Tim Ferriss Show: #387: Tristan Harris — Fighting Skynet and Firewalling Attention


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Podcast Notes Key Takeaways

  • Humans are prone to biases from invisible constraints
  • Don’t believe everything you think
  • Here’s an exercise that makes it easy to see how one little thought can totally transform your entire experience of reality:
    • During a stressful moment in which you form a belief, ask yourself the following:
      • Is this belief true?
      • Can I be absolutely sure the belief is true?
      • How do I react and feel when I believe this belief to be true?
      • Who would I be in this moment without the belief?
      • Next – List the opposite of the belief
      • Then ask – Is there any way in which this opposite of this belief could be true?
    • In summary:
      • “We live in utter certainty about a world that’s highly uncertain. Whenever stress comes about, we might be able to downregulate a lot of that stress by not taking our thoughts and beliefs quite so seriously.”
  • “Each of us has a map in our brain of how we see reality. We’re not actually directly in touch with reality; we’re living through this mediated map.”
  • Spend the time to become aware of what the voice in your head is telling you all day long
  • Advertising-based business models of giant tech companies incentive them to go after human attention in ways we’ve never experienced before
    • To change the script, financial success has to be decoupled from capturing human behavior
  • Tech tips:
    • Put your phone in grayscale mode here’s how
    • Take every app off your phone’s home screen (except tools – Uber/Lyft, messages, calendar, etc.)
      • Then – train yourself to pull down + type into the search bar every time you want to use something like Instagram or Twitter
      • This puts a small bandpass filter between you and your phone, thus preventing unconscious/mindless scrolling

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"Big Brother isn't watching. He's singing and dancing. He's pulling rabbits out of a hat. Big Brother’s busy holding your attention every moment you're awake. He's making sure you're always distracted. He's making sure you're fully absorbed. He's making sure your imagination withers. Until it's as useful as your appendix." Chuck Palahniuk

Tristan Harris (@tristanharris) was named by Rolling Stone as one of the "25 People Shaping the World." He was featured in Fortune's 2018 "40 under 40" list for his work on reforming technology, and the Atlantic has called him the "closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience."

Formerly Design Ethicist at Google, he is a world-renowned expert on how technology steers our decisions. Tristan has spent nearly his entire life studying subtle psychological forces, from early beginnings as a childhood magician, to working with the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab, and to his role as CEO of Apture, which was acquired by Google.

Tristan has briefed heads of state, technology company CEOs, and members of the US Congress about the attention economy, and he's been featured in media worldwide, including 60 Minutes, PBS News Hour, and many more. He is the co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology, which can be found at Humanetech.com, and cohost (with Aza Raskin) of Your Undivided Attention podcast, which exposes the hidden designs that have the power to hijack our attention, manipulate our choices, and destabilize our real world communities.

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