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Do software designers have an ethical obligation to make their products less addictive?




People spend their time on smart phone while travelling in the Mass Rapid Transit train in Singapore on April 30, 2014.
People spend their time on smart phone while travelling in the Mass Rapid Transit train in Singapore on April 30, 2014.
ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images

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Given that tech product designers hack into behavioral psychology to maximize the addictive nature of their software, doesn’t the onus to create a less harmful, less distracting world lie on the shoulders of tech?

That’s the view of Tristan Harris, whose advocacy group Time Well Spent calls for software designers to take a Hippocratic oath and restructure their products to enhance human experience, rather than maximize screen staring.

Monday, we talked to Dr. Larry Rosen, co-author of ‘The Distracted Mind’ to get his take on what high-tech distractions do to the brain and how users can live a more balanced life.

Now, Larry looks at the issue from the supply-side. He talks to Harris about how tech is designed to hack the brain, what a code of ethics for software designers would look like and how apps and websites can be restructured.

Should product designers take a Hippocratic oath to make their software less distracting? What features would you like added or subtracted from your tech?

Guest:

Tristan Harris, former Google product ethicist; former CEO of startup Apture, acquired by Google in 2011; co-founder of advocacy group Time Well Spent