April 9, 2020
The Attention Economy Needs to Change. But How?

The Attention Economy Needs to Change. But How?


Now I want all of you to imagine a scenario. A big scenario. You are the CEO of Facebook. You have 2.2 billion monthly users, arguably
giving you more influence than any world or religious leader. You employ some of the smartest people and
you are among the top 10 richest people in the world. You spend some of your wealth on charity and
and buy a dog that doubles as a mop. But beyond your mop-dog, you’ve got some
bigger issues. Your company is under intense scrutiny. You have been fined by governments of several
countries. You face criticism for employing manipulative
tricks to keep users hooked just to serve them ads. You hear outcries that your platform has become
an engine for spreading misinformation and propaganda. You are accused of allowing foreign governments
to disrupt elections. What you’ve built to connect people, is
now being used to fuel hate crimes and even genocides. Clearly something needs to be done. Some call for your company to be broken up
into smaller, more manageable pieces. Others suggest you change your business model
and curb its reliance on ads. You could ask governments for funding, because
your product is now essentially public utility. Or… you could do nothing and continue to
earn money because you have more power than anyone anyway. If you were calling the shots, what would
you choose to do? There’s now a widespread reckoning that
social media and other tech, which many of us, myself included, quickly embraced, comes
with a cost to our personal lives and our society. If we want a better future, we have to find
a way to fix these problems. This has led many of us to ask, what is our
role as citizens? What is the responsibility of the companies
themselves? And what can governments do to ensure big
tech companies will behave more ethically? This is a particularly difficult question
because never in history have we encountered companies as large as Facebook or Google or
Amazon. Their user base is a big chunk of the world
population and their revenue exceeds the GDP of entire countries. With this unprecedented scale, come new questions. When does a big company become TOO big? In fact, we’ve faced a similar question
before. More than a 100 years ago, Louis Brandeis,
a Supreme Court Justice, warned about the dangers of corporations becoming too big. He argued that if we don’t develop any rules,
a business could achieve a level of near-sovereignty, but without the checks and balances that we
have for elected political authorities. He called this called the “curse of bigness.” So Brandeis introduced antitrust laws and
public utility regulation.These strategies worked pretty great for the economy for decades,
but eventually businesses also evolved. Major tech companies are shapeshifters that
don’t fit into well defined categories like retail or news media, for which we already
have rules. What’s more, laws that were set to prevent
monopolies and protect consumers from rising prices, don’t apply to these corporations. After all, businesses operating in the attention
economy defy the metrics of antitrust law, because they offer free services. And so today, the curse of bigness is back. I strongly believe that some of the big tech
platforms have too much power… I think that something has so much control
over what you see and hear and understand is getting at, you know a real, it’s getting
at attention, which is, as I said, the key. And everyone knows that what you’re exposed
to controls what you think ultimately, uh, you know, where you’ve grown up, whatever. And so if you have that power, you ultimately
start to have a power I think that rivals government. And we’re starting to ask for checks and
balances on these powers. There has been an increasing sense of people
going, okay, that might’ve been enough and that’s hardly surprising. In most moments in our society it takes a
while for the technology to go from being brand new, shiny and very exciting to going,
eh. And I think we’re on the kind of the back
end of some of that right? And my suspicion is looking even at the data
about how people use new services and new devices is that people are actually spending
a lot less time with certain parts of the ecosystem. So if you look at facebook’s numbers, for
instance, they have, uh, seen a growth in the 50 to 60 year old usage but a diminishing
in the under 25. The Facebook exodus in particular is significant:
Nearly half of users ages 18 to 29 have deleted the app from their phone in the last year,
a new survey has found. Another survey revealed that even teens think
teens spend too much time on their phones. Now, I remember clearly when I first used
the internet, when I saved up money from my part time job to buy my first phone and when
I first watched YouTube. But there’s a whole generation that are
even younger than Facebook. Everything is very centered around being online
and so whether it’s even if it’s something that’s supposed to be good, like doing my
homework, I’m online and then I’ll be texting my friends that’s online. when I’m not actively doing something to try
not to be online by default, I’m online. Even though this generation was born into
an online world, some are now questioning it. Many are highly suspicious of internet companies. In a new study of 13 to 17 year olds this
year, nearly three-quarters of teens said they believe tech companies are manipulating
users to spend more time glued to their devices. I mean the whole idea of snapchat streaks
where you. It only works if you snapchat. Snapchat somebody every day, is literally
just so that people will come back and use the app more
We have a certain amount of willpower but at some point when we have all these ads and
all these youtube recommended videos and that, it just becomes too much and that’s how we
get distracted. We’re just like, oh yeah, this looks cool. It’s only three minutes and then we see like
all these short videos and we start watching more and more and then eventually we have
a homework assignment due tomorrow and sort of bedtime and you know, they haven’t done
it yet I know I sound like I’m blaming all of these
issues that are obviously something that I can control all of these tech companies, but
it does feel like I’m 13 years old, it shouldn’t be my responsibility wholeheartedly to ensure
that I’m not wasting all my time on social media. Whether you’re 13, or 33 or 73, it’s likely
that it’s not solely your responsibility that internet businesses behave ethically. It’s also their responsibility. Or, well, yours, if you were the CEO of Facebook. I would probably try and change the company
to make it so there’s like less ads and stuff because like facebook makes so much profit
that they don’t need the ads because that just gives them even more profit and then
that is what like is distracting kids and all that stuff. Beyond distraction, some say there should
be a cap on how large a company can grow. And tech companies should be broken into smaller
pieces. If I think about Facebook, we don’t need a,
a monopoly. We don’t need an outsized, a single platform
that controls so much attention. There should at the very least be competition
in that sphere of, better competition, uh, people who pledge to serve you as opposed
to trying to suck as much out of you as I can and spit it out to somebody else. So I think we need a revolution in the business
models, frankly, and someone who promises to do more for us as opposed to taking so
much from us. That revolution in business model could be
converting to a subscription model instead of selling users information to advertisers.. Or creating ways for users to be in control
of where and how we sell our data. Others say Facebook, Twitter and other internet
services should be considered public utility, like electricity or transportation. They’ve become so ingrained into our society,
that we don’t want them gone–we just need to make sure they are serving us in the right
way. A public good is something that operates in
society. It’s highways, it’s national parks, it’s things
that economically don’t stack up to be protected by the average person, but are protected by
a governing body, or an NGO, or an entity. And through that manner, perhaps facebook
is a public good perhaps because it gives our digital selves and informational highway,
it connects us with the people we want. It’s become so integral that maybe it should
be devolved away from companies and into the hands of the civil society. Whether it’s Facebook connecting us, YouTube
delivering educational videos or Instagram being a public art space, these could all
be utilities. And so perhaps they should be operated differently. Regulators in the US and Europe have started
to scrutinize the tech industry. But, the truth is, it takes time for any new
regulations to come. The good news is that, people, too, have power. No matter how large the tech industry is,
it still needs you. I think we need a revolution, frankly. I think people need to collectively re-seize
what it means to be human. That we need to resist companies that have
a business model that is not serving us. You could quit if you can. You could demand your representatives in government
hold companies accountable. You could protect your data and be intentional
with your screen time. You could watch this series and follow investigations
by news media to stay on top of what’s happening. You know, we always look back later and say,
how was it that we allowed that to happen? We just let ourselves sit there, you know,
uh, lying in bed, scrolling through whatever screens and like, wait, why didn’t I get any
sleep? What happened? Where did my kids go? You know, I think that, uh, we’re going to
regret some of the periods of this era, but I think we have the capacity to learn and
do better. There’s a lot of good that comes with technology. But new innovations can also bring new curses
and can make mistakes. As Louis Brandeis, the judge who warned of
the curse of bigness, said: “The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in the insidious encroachment
by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding.” We now have to break the curse. It’s the responsibility of all of us to
take a step back and criticise our modern technologies, identify the problems, fix them
and make a better, safer future. It’s now clear that attention economy needs
to change. And you can be part of that change.

100 thoughts on “The Attention Economy Needs to Change. But How?

  1. So… could you run Facebook better than Zuckerberg?

    Also, I can't believe this is the last episode of Attention Wars!! 👀😢Whether you've watched one episode or all six, I really hope you've gained some insight to how technology influences your everyday choices (and life!) and that, hopefully, you've thought about the relationship that you have with technology.

    And if you haven't seen all six episodes lol plz watch sometime

  2. Thank you for making this amazing series! There's definitely been a ton of food for thought and excellent points made about our attention and how tech companies are interacting with it! I do hope tech companies keep in mind that as a business their jobs are to meet some unmet needs rather than throw ads our way. After all I wonder how many people left facebook since every other post you see on it is now an ad, rather than due to the encroachments on privacy?

    Anyways thanks again for the great series! Will there be a season 2?

  3. This series is mind opening …but i dont get why the views are so less (maybe YouTube is not recommending it bcz u know ….) Anyways ..great work !

  4. 3:40 is an awful interviewee, despite his credentials. "I strongly believe", and especially, "Everyone knows that what you're exposed to controls what you think." From an academic, that's abysmal.

  5. Best thing I have ever done is to unfollow everyone, so I get a blank news feed. This allows me to still have messenger but not fall into the black hole when I log on.

  6. The fact that anyone holds the providers of those services responsible for what their users do is ridiculous. You might as well hold telephone companies responsible for crimes planned over the phone or the electric company reaponsible for how their energy is used by consumers.

    The more you ask the companies to do, the more revenue they need to operate and therefore the more ad revenue they need to generate. SJW's need to stay out of everyone's business.

    The tech companies did not turn people into sinners. The fact is, as the world becomes more connected and global, so too does crime. Get over yourselves and accept the new reality and keep the corporations out of our business. Either you want privacy or you don't. Stop the double standards. Instead of asking corporations to act responsibly for you, why don't you step up and do it yourself? Oh you don't have the resources? Welcome to life in this system. Protect yourself and stop demanding others do it for you like entitled narcissists. /rant

  7. Is it just me that thinks you are responsible of how you spend your time. No one if forcing you to go on Facebook, but it can be very tempting.

  8. I mostly go on Facebook to wish happy birthday, and barely use FB messenger because I don't trust it, but that's where everybody is, so…

  9. Thankfully I've never succumbed to the whole Facehooked phenomena, being middle-aged has some benefits! Thank you for this thought provoking and timely series Vanessa. Continued success in the future and Nollag Shona (Happy Christmas) from Ireland.

  10. Would it be feasible for a site like YouTube or Twitter to be funded by public donations the way Wikipedia, and to some extent Patreon, are? I'm not going to lift a finger to help Facebook in it's current state, but if there was a site that made content like BrainCraft, Physics Girl, and Up and Atom available to anyone for free, that WASN'T showing targeted propaganda to adults or vile knock off cartoons to children, and whose financial viability depended on maximizing public goodwill, rather than view time, then I probably would be willing to give up some of my income to help keep it going, and the amount of money channels like Extra Credits and Overly Sarcastic Productions make via Patreon, and the fact that Wikipedia is still around after 17 years, would seem to suggest I'm not the only one. I remember Big Joel once suggested that YouTube videos should have an option for viewers to tip the uploader; this may well be a healthier incentive structure than ad revenue (don't maximize the number that watch, maximize the number that appreciate watching) and, as Joel pointed out, would be much less of a commitment than making a Patreon pledge.
    People (including some of its biggest content creators) have been talking about establishing a serious competitor to YouTube for years and not much has come of it (sorry Vimeo, sorry Vidme), but maybe if a bunch of big name web creators and some tech and business people got together and put their weight behind something like this, it could manage to take off?

  11. I tried to use Facebook when I was younger, but its interface seemed weird, and so I abandoned it.
    Now, with Attention Wars series always speaking exclusively about FB, I thought "maybe it actually has something interesting in there, should I give it another try?…"
    Turns out FB blocked my account long ago. And I'm kinda lazy enough not to create another one)

  12. I find it interesting that some people can't leave their phones off. As to FOMO, put your bloody phone away and go out and do the stuff you feel like you are missing out on.

  13. This is like people wanting government intervene with McDonalds because the food isn't healthy but they can't stop eating it.

  14. Are you seriously suggesting that facebook should be a public utility controlled by the government when there are guys like Trump, Erdogan and Orban? I live in hungary, and we would be seriously f*cked if facebook was controlled by the government.

  15. Maybe I'm wrong, but so far I have the impression that google and fb has altruistic leaders. If this is a necessary condition for a company to grow so large, then we have nothing to worry about.

  16. My potato phone started crashing every time I opened FB and IG. So out they went because meh. It's weird how little contact I have with my "friends" and family outside of that. But really, all I ever did was hit like on their pictures. I enjoyed seeing it, but not all the other BS that filled up the apps. 43 years old and I'm joining the youngens. … Oh another YouTube video!!!

  17. this is exactly what i hope to do. i live in palo alto california i just graduated from stanford last year and i am working on an app. my app will be the next facebook—integral to society in much the same way—but i will be on the side of the people i will never forget my roots, i am a social scientist not a techy. i want to help i want to be a part of the change for a better future. thank you so much for this video—those youths give me so much hope!!—and this whole series, it is very important information

  18. An ad-free, secure, and well-balanced social media platform, perhaps on subscription basis, would be an excellent replacement for FB.
    I'd pay $10 per month to ensure data security, quality content, and especially freedom from the incredibly sophisticated algorithms designed to keep me mindlessly scrolling, insulating me in an ideological echo-chamber from competing points of view, polarizing the electorate I rely on for sound political decisions.
    However, a fee would be a barrier to entry for many around the world that cannot afford to pay $10 per month for social media. This would a real problem because far from a being place of benign entertainment, social media is a venue for commerce, education, diplomacy, friendship, public outreach, and even health care. Those unable to join due to financial constraints would be severely disadvantaged.
    With such board applications in many aspects of modern life, perhaps this digital venue would be more ethically and equitably operated under a socialized regime, rather than the reigning capitalist system.
    .
    But idk, government-operated social media sounds like an express train to Orwell's 1984. Idk what the answer is, but somethings gotta change.

  19. A company's sole responsibility is to make money for the people who work at said company. The only right way to take power away from one of these companies is to make it easier to create competing companies.

  20. Just one little thing…

    2:10 "never in our history have we encountered companies as large as facebook…"

    VOC or Dutch East India company had a net worth of more than Google, Microsoft, Facebook and apple combined…

  21. In the US there is a law that prevents government interference whit tech companies. Originally it was made to prevent these Social Media companies from being held lieble for what was posted on them to ensure freedom of speech, except now the companies censor them-self and act as a publisher without having any of the responsibilities. An argument is made because of privat enterprises, however in the US all internet platforms are only possible because of government funded and build infrastructure and the law protects them so they can monopolize to the point where competitors can't arise because their results in google-search are obscured and hosts won't carry their websites. The latest example is Patreon, who banned a person inspite of their terms of service as they were then, not being broken. Then coincidentally when people began to complain and leave towards SubscribeStar
    , Paypal banned the platform from using it's Services, hindering their in participation in the free market.

  22. So these platforms are "free" and go so big by providing a "free" service they need to change? I dont use anything but twitter and YouTube. Mostly to hear news since I dont have television. Why is it anyones fault but the user. I decided not to use Facebook and Insta and Snapchat. They are addictive, but its in the same way as drugs. They are all fake and the feeling you get isnt real. I'm sober for 5 yrs now and I see it being no different than that. You ARE in control of what you do. Its noone elses fault but you. And if you feel like you need the satisfaction of getting likes its not different from getting that nexf high. There is a deeper issue you need to confront. The answer is always inside you. Its not telling the companies to stop making me pick my phone up.

  23. i never saw the appeal of facebook and all the other social media sites. beyond the purpose of communication and sharing of useful/interesting information, there is nothing they offer that is, well, useful or interesting to me.

  24. Watched the whole series. Episode 1 and 5 were eye-openers. This series and the earlier 'Mutant Menu' documentary are by far your best works so far. The production quality is amazing and the amount of research into the topic is massive. I'm just worried about the amount of views these episodes are getting despite your high subscriber count (& even after splitting the documentary into 6 episodes). I hope this channel survives long enough so that we can see more of these great documentaries.

  25. I actively use Facebook and YouTube as a way to connect with people, since my profession (Over The Road truck driver) keeps me isolated for months at a time.

  26. I watch a lot of YouTube but very little TV, but the last few days have been busy so it's taken me 3 days to get around to this video, and it's one of my favourite series at the moment.
    I could never be the CEO of Faecebook because I actually have morals. Zuck will continue to pay the fines, apologise and keep doing what he does regardless.
    I've already given my views on this, and how I handle their agendas. I'm highly cynical, and get more so with age 🙂

  27. I have a question: How could this be possible for an international or global company to be transformed into a local/ national public service? It sounds very complicated and a very bureaucratic process… I am not sure if this is the right path to follow. Nevertheless I don't have the revolutionary answer to this issue…anyway…Merry Xmas!

  28. So wait are you Australian in San Francisco right now for this project (that’s SF at the end isn’t it?) or you’ve just moved completely?

  29. There is nothing we can do, once a company becomes public, it becomes nothing but "the money". It stop caring about it's users, employees, community, etc. Everything is just money, money, money, once a company becomes public, and it goes to great extents to get more money.

    There is only one part of this whole series that I totally disagree, WE ARE RESPONSIBLE. Don't blame others, ever, for what happens in your life, Facebook doesn't force you to lose your time on the platform at point gun, and even if they did, the choice is still yours, nothing and nobody can take that power away from you. When you say, "if you can" when you are addicted, you made the decision that made you addicted in the first place.

    Social media has only the power we give them, and the platforms are not to blame but us, only each one of us.

  30. obviously there is always things that can be improved, but i see so many people acting like this is something that is easy to fix and just because of the ceos greed etc.

    – that kid talking about how facebook is making so much profit it doesnt need ads…
    – global tech companies being controlled by governments – some things could probably be regulated (eg gdpr in europe), but the main problem imo is which government? most of the big stories that have drawn attention to this are various (russia/usa/uk) governments abusing facebook. even if there was some government that could be trusted there are none who understand technology
    – imo the problem is people, if people stopped going on facebook, advertisers would stop paying for ads and facebook would no longer make money.

  31. I have never felt much social connection via facebook. The most I used it was in high school. Otherwise I have used facebook intermittently/rarely and I might as well not have an account. It does not help me connect with old friends. Maybe my true friends feel the same way, because I never see them posting there either.

  32. do more and more and more plz never stop. i decresed my time on social media after this serie. now i realized was too much, and im doing things that contribute to myself quality knowledge

  33. 4:44 She's spot on but I believe for the wrong reason. Kids don't want to be seen on the same platforms as their parents (first-hand experience tells me this). So they will be a slow generational roll. Which, of course, is why Facebook bought Instagram to try and solve that problem 🙂

  34. Donate to education programs. With proper education, none of the problems that Facebook has would actually be a problem.

  35. I like your content usually, but this one makes it seem like people are not to blame for their own bad habits… You don't need FB, YouTube, or a smartphone. FB and big tech only have as much power as you allow them.

  36. We live in an era of blamelessness and a lack of responsibility on a personal level. In the immortal words of Eric Kartman: you rack self-disahprin.

  37. A socialist program would do the trick, but with the capitalists in charge of the decision-making…that's not likely to occur…

  38. PPL are fickle, UNGRATEFUL, and completely usury! I've got a word for that, it's called being a fucking Leach!!. everybody wants to use Facebook, Instagram and other social media services to connect to their friends, colleagues, workmates, Playmates, family, but nobody wants to pay for that service in terms of advertising, monetary or financial commitment, or in any way give back to the service that gives so much to them and all of their loved ones and Those whom they associate with. Completely motherfuking hypocritical Beyond got damn belief!!!! Ungrateful fucking wretches! but everybody is quick to try to make a buck off of Facebook and Instagram… Gtfoh!

  39. I panic when I receive notifications, so apps that try to stop me from turning notifications off, is an instant delete for me. Facebook is one of them.

  40. This is a tough question, since I'm not using facebook and I can't relate to the issues there… but I would probably start a campaign, try to lecture people in topics like: how to identify addictive elements and stay in control with time management and/or a strong will! I would also definitely spend more money on funding charities and scientific experiments (but only those that could have a huge benefit for us all)… hope that's enough to become Mr. Youtube 2019 😀

  41. Just finished all 6 vids in this series. Love the message! Lots! You have done your research and articulate your points well. Your call to action in this last video is excellent. I do feel that you might make a follow on video #7 that enumerates specific actions to take. I feel like I want to help. Now make it easier for us all. Give us the organizations websites listed in the show notes. In the video you mentioned briefly in one sentence that we might, : quit if we are able, join groups that advocate for better awareness of how all these things work and how much control they have. Make a video that lists the actions to take, the numbers to call, the steps to follow to break out of the addiction or hypnotic zombie scroll. Perhaps you have already made a video like that and I am new to your channel so I haven't found it yet. Link to it from this video for those of us who are just discovering your channel.

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