingly predicated on selling people things that they really don't need. The entire advertising industry has been devoted for years to developing techniques for generating mass desires for nonessential objects and experiences. The inevitable corollary to this is that for every addiction that corporate research can identify and isolate there must be a commercial product that can target it. Techies have become very proficient at proliferating products that cater to every nuance of every addiction. What seems to be different is that, on nearly every issue, tipping points are being reached. Desires that once seemed manageable now totally dominate the mind. Individual autonomy is being threatened and, as Brooks suggests, the patterns created by commercial devices are increasingly shaping our most basic thought patterns. In the long term, this may force human minds to evolve a higher level of discernment. But right now it's generating cultural degradation and a disorienting level of fear.

  76. Woofer, it is not just that people don't need this stuff, its is that they don't even want it. I help people declutter their homes, so I know how American homes are filled with stuff they never wanted and can't figure out why they bought it.

  77. I would add a further critique. Tech isn't interested anywhere near enough in content. It surrenders its medium to others who may inject whatever they want and call it truth. This makes for a beguiling, but ultimately pernicious cocktail, as the mechanism is designed to make 'content' spread at the speed of light and mistakes, intentional or not, simply cannot be corrected. With an audience that consists primarily of young people, who haven't (yet) been given the tools to evaluate what they are presented with, we are conditioning our children to be mentally thoughtless and emotionally visceral. The question is whether we, as parents and voters, will find the means, the strength and the perseverance to convince our elected representatives to take appropriate action. Bearing in mind that political success is nowadays determined to a very large extent by popularity, often fueled by social media, this isn't a done deal.

  78. I think many of us, myself included, indulge our kids too much with their tablets or phones because we're tired from work and it's convenient when they're passive in their room or on the couch. That's not wrong, after all most kids do already have plenty of sports, arts, music classes etc. It's better for them to read a book or magazine, newspaper, ... however (not on the phone or tablet...). It's helpful that finally some convenient devices are available (e.g. Circle With Disney) that let us limit the mobile device time of our kids to 1 hour or so per day.

  79. As kids long before cellphones, we would get on our bikes and head the shopping center, the bowling alley, the park, a friend's house. If the bike had a flat tire or the chain broke or we got lost or it started to rain, we were on our own. We had to decide how to fix what went wrong. We could look for a pay phone or knock on a stranger's door or walk the broken bike home or to a friend's house. Even if we found a phone and called home, there was a good chance nobody was there (and the phone gave us back our dime, since there was no answering machine). Now it's pull a phone out of my pocket to call or text the phone in mom's pocket. Problem solved. No analysis, no creativity, no options to produce, no decision to make, no survival instinct to trigger, no learning moment. But that's okay. If something goes wrong 20 years later, pull the phone from your pocket and text mom, "I'm moving back home."

  80. Good article. I agree, tech social platforms are shallow and limited. But this is not new; TV was called the "great wasteland" in the 1960s. Tech social platforms are also dangerous to the user. But you can only go so far with blaming social platform companies (they are not tech and do not create technology, they program computers). We got to fire our smartphones. Each of us. I am a tech forever (first job was in software engineering) and I aint got one. Dont need one. Wont use one.

  81. Good mention of TV in it's early days, I can remember in the 60's , how relieved Mothers were, they could sit Junior in front of tube all day and keep him amused. My nannie so I was told took me for a walk and to a near by zoo. Later I had the radio and read books. Today TV is an insult to my intelligence. With that said, many folks have it on all the time. Point is kids on smart phones is no surprise.

  82. What, no mention of the Russians weaponizing big tech and social media against us, Mr. Brooks? It was just revealed a few weeks ago that Russian-linked Facebook ads targeted Michigan and Wisconsin. Facebook previously reported that an estimated 10 million users had seen ads bought by Russian-controlled accounts and pages. Twitter told congressional investigators a couple of weeks ago that it has identified 2,752 accounts controlled by Russian operatives and more than 36,000 bots that tweeted 1.4 million times during the election. The company previously reported 201 accounts linked to Russia. Yet another company putting their own profit ahead of what's good for their county. These companies have so much in common with Trump, as both lie, repeatedly, about Russia and Russia's influence. MAGA indeed: Make America Greedy Again

  83. While I agree with the column, it's not correct to use the term "tech" as equivalent to social media. There is a lot more to technology than social media, which is tech only in that it uses a computer platform and algorithms. In a sense, we've weaponized a few tools of technology against ourselves, but there's a lot of "tech" that shouldn't be demonized.

  84. Great column. We should have seen this 10 ears ago. We need more of these. And let's make one more important point. Tech has infected schools. It is being used in ways that are not efficient and are not productive. School are now less efficient and productive. Students who are already overworked are burdened with managing dozens of on-line schedules, tutorials, and applications, which are poorly designed and slapped together to make money off the schools. Instead of using computers to learn, students are using them to play more games, surf more web, watch more videos, and connect with more social media.

  85. You could have also critiqued the underlying thought process behind big tech - that every problem can be solved by technology. There are many problems facing humanity that are likely more solvable through things like meeting other people in person (through dialogue and community), or through using existing resources effectively. Tech can be effective in a supporting role, but it's only one part of the toolkit. But instead of this, the tendency in tech is to invent something new which 'disrupts' existing relationships, and then to leave the fallout for others to deal with. You've focused specifically on social networking and information technology, but the problem exists elsewhere. For example, one solution which is supposed to help with reducing carbon emissions is electric cars. But another very effective solution, and a non-technical one, is to use far less energy in the first place.

  86. I agree with Mr. Brooks wholeheartedly, and as a programmer am as deep in the industry as you can get. The ironic thing is that when he says, "But we are happiest when we have brought our lives to a point, when we have focused attention and will on one thing, wholeheartedly with all our might.", he is describing, to a T what programmers feel when they are coding.

  87. Everything in moderation as they say. I have no Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media account. Enjoy Google for researching history, the news, environment, geography, etc. Of course I'm in my 70's and wasn't fed tech as a child. But then we were the first generation to "enjoy" television. And with that the influence it had on our daily lives. I have a great photo (1949) of my brothers and sisters sitting on the floor watching the tv, social media of the time grabbing hold of our minds. But we got through it ok. Today I do not watch tv other than the PBS Newshour,  and an old movie now and then. We have one tv and it is tiny. Weaned myself off it years ago, couldn't handle the commercials. Don't watch football anymore either, again too many commercials. In time the tech stuff of today will pass and something else will grab hold of our minds. And then.....

  88. I marvel and embrace this new age of technology. To Quote Dr.Suess" Oh the places you'll go". I raised 3 children when home computers and cell phones became available and affordable devices. These inventions opened up a whole new topic regarding parenting. I gave it great thought before I unleashed these machines into my children's life. My first task was to be the student and I purchased a desktop computer. I marveled at a window to our entire world that was now available, but I had to keep in mind that the viewer I had to pay attention to were adolescents. When I gave permission for my children to use this machine there were rules that were enforced on a consistent basis and I paid close attention as to their travels. All three children receive a Christmas gift of a cell phone when a senior in high school, and rules applied. "Imagine if instead of claiming to offer us the best things in life, tech merely saw itself as providing efficiency devices."  Mr. Brooks, It is not the job of the tech industry to change the mind of its consumers. It is a Product we purchase. We live in this new age of technology and it is not going away. What needs to be addressed, and at an early age is that these devices are no substitute for human interaction, and we must teach the important Art of Critical Thinking. This all begins with parenting.

  89. My guess is tech knows millions no longer have to be alone with their thoughts. Tech also has a sweet spot with millions of young people, who now can avoid interaction with another person. especially when they enter the workforce. There are untold numerous benefits with the internet to learn contact someone of important issues instantly etc etc. I find those adults who say are on facebook all the time are few but big users others don't become members as facebook is bothersome and intrusive. Brooks comments about young kids is a different issue. Kids are usually shy a smartphone is a great place to hide.

  90. Tech may be moving next into position as the chief agent of globalism and cultural/economic dislocations. It has already shattered constitutional definitions of free speech, privacy, and due process -- replacing them with a burgeoning set of globally-enforceable contractual agreements -- while shrinking the concept of trespass into something that only protects a corporation. "Deliver us from evil" may become the cross-cutting theme of anti-globalism, tribalism, workers' rights, and human rights in the very near term. If so, it will be the political equivalent of the Protestant Reformation, or the breakup of the Ottoman Empire.

  91. Although I agree with many of Mr. Brooks’ points, I disagree that the “big breakthrough” will come when the tech industry does action X or Y. The necessary breakthrough is for individuals to realize that technology is a tool, and like every other tool, we have a great degree of choice about how and when to use it. I agree that tech companies bear responsibility for thinking beyond the end of their own noses. But as a user engaging in activity that I have some control over, I also bear that responsibility myself. If your use of technology is excessive and undermining the quality of your life, stop doing it.

  92. "Imagine if tech pitched itself that way. That would be an amazing show of realism and, especially, humility, which these days is the ultimate and most disruptive technology." Tech response: "Nah, I'm good"

  93. One of the problems is a cultural emphasis on and blindness with respect to external rewards. People don't understand the difference between the extrinsic and intrinsic reinforcement because our educational system doesn't manage to provide that kind of learning. If we recognized how this aspect of motivation worked on us, we would have a bit more chance of recognizing its effects and making personal adjustments.

  94. There are a number of comments along the lines of "don't blame tech for what people do or don't do" Strictly speaking, these commenters are right. But Tech falls into the category of passive control. If a road is build by the government, you don't have to drive on it. But the odds are that you will and the road will give advantages to some areas (the shops and companies near the road) and damage other areas (those shops/companies that are now cut off or difficult to get to). Remember the old saying about the news industry "it doesn't tell you want to think, but it does tell you what to think about". Tech is not neutral.

  95. I don't know that all of this represents my views, but it's something to think about. Myself, I have to differ from Mr. Brooks' assertion that tech does not provide intimacy. I met my wife in an online discussion group, and as our friendship blossomed, I came out of a long depression, without having met her face to face, and in fact, without even knowing, at that point, what she looked like. (There were other aspects of our relationship that did not show up online, but profound change occurred only via online communications. Online communication, I'm saying, IS communication!) Secondly, I belong to Amazon Prime, although I don't know how I became a member, actually. But I marvel at the speed and efficiency of Mr. Bezos' enterprises, another of which is now Whole Foods, of course. And I wonder whether such exceptional enterprises, which are simply the result of wise groundwork and execution, might be inherently benign. Does the question of Monopoly persist, even if the delivery and product of the enterprise in question is superior to others? (I don't know, I'm posing the question for myself, too.)

  96. I generally agree with what Mr Brooks is saying. I draw the line with Amazon however. I realize their algorithms are pushing products that I may like or want but the time savings outweigh that. Do I want to spend time going to a store that has a disinterested staff and even then find they are out of a product? Spend/waste 45 minutes on a round trip bus ride to the west side? Shop online with Macy's for example and get the product in a week instead of 2 days? Sorry.

  97. I find often find myself with similar thoughts. On reflection however, I realize that this 'attitude' is a consequence of what Mr. Brooks is describing. Amazon makes it easy for me to avoid the 'chaos' of being out in the world with real people. Of dealing with people who are - perhaps - disinterested, but who I impact with my presence, and who I thereby can affect. The disinterest of these people is also likely a consequence of 'tech', and by being out in the world and interacting, I can influence this all. Really, do I need that 'thing' in 2 days? If I consider my shopping excursions as more than that, as an opportunity to take in the world around me, perhaps my experience is transformed.

  98. I get it with Amazon, but do you feel the same about visiting & supporting your local independent bookshop where the employers love to talk books, you can get a coffee & meet a new friend or old one - and support the local economy - all while connecting with interested - intelligent people.

  99. I no longer think of Amazon as a book store. My Prime shopping is housewares, hardware, occasional software downloads and music downloads.

  100. It took a bit over 40 years after the wide spread use of the automobile before safety became an important and mandated concern. The car companies didn't build cars to kill 30 to 40 thousand people a year, but accidents did. The first response was that better driver ed would improve things. Only after much pressure and much bad publicity did we get laws that forced seat belts, design changes, improved interiors and many other detail changes that have made cars much safer. The Tech companies and the country seam doomed to repeat something like that scenario.

  101. I've worked with computers to perform my job since 1990, a time when a sea change was occurring in my industry and everything was migrating towards computers as fast as they could keep up with video resolution requirements. Back then and for decades after I started to see the computer as a better way of doing everything and longed to have all aspects of my work and even private life integrated into them for the efficiencies it would offer. Today I am building one of the most powerful systems I have ever worked on and yet, it's not going to be connected to the internet. Why? The internet has deflated the real power of computing. It's created and converted generations of computer-users into consumer-users with little or no mastery. Few people I know understand the higher level features of even the most basic programs like word processing or spreadsheets. Almost no one I know can use a command line tool. Computer hardware has become as mysterious to the end users as car engines have been to non-gear heads and yet their components have not really changed in 30 years aside from speed and memory increases. We have the most powerful systems at our fingertips now but the best we can seem to do with this is disengage into 'social media' platforms that are creating mental health issues and social decline at an alarming rate. What held the promise of immense productivity has crashed into the reality of being huge time sinks at the cost of personal freedoms. Tune in, log out.

  102. No offense, but the need to know how to use the command line is right at the bottom, along with the knowledge of how to configure a BIOS. We don't bemoan the loss of assembly language knowledge, either...

  103. The point being: as a whole we're barely scratching the surface of what our tools can truly do. It takes little skill to swipe left and emoji speak within a GUI. Many people are great at that but few understand what is even in their pocket from a technology standpoint or use it for more than interacting in an alt-universe.

  104. When IBM came into the PC industry, it was to put computers back behind the glass wall.

  105. Consider the automobile and all the controversy over the mass dislocation of jobs and social upheaval when cars began to be mass produced. Cars are not going away - in-spite of the fact that they create many problems. Tech advances are here to stay. It is we who must figure out how to live profitably with our technology and that is a developing skill we are only just learning. It is not that technology that is "good" or "evil" but the user that is wise or unwise (read inexperienced) that needs to be our focus.

  106. Look at any "form of attention" in any field of excellence, whether it be a sports team, an ensemble cast, an orchestra, a great bunch of friends or a great family, or an elite military team, and you will not see tech actually doing their jobs, or being their means of communication, or replacing their intense interactions and coordinated efforts. The use of tech is now weakening our social structures in ways we cannot imagine until it is too late. I think of the really good friends I made in life and many of them I met while showing up in a new environment with others in the same position and immediately bonding to get through the experience --- the military, new schools, new jobs, trips to foreign countries. Now, people go to new places and communicate in the same old way with their "virtual" friends on Facebook. And the tech industry will not let it rest. We cannot settle on one form of tech and just go with it or work around it. The industry insists that we constantly "upgrade" in order to even function with tech. I write this on a new iMac, with Mac OS Sierra, as I struggle to reload all my old files that were and are important still. I can't even transfer my old photos without a new flash drive or a new external hard drive. And this, too, shall pass... (Groan...)

  107. Much scientific research of recent decades is in danger of being lost because the media the data is stored on cannot be read anymore.

  108. If you just printed all your really cherished photos onto paper, you would not have to worry about transferring them all the time.

  109. In his diatribe against the tech industry, Brooks forgot to mention Joseph Schumpeter's analysis from many years ago. In his research on the industrialization, he noted that the "process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one". In other words, it is the economic and technological equivalent of the song we all sing at the midnight hour in between December 31st and January 1st every year - ring out the old, ring in the new. This "industrial mutation" works incessantly. The answer is not so much as to blame the greedy tech companies or its C-suite folk as much as to see how to harness it for national and communal welfare. What do we do when coal will be replaced by other cleaner sources of energy? How can we use the convenience that comes from the use of FB, Twitter, etc. rather than use it to spew venom against one another? In these and other examples, it is obvious that we need policies that will not just rein in the excesses of businesses but also facilitate Americans smoothly moving forward from one technological era to the next. And, in both these examples, the GOP in general, and Trump, in particular, have not just been woefully inadequate, but consciously promoting their ill effects. So, I suggest Brooks look for mechanisms to harness these products before railing against the entire sector. Don't just complain, suggest ways to forge ahead.

  110. I've been a software engineer for 15 years. Now CTO of tech startup in San Francisco. I grant Brooks' points. I'm a big fan of Tristan Harris generally, as well as Cal Newport of Deep Work. Even granting that smartphones and social networks aren't the best use of one's time, that overuse can be harmful, and that advertising-driven companies invade privacy, to consider tech (whatever that is) "evil" is hyperbole. There are several problems with his critique. Given I'm limited to 1500 characters I'll pick one: he laments that "tech" should pitch itself a certain way. Tech is not a single, autonomous unit that has a single moral conscience or marketing department. It's odd to speak of an industry comprising thousands of companies - not just the big 4 - as a single entity. Tech is a collection of people that form companies, and those companies reflect the priorities of society, for better or worse. As an example, tech did not make Instagram into a vapid, social competition for "likes". Tech did not create "influencers". Kevin Systrom made an app to make taking and sharing photos easier. He did not control the culture of his app, and he did not force teenagers to take 70 selfies before posting one. It's likely true the format exploits or at the very least benefits from some troubling aspects of human nature (the craving for social status) but to blame tech and abdicate human responsibility for its usage is irresponsible. I can watch 15 hours of Netflix, but I choose not to.

  111. Much has also been written about the over-use of technology is education: kids do much better having face-time with their teachers as opposed to techniques such as virtual schooling. This, along with computerized high stakes testing and the intentional addictive power of tech is all geared to make money, without regard to the damage we do to our schools, to our children and to each other.

  112. This is David Brooks at his best. The intentionally addictive nature of tech goes a long way toward tipping the balance toward evil. Things like seeing my family send pictures to my 86-year-old grandmother on Facebook for her birthday tip the balance toward good. We can be so efficient and yet often feel more overwhelmed. My hope is that we figure out the right balance as a society and that the tech companies are an active partner in this. I also wonder what role my generation will play in bridging this divide. The so-called "xennials" (born between 77-83) are old enough to remember a pre-tech lifestyle, but young enough to have embraced tech as an instrumental part of our lives. There is not a day that goes by where I don't think about this conundrum that tech poses. I'm glad this column helps frame this important issue in a constructive way.

  113. The technology of the internet and tech companies and actions of governments? The internet is fantastic. The earth itself is like a vast machine of incredible complexity humans have been hacking away at, creating crude technology from it to satisfy themselves, like apes unknowingly aboard a spaceship who hack metals from a console to make only a spear point, and with the internet, high communications, we are slowly receiving promise of more profound integration of humans with each other and the planet. But wouldn't you know, and you can easily guess it, power and selfish individuality of every stripe has stepped in and exploited it and good old establishment even says "These technologies are extremely useful for the tasks and pleasures that require shallower forms of consciousness, but they often crowd out and destroy the deeper forms of consciousness people need to thrive", as if the more profound minds in all their consciousness had a better go of it in the good old days and we should all just get offline and stew in our deeper forms of consciousness disconnected or reconnected in minor and quite ineffective ways! The internet, tech, is not the problem. The problem is good old human greed, manipulation of people, conniving, crummy establishment propagandists, etc. who are remote from the entire bank of knowledge literary and scientific we already have and who intend to superimpose their shallow views whether online or offline to the detriment of us all. That is evil.

  114. Daniel: You make some good points but you completely disregard the fact that the business model of Facebook and Google etc is built around "good old human greed, manipulation of people, conniving, crummy establishment propagandists, etc.". And until humans adapt to a world where these age-old characteristics now operate at lightening speed, with tech that uses us to an extent that most people are unaware of, and all hidden from view (and we will adapt - our current teenagers will be better prepared to teach their children), there will be serious social consequences.

  115. If humans are the problem, I would have thought changing human nature might prove a more difficult task than changing or rejecting the transient and temporary systems and technologies we are faced with. Historic attempts at changing human nature have proved naive and deadly.

  116. The US is a nation of juveniles with delusions of grandeur now, burning down our own house.

  117. If memory serves, you are a student of Reinhold Niebuhr. “Moral Man and Immoral Society” address this. Corporations are not moral entities. Being tech industries, does not change this one way or the other. All my best and Happy Thanksgiving.

  118. Hopefully, David Brooks, "Tech" is good enough to repeal and replace our 45th President of the United States. Tech is evil enough to have closed brick and mortar stores all across America. We are living on the cusp of Tech's wrecking ball of our American Empire. This we know is true.

  119. The public school system is the number one destruction of the young in this country. Why else do you think the young turn to social media? It's not because their public school experience is wonderful. But that would violate the Progressives' Rules of Society, which dictate that children must be taught by the State, in order for the State to "educate" them better. Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook are not monopolies. Why? Because you can choose to avoid them and their products. Neither Apple, nor Google, nor Facebook, nor Amazon holds a gun to anyone's head. "Social affirmation" is a bogus term invented by an inept wordsmith who's trying to look "cool". This "problem" is again laid at the feet of the public school system, responsible for teaching 90% of all students in the US. This "system" isn't teaching students to think. So what IS it teaching them? And why isn't Mr Brooks railing against it? After all, if students are easily distracted by the latest toy from Apple/Google/Amazon/Facebook, it's clear that their education hasn't educated them to think about the consequences of their actions. And that's not the fault of Apple/Google/Amazon/Facebook. It's the fault of the decrepit, corrupt, wasteful public school system.

  120. If people choose to live their lives on social media it's kind of hard to figure out how to stop them; let alone to expect the social media moguls to "pitch themselves" in a manner aimed at discouraging users. Let's concentrate on attacking big tech's Mafiosa practices in punishing those who don't pay their freight in ad fees and oh, by the way, their willingness to purvey lies and propaganda from America's enemies so long as those enemies are willing to pay their fees.

  121. Please, don't blame the tech companies. They wouldn't have their products if it wasn't for us consumers and users. It's much easier to blame others than ourselves. Don't like how the tech companies are shaping society? Then get off Facebook twitter etc. I did.

  122. Although it may be true that heavy usage of social media CAUSES depression, I doubt that you can cite a legitimate study that supports the conclusion that “Eighth graders who are heavy users of social media increase their risk of depression by 27 percent.” The most common misuse of statistics is to confuse correlation with causation. Could it just as easily be that depression leads to heavy usage of social media?

  123. I was going to join Facebook, but then I read all the fine print in the user agreement, thought about it, and decided not to. Is there a single Facebook user who bothered to read that thing? And Twitter - designed for shallow thinking. Who needs that? If social media is ruining your life, quit using it. Not to brag, but I've proven you can get along without it.

  124. Yesterday’s Tomorrows If you consider past visions of what today’s world would look like, many prognosticated that we would all be working something like ten hours a week while having copious time for leisure, friends, and family. But it did not turn out that way because of our need to constantly strive for competitive advantages over others. This need is hardwired into our simian brains from evolution and will never go away. There really is no way to escape the inevitable, that sooner or later we will be subsumed by machines and AI – because we want it that way – always to make our lives easier and more efficient. We can’t stop it. We lack the capacity to do so. It is depressing to contemplate that we will have no material objects of any lasting value to pass along to our future progeny, or even any DNA, but that is our lot in life. That’s the world as it really is, not as we hope it is. Evolution is harsh and cruel. But nothing lasts forever, and that includes us. We can regulate technology for a while, as we do with guns, or cigarettes, or sugar in soft drinks. But that will buy us minutes only, in the grand scheme of things. In Pompeii, they could not outrun the pyroclastic ash. Just as we cannot outrun ourselves.

  125. Thank you Mr. Brooks. I don't really think of tech in terms of "good" and "evil" the same way I don't think of mental illness, or a Charles Manson as "evil" (but as an individuall who was the product of many forces combined with mental illness and the times he lived in. But I do see similar problems. I know there are parents (I thought I was this kind of parent) who read to their children and encouraged their reading. Then I found out my oldest son never read The Scarlet Letter in his 12th grade AP English class--not that this occur in my time but I didn't understand why he wouldn't want to read it. Reading was, is to me, discovery, learning, understanding, endless fascination. I felt I needed to read everytihng to be literate. Well, although I am sure there are those of this upcoming? present! generation who care about being literate (uh...Leah Dunham? maybe?....uh...) but I don't see it, don't see how they value it. Boring. Too long. Now I understand why my mother sometimes worried about "death panels" because she didn't understand me or my generation 40 years ago. I suppose things will unfold as they will, and there might be some learning as a result of whatever disaster befalls the phone impaired.

  126. I thought I might be clicking to read a thoughtful commentary on the ways the tech industry is skewing wealth, investment capital, the real estate market, etc. I thought perhaps Brooks might delve into the structural economics of the tech industry and how it is harming the social fabric through employment and investment practices. Instead, this piece is a big giant "nag" about what those darn kids are doing. How is this even considered thought?

  127. "Online is a place for human contact but not intimacy. Online is a place for information but not reflection. It gives you the first stereotypical thought about a person or a situation, but it’s hard to carve out time and space for the third, 15th and 43rd thought." It is what you make it. I am reading this op-ed on a computer screen. In the "old days" relatives would save me parts of US newspapers (= NYT) and occasionally mail them, or a visitor from the US would bring a whole paper, if I was lucky a Sunday paper. Tech gives me your newspaper, Mr. Brooks. Do you read the comments Mr. Brooks. In the old days I might write a letter which would not be published or even a personal letter, but probably not too often, if at all. "Imagine if instead of claiming to offer us the best things in life, tech merely saw itself as providing efficiency devices. Its innovations can save us time on lower-level tasks so we can get offline and there experience the best things in life." Alas they are in the business of making money. How many cars would be sold if they claimed to just be a means to get from A to B? Things change, including norms of social interactions. Maybe they are not your norms, but are and will be those of somebody else.

  128. David brooks is working like crazy with an article a day to try to avoid the truth. The conservative revolution, while providing economic benefits that need to be acknowledged as having brought efficiency and adaptability and therefore strength to markets that have helped in important ways, has given inadequate taxation that has resulted in the depletion of infrastructure that has destroyed the social fabric. It’s fascinating to follow how many paths he goes down to avoid confronting his ideology.

  129. Humility? From the tech industry? Whose titans, unsatisfied with having their own space programs, are now planning their own immortality? (Good luck with that one). More realistically we may expect continued unlimited avarice and infinite hubris, with the resulting ongoing damage to our society.

  130. Tech is here to stay. Plato wrote that writing was ruining people's memories. He was probably correct. Unfortunately Plato was forced to write down the Socratic Dialogues because he knew that otherwise the memory would be lost. Writing was "tech" to Plato.

  131. An old saying about money can be modified and applied to tech equipment: It is a good tool, and a poor master.

  132. I have three words for all addicted tech users: read a book. For the execs, hope you love being rich cause that is all you will be.

  133. Speaking as one of the East Coast Elites (not really, I'm just live in CT and have a college degree, but I do love that accusation), most of the people I know are taking steps to cut back on their use of tech, especially in their leisure hours. We are realizing that it over-promised and under-delivered. I'm not a Luddite (after all, I am reading and replying to the NYT online), but I don't let tech rule my life. And if you need another argument, just remember that the Silicon Valley elites send their children on low/no tech schools.

  134. Tech is more a symptom than a cause. It allows people the excuse to go where they are most comfortable. We have always had bullies, for example. Now thanks to tech the inner bully in too many is allowed to emerge and mostly without consequence. It is easy to look for villains outside of our selves, to excuse our worst selves. If people are good or bad it’s not tech that is the cause.

  135. David Brooks' analysis of technology would be bolstered if he read my "Thinking About Technology: How the Technological Minds Misreads Reality" (Lexington Books, 2017). The mindless idolatry of 'tech' is highly consequential, and not in a good way.

  136. The problem is not that tech corporations are evil but that people believe tech corporations are anything other than corporations, entities designed to make a profit. Sorry, but the company that sells you electronic gadgets is really no different from those who market whiskey or laundry detergent.

  137. E-mail is an exception. It’s just a quicker method of engaging in the age-old occupation of letter writing. Like its predecessor, it can be abused. Junk mail has been around since the introduction of the penny post. But as a means to engage in correspondence with people who don’t live close to you, e-mail offers great advantages, and only very small disadvantages, vis-à-vis the old paper-borne variety.

  138. I suppose the biggest indictment I have of Big Tech, is that for all the advancement of technology - powerful logical algorithms that can find almost any fact faster than we can type the query, plain language search engines, and plain language artificial intelligence like Watson - most of the applications have been used to assure that if I look at shoes online, I will see ads for shoes on every feed I see. You'd figure Watson would be more focused on finding ways to give doctors information, fast, to help diagnose disease. But AI is selling shoes. The second big indictment is that the rise of tech platforms has democratized communication - democracy is great - but resulted in a failure of stewardship that was the hallmark of journalism. The platform is meant to sell shoes, not edit content. There are no editors, on the business department, and the content is suspect, to say the least. AS for our dystopic kids, these things have a way of working out. I suspect that kids who spent 10 hours or more a week playing video games, or watching re-runs on TV are also at risk of depression. It might be sinking into a useless pursuit for 10 hours, and not the pursuit itself that signals depression. And they might be tired of ads for shoes.

  139. In the streets of Hatillo Puerto Rico, my family describes images they haven’t seen in years; kids outside playing games and socializing with there peers. No electronics. The Congressional testimony of tech lawyers rationalizing away social responsibility was sickening. Tech is a meritocracy of people who don’t care for the rest of us.

  140. I don't see anyone capable of putting down their smart phone, ever. As far as young users are concerned, knowing that the Internet is global in reach and that its pages can be stored forever has got to be frightening. I remember when children were carefully protected from mass media intrusion, and exposure to advertising was limited as well. Everyone knew kids needed to be left alone and out of the spotlight to grow up.

  141. How true - how true! "...But we are happiest when we have brought our lives to a point, when we have focused attention and will on one thing, wholeheartedly with all our might..."

  142. Tech is not evil at all, Mr. Brooks. It is like every other invention man has made; it can become a boon to society, or a curse, depending upon its uses. People in our societies need to catch up with its potentials for positive change and its potential for harmful abuses. Leaps in technology may allow us to cure cancers, grow massive new designer crops, and create data baes to improve all of society's functions. It could also allow the rich and powerful to hold more and more control over all of the rest of us, or easily manipulate markets. It currently allows thieves and liars to steal our money and twist our facts. Technological change will happen. We need manmade and man controlled structures to control its impacts and its function to do good in our world. We need common laws and regulations to manage the common good. I have to wonder whether our governments are smart enough, and can move fast enough, to manage the task.

  143. You missed the main two issues with tech: that they have a total and complete disregard for our privacy while they track our every move, and that they are destroying economic opportunity.

  144. Over reliance on these devices brings up the interesting irony that barely a crime these days is committed that is not seen by a surveillance camera yet all the potential human eyewitnesses are so engrossed in their devices to notice what is happening within four feet of them. Often, I see someone walking down the street in the middle of the night, advertising their presence like a neon sign with their phone, who are bizarrely cavalier about the danger they are inviting. Many are even wearing headphones. It's wonderful that an unblinking camera can record who hit you on the head and stole your purse, even eventually leading to their arrest, but wouldn't it have been better to have avoided the crime to begin with?

  145. Maybe the tech, as we now know it is a phase, a shift to a different reality of how humans live their live. With this consider that what tech gave: the opportunities to be happy, productive and connected, gave to a large part of humanity who would likely not have achieved this, were the world as it was. Never mind the young who invented a new paradigm. So, now nerds are "up" and jocks are "down" We studied the resistance to every epoch change in history: from Medieval to Renaissance; from Industrial Revolution; from feudalism to capitalism... every time the old was "good" and the new was destroying what good was. History repeats itself: what happened to China after Ming dynasty turned off their tech 600 years ago? Were the Chinese happier? I have no doubt that we will see the use of tech in the ways we cannot imagine, and what will evolve will be the humanity carrying on in such a way that our parents will fret about. After all, can we all say that our parents have been more intimate that we can be now? Really? Wife beaters? What about learning, by accessing all sorts of views, what it must mean to feel truly intimate (equality required... social media helps). Or, what about an argument that parents don't want their kids on media mostly because they cannot exercise their control there? Seems to me that with all the low points of tech, it is now a convenient boogie man to talk about. But, we have to get smarter and teach how use this new tech to benefit all.

  146. Not bad but pitched wrong: an idle mind is the devil’s playground was not just coined when computers were invented. As always the sense and incentive to use technology and time for useful purposes rests on the individual. Her choices of course are framed by upbringing, religion, culture, and education.

  147. These companies are a business and they want to make money. They have no incentive to be "moral" and will push the boundaries -- especially in terms of privacy -- as far as they will go. Government regulation is the answer, but this requires people around the world to actually demand legislation that has teeth, not just lip service. And it also needs governments to stop being dazzled by "cutting edge" businesses that are harmful to people. Pass laws! Enforce the legislation that you already have! And maybe start thinking about treating these companies like utilities because that's what they have become. As some experts already have warned, the internet is like water -- it needs to be regulated as such. We no longer really have a choice but to engage.

  148. For a long time now, I have been saying that Facebook will ultimately destroy civilization as we know it. People will leave the real world around them and start living in the virtual, internet world. And I can't believe it will be a pretty thing to behold. I have observed the phenomenon from up close - my wife is a Facebookaholic! I am thrilled to find intellectuals like David Brooks agreeing with me. I sort of knew I was right but it is nice to see it confirmed in an article by thinking people like Mr. Brooks. (Disclaimer: I have a graduate degree in electrical engineering and, during my working years, was employed in high-tech engineering research. Not only do I not have a Facebook account, I even manage to keep my smart phone powered off most of the time and so rarely get calls when I am away from home!)

  149. I covered the tech industry as a journalist for more than two decades. I believe there is a widespread misperception that because many of its innovators are young and talk brashly about “disrupting” norms — and because there’s a ping pong table in the conference room — that they’re out to change the world in utopian fashion. In fact, their goal is decidedly old school: to grow their businesses and make money. There’s nothing wrong with that... it’s the American dream writ anew. But it’s important to see these businesses as just that, and not virtuous agents of social change.

  150. This is odd - all the negative comments about "tech" which they are only able to make because they are using it! I guess in an ideal world, all those opposed to tech would be filtered out because they wouldn't be able, or willing, to comment.

  151. I remember a time when it was considered rude to talk on a cell phone in public. Now people are walking around using their speaker phones or playing loud music through them. I will occasionally take my cell phone into a restaurant to browse the Internet if I am by myself but I would never consider yakking on it in a public place. It pretty much stays in the car until I get home and I take it inside. If you are out and about what do you need if for? I have a couple of friends that I quit hanging out with because whenever we went anywhere they would sit there starring at their phones the whole time. Don't get me wrong I spend a lot of time on the Internet when I'm at home but for me it's a manners thing. When I am out with people I try to give them my attention. Too bad so many people today don't feel the need to reciprocate.

  152. The same Socratic questioning could be posed for a myriad of first world problems including: How Evil is the Military Industrial Complex? How Evil is peer pressure and the commensurate illusory collapse of individual choice in just saying no? How Evil is the engagement of conspicuous consumption in end stage Capitalism as evidenced in contemporary USA? How Evil is advertising in contributing to a psychological feeling of join the tech bandwagon in consumers who have an external need to keep up with the Joneses? How evil is the absence of personal moral, ethical & social consciousness while engaging in social media's allure of primitive amygdala immediate rewards? How evil is the breakdown of the modern nuclear family and the corresponding economic inequalities in American life that creates an environment in which social media and intelligent robotics usurp the traditional role of intimacy in teenage relationships? Once these higher order thinking questions are addressed then it makes sense to hold all of ourselves responsible instead of solely placing all of the blame on tech companies who are filling a void that the opiate of hand held devices seems to fill in the marketplace of today's consumer masses. After all if Coca Cola can earn billions of dollars selling bubbly sugar water to the masses or the pharmaceutical industry can peddle opiates freely to millions of patients via their friendly doctors, why should we blame tech companies for participating in the same?

  153. As a 64 year old retired on disability I have found technology a powerful tool to counter what had been an increasing tendency towards reclusion. I’m in closer touch with a number of family members than I have ever been. I’ve reconnected with high school and college friends that I had lost track of decades ago. I contribute regularly to the hope and well being of others through support groups for sufferers of chronic pain and depression. I can keep track of events all over the world. I have instant access to a veritable universe of information that enriches my intellectual and emotional life—and which enables me to enrich the lives of others when I pass it on. Technology is also enabling me to be politically active in ways that didn’t exist even a few years ago. Clearly there are myriad dangers to humanity from unbridled technology, but that has been true since the first rock made the transition from preparing dinner to committing murder. We must be eternally vigilant and creative as we develop and use technologies and our path toward proper stewardship has always been a zigzag one. On the whole, however, I am grateful for the way technological advance is deepening and broadening my own humanity and my connectedness to humanity writ large.

  154. Nice article I agree I see lot of people getting addicted to tech..I feel rush when I see new tech myself (feel guilty).As we do excercise we need to consider 2 hours daily without Tech or TV and spend time on mindfulness and intimacy development with family and friends this prevents depression.(Using voice talk on phone ,conference calls with family face time is probably ok) .Quit texting and posting everything we see or feel. Alphatetta, Chikkanayak L.

  155. This is a good article but there is much more to talk about. Companies that don't have anything to do with technology are scurrying to try to connect their products to the internet because they think the products will sell better. The toy doll that spies on children (see is just one product that should never have existed. The car companies have all adopted the tech bug to guide them (Mary Barra said she believes GM is a tech company) and they keep adding lights, sounds and touchscreens that make it hard to focus on what a driver needs to focus on (driving safely). Consumer product regulation is too far behind the market and consumers are suffering.

  156. The entire lack of culture and absence of parenting is to blame. I am an "old school guy". I work in technology provided to large corporations. For them it is a tool. I don't even carry a "smartphone." I attribute this to my appreciation of what I learned in childhood. The era when we learned to dance by holding on to one another. There is a lesson in their for all my "juniors."

  157. Everything in moderation. Technology isn't evil but we do need to be responsible for how we use it. Just like we know that spending hours in front of the television isn't good for us, we're learning that our constant state of connection isn't healthy either. We need to be responsible enough to teach our children moderation and the importance of facetime just like our parents told us to turn off the TV and go outside to play. My problem with Facebook and Twitter is that they put profit before country and allowed a foreign power to use their platform to spread misinformation and deliberately divide our country along our fault lines. They should be held to the same standards as radio, TV, and print when it comes to advertising. We can't trust them to police themselves, they've already failed the test. Our political leaders need to ensure that they are properly regulated so that this never happens again.

  158. Years ago I would frequent my local coffee house. People would share sections of the day's newspaper and there was often mellow jazz or perhaps some chamber music playing in the background. Seating was in clusters, a mix of old over stuffed chairs along with an eclectic mix of tables and wooden chairs. People gathered in groups and engaged in conversation. Young kids often accompanied their mothers and provided fun for the adults. It was a real community gathering place, a safe and warm environment to escape a dreary Seattle day. Fast forward to today and the comfy well worn furniture has been replaced by two person bar tables and stools and vulgar rap or hip hop blares in the background. Few people are engaged in conversation with the vast majority sitting alone, head phones on in a virtual world of smart phones and iPads disconnected from each other and their environment. The promise of technology was information and information retreival not as a replacement for human communication and intimacy. Facebook is a cruel joke played on our societies. We need a time out to reasses tech and put it in its place as opposed to letting it rule our lives.

  159. David, I have a solution for you: search eBay for a Motorola DynaTac 8000X, the "brick" cell phone from 1983. It costs $3,995, so out of the price range of kids today (except of course the children of the 1%). It also weighed over two pounds, so in a sense there was a built-in mechanism for putting it down once in a while and participating in a real face-to-face conversation. Or maybe some reflection about "the deeper forms of consciousness people need to thrive," humility, and all of our non-failing institutions!

  160. It’s all right, David Brooks. Tech is here to stay and is bound to become even more intrusive in our lives. Soon, in self-driving cars, our eyes will be glued to our phones or perhaps even the windshield which will be a giant screen. Friends will party in virtual reality while sitting alone on their couches. Then, as tech brings work and leisure to our house, Amazon delivers everything that we need by its drones and Facebook lets us connect to anyone of the billions of humans hidden as disembodied electromagnetic entities in its databanks, there would be no need ever to leave our homes. Tech is not evil, David. It’s a new way of doing things and sometimes does bring disruption in its wake. But the ways of the past that you love so much are gone forever and are not coming back. We are evolving into different beings and the future will be much stranger than we can even imagine. All four of my children are currently engrossed in their smartphones. I go into their rooms and talk to them. They look up at me and smile. See, David, it’s not so bad!

  161. The NYT needs to stop anointing "NYT Picks." The NYT already selects topics, content, facts, and analysis. It shouldn't also be swaying readers' views of its articles and opinion pieces.

  162. Sounds bad to me.

  163. Didn't Isaac Asimov write a novel about this exact, isolated scenario? With murder, and robots, and possibly murderous robots?

  164. "How evil is tech?" The true evil of tech is AI. Before long tech will take over most of our jobs as we know them today. The true evil of tech is that we are all subject to hacking and the loss of our security and privacy.

  165. Lots of correlations cited, but little evidence of causation. Perhaps it's that awkward loners with suicidal ideation are more likely to spend time online, rather than that the internet makes you desperate. And maybe those loners are actually less likely to harm themselves because they can make connections online; often, distance from unsympathetic peers is exactly what one needs. Thus, in the absence of counterfactual evidence (i.e. without the internet, what would have happened) or some actual causal analysis, all this is just chatter - articulating personal prejudice and lazy thinking. Frankly, Mr Brooks, these days your column is just a series of unexamined assumptions that reveal far more about you than the world you claim to describe.

  166. My dealings with tech result in what I am calling "Sloth Intellect". Over simplistic views of human nature has been their undoing. Google was founded by engineers who believed in a programming solution to every problem. Initial belief was that customer service, marketing, sales and tech support could be baked in. Facebook realized they could monetize and manipulate the social interaction lode they had stumbled onto with clever algorithms. Their being only half right has created the social morass that has now been exposed.

  167. By pure coincidence, before I turned to the NYT tonight, I had spent a full hour trying to delete my Facebook account, which I never use, and don't want to be associated with any longer, particularly because I don't want to be tracked by them. No luck at all. The help section unhelpfully suggests I "contact" them, when I have confirmed in several Google searches, that there is no way of doing so. I am sure that connecting with scads of libertarian aborigines who have relocated to Barcelona and like the Beatles but only before Yoko is much easier. Trying to navigate what should be a simple and easy process to opt out confirms every feeling I've had that Facebook is conspiring to take over the universe by serving us up whole, eating us alive and selling our children to the Martians, so that their employees can take all the good apartments in our more desirable cities, and leave them empty.

  168. A welcome addition to the discussion of our internet-fueled social malaise. Mr. Brooks has stirred up some tech defenders but it is not the technology itself that he is calling into question. It is the intercontinental behemoths monetizing our data and our time for their corporate benefit. In essence, we are their unpaid labor, our countless hours of effort contributing to their wealth rewarded with soma-like dopamine surges that addict us but ultimately leave us longing for fulfillment in real life. I’m not sure what might be the digital equivalent of throwing wooden shoes into the mechanical looms. Perhaps we should go on strike. What would happen if we all turned away from Facebook for 24 hours, not really to honor the Sabbath (recognizing Mr. Brooks again trying to bring in the Ten Commandments) but to honor our humanity. Netizens of the world unite—you have nothing to lose but your chains.

  169. By tech, Brooks apparently means social media or communications enablers. While nothing is perfect, society is always better off when people are able to talk to each other and promote their ideas to a wide audience. I'm 71. When I was a teen, we were told that we overused the telephone. Too much talking was ruining our lives and preventing us from living productive lives.

  170. With the help of a few other parents, we attempted to build a bike park in our community. The goal went beyond creating a safe place for kids to ride. We attempted to take a small patch of ground, maybe less than an acre and add a rambling clay pump track, with berms and undulations, that would be a community hub. My personal hope was that it would inspire kids off of electronics, giving parents yet another tool in the endless litigation over screen time. How about inspiring kids off of electronic and away from screens? The vision for this pump track went beyond fresh air and exercise. Spontaneous play, not tethered to a formal, scheduled playdate. "Hey, meet me at the pump track, after school." Family interaction. Take a train home early from the city, grab your bikes and your kid and go to the pump track. Don't talk about SATs or college applications. Maybe don't say a word and just ride with your kid. A community hub. Bring disparate groups together and have fun. Stealth fitness. Kids on a bike pump track don't even realize they're getting in shape. Our proposal has met resistance from neighbors, some of whom have already raised their children and live half their year in warmer climates. Not in my backyard. It has been disheartening to come up against such selfishness and lack of vision, as we face an opioid epidemic and screen addiction in our communities. There are tools out there, folks. We just need to dust them off & welcome analog alternatives.

  171. Thanks for quoting Rabbi Heschel, one of the last of the wise ones. Tech is merely a tool which has become, through promotion and addiction, an idol. Truth, community and wisdom have been assaulted, as we are the poorer for it. Does one really expect tech moguls to abandon the power and wealth accumulated in the process? Nor do we have a wise government than can speak powerfully to the problems raised by tech. That is not to say that all is lost. But how, and by whom, will sanity return?

  172. Yes, imagine a world where people (tech companies) behaved like advanced human beings! Some mythical species of human does not populate the world. We are what we are -- all egalitarian until we accumulate any kind of power, then we never fail to abuse that power. All of us, particularly the powerful, need to be regulated in order for society to work well for everyone. That means a government stronger than the entities it regulates that is itself regulated. But Americans think "they built that" in complete isolation, without standing on the shoulders of those who came before us. We don't want no guv'mint telling us what to do!

  173. I predicted this a long time ago, while working at MSFT in the 90's on start up internet businesses at MSN. My products were all about productivity and saving time; the internet as a tool, that could help you spend LESS time on your computer and more on other activities. But MSN also pursued an entertainment strategy and product line, and for a while used a marketing tag line, the "internet life style." The internet as addictive time consumer, not a productive tool, but an entity unto itself that would make you spend MORE time on your computer. I guess this is the vision that has won out, especially with the emergence of social media and other consumer-generated content sites. My MSN products were more curated; we created the content and tools and offered them to consumers. In the new world, the consumer became the content provider, a brilliant business strategy if all you care about is just creating the platform and care nada about the actual content. FB, Google, Twitter, and other platforms will need to be dragged kicking and screaming into a more regulated environment around political advertising and content, lest our republic devolve into an uncontrolled morass of fake news and targeted salacious content that leaves citizens flailing around in half-baked political positions and voting for authoritarians. Not a future I hope to witness.

  174. It's all about the money folks. Capitalism is good is providing things we think we need but in reality don't.