The Social Dilemma (2020) - full transcript

Explores the dangerous human impact of social networking, with tech experts sounding the alarm on their own creations.

[eerie instrumental music playing]

[interviewer] Why don't you go ahead?
Sit down and see if you can get comfy.

-You good? All right.
-Yeah. [exhales]

-[interviewer] Um...
-[cell phone vibrates]

[crew member] Take one, marker.

[interviewer] Wanna start
by introducing yourself?

[crew member coughs]

Hello, world. Bailey. Take three.

-[interviewer] You good?
-This is the worst part, man.

[chuckling] I don't like this.

I worked at Facebook in 2011 and 2012.

I was one of the really early employees
at Instagram.

[man 1] I worked at, uh, Google,
uh, YouTube.

[woman] Apple, Google, Twitter, Palm.

I helped start Mozilla Labs
and switched over to the Firefox side.

-[interviewer] Are we rolling? Everybody?
-[crew members reply]

[interviewer] Great.

[man 2] I worked at Twitter.

My last job there

was the senior vice president
of engineering.

-[man 3] I was the president of Pinterest.

Before that, um,
I was the... the director of monetization

at Facebook for five years.

While at Twitter, I spent a number
of years running their developer platform,

and then I became
head of consumer product.

I was the coinventor of Google Drive,
Gmail Chat,

Facebook Pages,
and the Facebook like button.

Yeah. This is... This is why I spent,
like, eight months

talking back and forth with lawyers.

This freaks me out.

[man 2] When I was there,

I always felt like,
fundamentally, it was a force for good.

I don't know if I feel that way anymore.

I left Google in June 2017, uh,
due to ethical concerns.

And... And not just at Google
but within the industry at large.

I'm very concerned.

I'm very concerned.

It's easy today to lose sight of the fact

that these tools actually have created
some wonderful things in the world.

They've reunited lost family members.
They've found organ donors.

I mean, there were meaningful,
systemic changes happening

around the world
because of these platforms

that were positive!

I think we were naive
about the flip side of that coin.

Yeah, these things, you release them,
and they take on a life of their own.

And how they're used is pretty different
than how you expected.

Nobody, I deeply believe,
ever intended any of these consequences.

There's no one bad guy.
No. Absolutely not.

[interviewer] So, then,
what's the... what's the problem?

[interviewer] Is there a problem,
and what is the problem?


[clicks tongue] Yeah, it is hard
to give a single, succinct...

I'm trying to touch on
many different problems.

[interviewer] What is the problem?

[clicks tongue, chuckles]

[birds singing]

[dog barking in distance]

[reporter 1]
Despite facing mounting criticism,

the so-called Big Tech names
are getting bigger.

The entire tech industry is
under a new level of scrutiny.

And a new study sheds light on the link

between mental health
and social media use.

[on TV]
Here to talk about the latest research...

[Tucker Carlson] going on
that gets no coverage at all.

Tens of millions of Americans
are hopelessly addicted

to their electronic devices.

[reporter 2] It's exacerbated by the fact

that you can literally isolate yourself

in a bubble, thanks to our technology.

Fake news is becoming more advanced

and threatening societies
around the world.

We weren't expecting any of this
when we created Twitter over 12 years ago.

White House officials say
they have no reason to believe

the Russian cyberattacks will stop.

YouTube is being forced
to concentrate on cleansing the site.

[reporter 3] TikTok,
if you talk to any tween out there...

[on TV] ...there's no chance
they'll delete this thing...

Hey, Isla,
can you get the table ready, please?

[reporter 4] There's a question
about whether social media

is making your child depressed.

[mom] Isla,
can you set the table, please?

[reporter 5] These cosmetic procedures
are becoming so popular with teens,

plastic surgeons have coined
a new syndrome for it,

"Snapchat dysmorphia,"
with young patients wanting surgery

so they can look more like they do
in filtered selfies.

Still don't see why you let her have
that thing.

What was I supposed to do?

I mean, every other kid
in her class had one.

She's only 11.

Cass, no one's forcing you to get one.

You can stay disconnected
as long as you want.

Hey, I'm connected without a cell phone,
okay? I'm on the Internet right now.

Also, that isn't even actual connection.
It's just a load of sh--

Surveillance capitalism has come to shape

our politics and culture
in ways many people don't perceive.

[reporter 6]
ISIS inspired followers online,

and now white supremacists
are doing the same.

Recently in India,

Internet lynch mobs have killed
a dozen people, including these five...

[reporter 7] It's not just fake news;
it's fake news with consequences.

[reporter 8] How do you handle an epidemic
in the age of fake news?

Can you get the coronavirus
by eating Chinese food?

We have gone from the information age
into the disinformation age.

Our democracy is under assault.

[man 4] What I said was,
"I think the tools

that have been created today are starting

to erode the social fabric
of how society works."

[eerie instrumental music continues]

-[music fades]
-[indistinct chatter]

[crew member] Fine.

[stage manager] Aza does
welcoming remarks. We play the video.

And then, "Ladies and gentlemen,
Tristan Harris."

-[stage manager] Great.

So, I come up, and...

basically say, "Thank you all for coming."

So, today, I wanna talk about a new agenda
for technology.

And why we wanna do that
is because if you ask people,

"What's wrong in the tech industry
right now?"

there's a cacophony of grievances
and scandals,

and "They stole our data."
And there's tech addiction.

And there's fake news.
And there's polarization

and some elections
that are getting hacked.

But is there something
that is beneath all these problems

that's causing all these things
to happen at once?

[stage manager speaking indistinctly]

-Does this feel good?
-Very good. Yeah.

Um... [sighs]

I'm just trying to...
Like, I want people to see...

Like, there's a problem happening
in the tech industry,

and it doesn't have a name,

and it has to do with one source,
like, one...

[eerie instrumental music playing]

[Tristan] When you look around you,
it feels like the world is going crazy.

You have to ask yourself, like,
"Is this normal?

Or have we all fallen under some kind
of spell?"

I wish more people could understand
how this works

because it shouldn't be something
that only the tech industry knows.

It should be something
that everybody knows.

[backpack zips]

[softly] Bye.

[guard] Here you go, sir.

-[employee] Hello!
-[Tristan] Hi.

-Tristan. Nice to meet you.
-It's Tris-tan, right?

-Awesome. Cool.

[presenter] Tristan Harris
is a former design ethicist for Google

and has been called the closest thing
Silicon Valley has to a conscience.

[reporter] He's asking tech

to bring what he calls "ethical design"
to its products.

[Anderson Cooper] It's rare
for a tech insider to be so blunt,

but Tristan Harris believes
someone needs to be.

[Tristan] When I was at Google,

I was on the Gmail team,
and I just started getting burnt out

'cause we'd had
so many conversations about...

you know, what the inbox should look like
and what color it should be, and...

And I, you know, felt personally addicted
to e-mail,

and I found it fascinating

there was no one at Gmail working
on making it less addictive.

And I was like,
"Is anybody else thinking about this?

I haven't heard anybody talk about this."

-And I was feeling this frustration...

...with the tech industry, overall,

that we'd kind of, like, lost our way.

-[ominous instrumental music playing]
-[message alerts chiming]

[Tristan] You know, I really struggled
to try and figure out

how, from the inside, we could change it.

[energetic piano music playing]

[Tristan] And that was when I decided
to make a presentation,

kind of a call to arms.

Every day, I went home and I worked on it
for a couple hours every single night.


[Tristan] It basically just said,
you know,

never before
in history have 50 designers--

20- to 35-year-old white guys
in California--

made decisions that would have an impact
on two billion people.

Two billion people will have thoughts
that they didn't intend to have

because a designer at Google said,
"This is how notifications work

on that screen that you wake up to
in the morning."

And we have a moral responsibility,
as Google, for solving this problem.

And I sent this presentation

to about 15, 20 of my closest colleagues
at Google,

and I was very nervous about it.
I wasn't sure how it was gonna land.

When I went to work the next day,

most of the laptops
had the presentation open.

Later that day, there was, like,
400 simultaneous viewers,

so it just kept growing and growing.

I got e-mails from all around the company.
I mean, people in every department saying,

"I totally agree."
"I see this affecting my kids."

"I see this affecting
the people around me."

"We have to do something about this."

It felt like I was sort of launching
a revolution or something like that.

Later, I found out Larry Page
had been notified about this presentation

-in three separate meetings that day.
-[indistinct chatter]

[Tristan] And so, it created
this kind of cultural moment

-that Google needed to take seriously.

-[Tristan] And then... nothing.
-[whooshing fades]

[message alerts chiming]

[Tim] Everyone in 2006...

including all of us at Facebook,

just had total admiration for Google
and what Google had built,

which was this incredibly useful service

that did, far as we could tell,
lots of goodness for the world,

and they built
this parallel money machine.

We had such envy for that,
and it seemed so elegant to us...

and so perfect.

Facebook had been around
for about two years,

um, and I was hired to come in
and figure out

what the business model was gonna be
for the company.

I was the director of monetization.
The point was, like,

"You're the person who's gonna figure out
how this thing monetizes."

And there were a lot of people
who did a lot of the work,

but I was clearly one of the people
who was pointing towards...

"Well, we have to make money, A...

and I think this advertising model
is probably the most elegant way.

[bright instrumental music playing]

Uh-oh. What's this video Mom just sent us?

Oh, that's from a talk show,
but that's pretty good.

Guy's kind of a genius.

He's talking all about deleting
social media, which you gotta do.

I might have to start blocking
her e-mails.

I don't even know
what she's talking about, man.

She's worse than I am.

-No, she only uses it for recipes.
-Right, and work.

-And workout videos.
-[guy] And to check up on us.

And everyone else she's ever met
in her entire life.

If you are scrolling through
your social media feed

while you're watchin' us, you need to put
the damn phone down and listen up

'cause our next guest has written
an incredible book

about how much it's wrecking our lives.

Please welcome author

of Ten Arguments for Deleting
Your Social Media Accounts Right Now...

-[Sunny Hostin] Uh-huh.
-...Jaron Lanier.

[cohosts speaking indistinctly]

[Jaron] Companies like Google and Facebook
are some of the wealthiest

and most successful of all time.

Uh, they have relatively few employees.

They just have this giant computer
that rakes in money, right? Uh...

Now, what are they being paid for?

That's a really important question.

[Roger] So, I've been an investor
in technology for 35 years.

The first 50 years of Silicon Valley,
the industry made products--

hardware, software--

sold 'em to customers.
Nice, simple business.

For the last ten years,
the biggest companies in Silicon Valley

have been in the business
of selling their users.

It's a little even trite to say now,

but... because we don't pay
for the products that we use,

advertisers pay
for the products that we use.

Advertisers are the customers.

We're the thing being sold.

The classic saying is:

"If you're not paying for the product,
then you are the product."

A lot of people think, you know,
"Oh, well, Google's just a search box,

and Facebook's just a place to see
what my friends are doing

and see their photos."

But what they don't realize
is they're competing for your attention.

So, you know, Facebook, Snapchat,
Twitter, Instagram, YouTube,

companies like this, their business model
is to keep people engaged on the screen.

Let's figure out how to get
as much of this person's attention

as we possibly can.

How much time can we get you to spend?

How much of your life can we get you
to give to us?

[Justin] When you think about
how some of these companies work,

it starts to make sense.

There are all these services
on the Internet that we think of as free,

but they're not free.
They're paid for by advertisers.

Why do advertisers pay those companies?

They pay in exchange for showing their ads
to us.

We're the product. Our attention
is the product being sold to advertisers.

That's a little too simplistic.

It's the gradual, slight,
imperceptible change

in your own behavior and perception
that is the product.

And that is the product.
It's the only possible product.

There's nothing else on the table
that could possibly be called the product.

That's the only thing there is
for them to make money from.

Changing what you do,

how you think, who you are.

It's a gradual change. It's slight.

If you can go to somebody and you say,
"Give me $10 million,

and I will change the world one percent
in the direction you want it to change..."

It's the world! That can be incredible,
and that's worth a lot of money.


[Shoshana] This is what every business
has always dreamt of:

to have a guarantee that if it places
an ad, it will be successful.

That's their business.

They sell certainty.

In order to be successful
in that business,

you have to have great predictions.

Great predictions begin
with one imperative:

you need a lot of data.

Many people call this
surveillance capitalism,

capitalism profiting
off of the infinite tracking

of everywhere everyone goes
by large technology companies

whose business model is to make sure

that advertisers are as successful
as possible.

This is a new kind of marketplace now.

It's a marketplace
that never existed before.

And it's a marketplace
that trades exclusively in human futures.

Just like there are markets that trade
in pork belly futures or oil futures.

We now have markets
that trade in human futures at scale,

and those markets have produced
the trillions of dollars

that have made the Internet companies
the richest companies

in the history of humanity.

[indistinct chatter]

[Jeff] What I want people to know
is that everything they're doing online

is being watched, is being tracked,
is being measured.

Every single action you take
is carefully monitored and recorded.

Exactly what image you stop and look at,
for how long you look at it.

Oh, yeah, seriously,
for how long you look at it.

[monitors beeping]

[Tristan] They know
when people are lonely.

They know when people are depressed.

They know when people are looking
at photos of your ex-romantic partners.

They know what you're doing late at night.
They know the entire thing.

Whether you're an introvert
or an extrovert,

or what kind of neuroses you have,
what your personality type is like.

[Shoshana] They have more information
about us

than has ever been imagined
in human history.

It is unprecedented.

And so, all of this data that we're...
that we're just pouring out all the time

is being fed into these systems
that have almost no human supervision

and that are making better and better
and better and better predictions

about what we're gonna do
and... and who we are.

[indistinct chatter]

[Aza] People have the misconception
it's our data being sold.

It's not in Facebook's business interest
to give up the data.

What do they do with that data?

[console whirring]

[Aza] They build models
that predict our actions,

and whoever has the best model wins.

His scrolling speed is slowing.

Nearing the end
of his average session length.

Decreasing ad load.

Pull back on friends and family.

[Tristan] On the other side of the screen,

it's almost as if they had
this avatar voodoo doll-like model of us.

All of the things we've ever done,

all the clicks we've ever made,

all the videos we've watched,
all the likes,

that all gets brought back into building
a more and more accurate model.

The model, once you have it,

you can predict the kinds of things
that person does.

Right, let me just test.

[Tristan] Where you'll go.
I can predict what kind of videos

will keep you watching.

I can predict what kinds of emotions tend
to trigger you.

[blue AI] Yes, perfect.

The most epic fails of the year.

-[crowd groans on video]

-Perfect. That worked.
-Following with another video.

Beautiful. Let's squeeze in a sneaker ad
before it starts.

[Tristan] At a lot
of technology companies,

there's three main goals.

There's the engagement goal:

to drive up your usage,
to keep you scrolling.

There's the growth goal:

to keep you coming back
and inviting as many friends

and getting them to invite more friends.

And then there's the advertising goal:

to make sure that,
as all that's happening,

we're making as much money as possible
from advertising.

[console beeps]

Each of these goals are powered
by algorithms

whose job is to figure out
what to show you

to keep those numbers going up.

We often talked about, at Facebook,
this idea

of being able to just dial that as needed.

And, you know, we talked
about having Mark have those dials.

"Hey, I want more users in Korea today."

"Turn the dial."

"Let's dial up the ads a little bit."

"Dial up monetization, just slightly."

And so, that happ--

I mean, at all of these companies,
there is that level of precision.

-Dude, how--
-I don't know how I didn't get carded.

-That ref just, like, sucked or something.
-You got literally all the way...

-That's Rebecca. Go talk to her.
-I know who it is.

-Dude, yo, go talk to her.
-[guy] I'm workin' on it.

His calendar says he's on a break
right now. We should be live.

[sighs] Want me to nudge him?

Yeah, nudge away.

[console beeps]

"Your friend Tyler just joined.
Say hi with a wave."

[Engagement AI] Come on, Ben.

Send a wave. [sighs]

-You're not... Go talk to her, dude.
-[phone vibrates, chimes]

-[Ben sighs]
-[cell phone chimes]

[console beeps]

New link! All right, we're on. [exhales]

Follow that up with a post
from User 079044238820, Rebecca.

Good idea. GPS coordinates indicate
that they're in close proximity.

He's primed for an ad.

Auction time.

Sold! To Deep Fade hair wax.

We had 468 interested bidders. We sold Ben
at 3.262 cents for an impression.

[melancholy piano music playing]

[Ben sighs]

[Jaron] We've created a world

in which online connection
has become primary,

especially for younger generations.

And yet, in that world,
any time two people connect,

the only way it's financed
is through a sneaky third person

who's paying to manipulate
those two people.

So, we've created
an entire global generation of people

who are raised within a context
where the very meaning of communication,

the very meaning of culture,
is manipulation.

We've put deceit and sneakiness

at the absolute center
of everything we do.

-[interviewer] Grab the...
-[Tristan] Okay.

-Where's it help to hold it?
-[interviewer] Great.

-[Tristan] Here?
-[interviewer] Yeah.

How does this come across on camera
if I were to do, like, this move--

-[interviewer] We can--
-[blows] Like that?

-[interviewer laughs] What?

-[interviewer] Do that again.
-Exactly. Yeah. [blows]

Yeah. No, it's probably not...

Like... yeah.

I mean, this one is less...

[interviewer laughs] Larissa's, like,
actually freaking out over here.

Is that good?

[instrumental music playing]

[Tristan] I was, like, five years old
when I learned how to do magic.

And I could fool adults,
fully-grown adults with, like, PhDs.

Magicians were almost like
the first neuroscientists

and psychologists.

Like, they were the ones
who first understood

how people's minds work.

They just, in real time, are testing
lots and lots of stuff on people.

A magician understands something,

some part of your mind
that we're not aware of.

That's what makes the illusion work.

Doctors, lawyers, people who know
how to build 747s or nuclear missiles,

they don't know more about
how their own mind is vulnerable.

That's a separate discipline.

And it's a discipline
that applies to all human beings.

From that perspective, you can have
a very different understanding

of what technology is doing.

When I was
at the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab,

this is what we learned.

How could you use everything we know

about the psychology
of what persuades people

and build that into technology?

Now, many of you in the audience
are geniuses already.

I think that's true, but my goal is
to turn you into a behavior-change genius.

There are many prominent Silicon Valley
figures who went through that class--

key growth figures at Facebook and Uber
and... and other companies--

and learned how to make technology
more persuasive,

Tristan being one.

[Tristan] Persuasive technology
is just sort of design

intentionally applied to the extreme,

where we really want to modify
someone's behavior.

We want them to take this action.

We want them to keep doing this
with their finger.

You pull down and you refresh,
it's gonna be a new thing at the top.

Pull down and refresh again, it's new.
Every single time.

Which, in psychology, we call
a positive intermittent reinforcement.

You don't know when you're gonna get it
or if you're gonna get something,

which operates just like the slot machines
in Vegas.

It's not enough
that you use the product consciously,

I wanna dig down deeper
into the brain stem

and implant, inside of you,

an unconscious habit

so that you are being programmed
at a deeper level.

You don't even realize it.

[teacher] A man, James Marshall...

[Tristan] Every time you see it there
on the counter,

and you just look at it,
and you know if you reach over,

it just might have something for you,

so you play that slot machine
to see what you got, right?

That's not by accident.
That's a design technique.

[teacher] He brings a golden nugget
to an officer

in the army in San Francisco.

Mind you, the... the population
of San Francisco was only...

Another example is photo tagging.

-[teacher] The secret didn't last.
-[phone vibrates]

[Jeff] So, if you get an e-mail

that says your friend just tagged you
in a photo,

of course you're going to click
on that e-mail and look at the photo.

It's not something
you can just decide to ignore.

This is deep-seated, like,

human personality
that they're tapping into.

What you should be asking yourself is:

"Why doesn't that e-mail contain
the photo in it?

It would be a lot easier
to see the photo."

When Facebook found that feature,
they just dialed the hell out of that

because they said, "This is gonna be
a great way to grow activity.

Let's just get people tagging each other
in photos all day long."

[upbeat techno music playing]

[cell phone chimes]

He commented.

[Growth AI] Nice.

Okay, Rebecca received it,
and she is responding.

All right, let Ben know that she's typing
so we don't lose him.

Activating ellipsis.

[teacher continues speaking indistinctly]

[tense instrumental music playing]

Great, she posted.

He's commenting on her comment
about his comment on her post.

Hold on, he stopped typing.

Let's autofill.

Emojis. He loves emojis.

He went with fire.

[clicks tongue, sighs]
I was rootin' for eggplant.

[Tristan] There's an entire discipline
and field called "growth hacking."

Teams of engineers
whose job is to hack people's psychology

so they can get more growth.

They can get more user sign-ups,
more engagement.

They can get you to invite more people.

After all the testing, all the iterating,
all of this stuff,

you know the single biggest thing
we realized?

Get any individual to seven friends
in ten days.

That was it.

Chamath was the head of growth at Facebook
early on,

and he's very well known
in the tech industry

for pioneering a lot of the growth tactics

that were used to grow Facebook
at incredible speed.

And those growth tactics have then become
the standard playbook for Silicon Valley.

They were used at Uber
and at a bunch of other companies.

One of the things that he pioneered
was the use of scientific A/B testing

of small feature changes.

Companies like Google and Facebook

would roll out
lots of little, tiny experiments

that they were constantly doing on users.

And over time,
by running these constant experiments,

you... you develop the most optimal way

to get users to do
what you want them to do.

It's... It's manipulation.

Uh, you're making me feel like a lab rat.

You are a lab rat. We're all lab rats.

And it's not like we're lab rats
for developing a cure for cancer.

It's not like they're trying
to benefit us.

Right? We're just zombies,
and they want us to look at more ads

so they can make more money.

[Shoshana] Facebook conducted

what they called
"massive-scale contagion experiments."


[Shoshana] How do we use subliminal cues
on the Facebook pages

to get more people to go vote
in the midterm elections?

And they discovered
that they were able to do that.

One thing they concluded
is that we now know

we can affect real-world behavior
and emotions

without ever triggering
the user's awareness.

They are completely clueless.

We're pointing these engines of AI
back at ourselves

to reverse-engineer what elicits responses
from us.

Almost like you're stimulating nerve cells
on a spider

to see what causes its legs to respond.

So, it really is
this kind of prison experiment

where we're just, you know,
roping people into the matrix,

and we're just harvesting all this money
and... and data from all their activity

to profit from.

And we're not even aware
that it's happening.

So, we want to psychologically figure out
how to manipulate you as fast as possible

and then give you back that dopamine hit.

We did that brilliantly at Facebook.

Instagram has done it.
WhatsApp has done it.

You know, Snapchat has done it.
Twitter has done it.

I mean, it's exactly the kind of thing

that a... that a hacker like myself
would come up with

because you're exploiting a vulnerability
in... in human psychology.

[chuckles] And I just...
I think that we...

you know, the inventors, creators...

uh, you know, and it's me, it's Mark,
it's the...

you know, Kevin Systrom at Instagram...
It's all of these people...

um, understood this consciously,
and we did it anyway.

No one got upset when bicycles showed up.

Right? Like, if everyone's starting
to go around on bicycles,

no one said,
"Oh, my God, we've just ruined society.

Like, bicycles are affecting people.

They're pulling people
away from their kids.

They're ruining the fabric of democracy.
People can't tell what's true."

Like, we never said any of that stuff
about a bicycle.

If something is a tool,
it genuinely is just sitting there,

waiting patiently.

If something is not a tool,
it's demanding things from you.

It's seducing you. It's manipulating you.
It wants things from you.

And we've moved away from having
a tools-based technology environment

to an addiction- and manipulation-based
technology environment.

That's what's changed.

Social media isn't a tool
that's just waiting to be used.

It has its own goals,
and it has its own means of pursuing them

by using your psychology against you.

[ominous instrumental music playing]

[Tim] Rewind a few years ago,
I was the...

I was the president of Pinterest.

I was coming home,

and I couldn't get off my phone
once I got home,

despite having two young kids
who needed my love and attention.

I was in the pantry, you know,
typing away on an e-mail

or sometimes looking at Pinterest.

I thought, "God, this is classic irony.

I am going to work during the day

and building something
that then I am falling prey to."

And I couldn't... I mean, some
of those moments, I couldn't help myself.

-[notification chimes]
-[woman gasps]

The one
that I'm... I'm most prone to is Twitter.

Uh, used to be Reddit.

I actually had to write myself software
to break my addiction to reading Reddit.

-[notifications chime]
-[slot machines whir]

I'm probably most addicted to my e-mail.

I mean, really. I mean, I... I feel it.

-[notifications chime]
-[woman gasps]

[electricity crackles]

Well, I mean, it's sort-- it's interesting

that knowing what was going on
behind the curtain,

I still wasn't able to control my usage.

So, that's a little scary.

Even knowing how these tricks work,
I'm still susceptible to them.

I'll still pick up the phone,
and 20 minutes will disappear.

[notifications chime]

-[fluid rushes]
-[woman gasps]

Do you check your smartphone
before you pee in the morning

or while you're peeing in the morning?

'Cause those are the only two choices.

I tried through willpower,
just pure willpower...

"I'll put down my phone, I'll leave
my phone in the car when I get home."

I think I told myself a thousand times,
a thousand different days,

"I am not gonna bring my phone
to the bedroom,"

and then 9:00 p.m. rolls around.

"Well, I wanna bring my phone
in the bedroom."

[takes a deep breath]
And so, that was sort of...

Willpower was kind of attempt one,

and then attempt two was,
you know, brute force.

[announcer] Introducing the Kitchen Safe.
The Kitchen Safe is a revolutionary,

new, time-locking container
that helps you fight temptation.

All David has to do is place
those temptations in the Kitchen Safe.

Next, he rotates the dial
to set the timer.

And, finally, he presses the dial
to activate the lock.

The Kitchen Safe is great...

We have that, don't we? games, credit cards,
and cell phones.

Yeah, we do.

[announcer] Once the Kitchen Safe
is locked, it cannot be opened

until the timer reaches zero.

[Anna] So, here's the thing.

Social media is a drug.

I mean,
we have a basic biological imperative

to connect with other people.

That directly affects the release
of dopamine in the reward pathway.

Millions of years of evolution, um,
are behind that system

to get us to come together
and live in communities,

to find mates, to propagate our species.

So, there's no doubt
that a vehicle like social media,

which optimizes this connection
between people,

is going to have the potential
for addiction.

-Mmm! [laughs]
-Dad, stop!

I have, like, 1,000 more snips
to send before dinner.

-[dad] Snips?
-I don't know what a snip is.

-Mm, that smells good, baby.
-All right. Thank you.

I was, um, thinking we could use
all five senses

to enjoy our dinner tonight.

So, I decided that we're not gonna have
any cell phones at the table tonight.

So, turn 'em in.

-[mom] Yep.

-All right.
-Thank you. Ben?

-Mom, the phone pirate. [scoffs]

-Got it.

So, they will be safe in here
until after dinner...

-and everyone can just chill out.
-[safe whirs]


[Cass sighs]

[notification chimes]

-Can I just see who it is?

Just gonna go get another fork.

Thank you.

Honey, you can't open that.

I locked it for an hour,
so just leave it alone.

So, what should we talk about?

Well, we could talk

about the, uh, Extreme Center wackos
I drove by today.

-[mom] Please, Frank.

[mom] I don't wanna talk about politics.

-What's wrong with the Extreme Center?
-See? He doesn't even get it.

It depends on who you ask.

It's like asking,
"What's wrong with propaganda?"

-[safe smashes]
-[mom and Frank scream]

[Frank] Isla!

Oh, my God.

-[sighs] Do you want me to...
-[mom] Yeah.

[Anna] I... I'm worried about my kids.

And if you have kids,
I'm worried about your kids.

Armed with all the knowledge that I have
and all of the experience,

I am fighting my kids about the time

that they spend on phones
and on the computer.

I will say to my son, "How many hours do
you think you're spending on your phone?"

He'll be like, "It's, like, half an hour.
It's half an hour, tops."

I'd say upwards hour, hour and a half.

I looked at his screen report
a couple weeks ago.

-Three hours and 45 minutes.
-[James] That...

I don't think that's...
No. Per day, on average?

-Should I go get it right now?

There's not a day that goes by
that I don't remind my kids

about the pleasure-pain balance,

about dopamine deficit states,

about the risk of addiction.

[Mary] Moment of truth.

Two hours, 50 minutes per day.

-Let's see.
-Actually, I've been using a lot today.

-Last seven days.
-That's probably why.

Instagram, six hours, 13 minutes.
Okay, so my Instagram's worse.

My screen's completely shattered.

Thanks, Cass.

What do you mean, "Thanks, Cass"?

You keep freaking Mom out about our phones
when it's not really a problem.

We don't need our phones to eat dinner!

I get what you're saying.
It's just not that big a deal. It's not.

If it's not that big a deal,
don't use it for a week.

[Ben sighs]

Yeah. Yeah, actually, if you can put
that thing away for, like, a whole week...

I will buy you a new screen.

-Like, starting now?
-[mom] Starting now.

-Okay. You got a deal.
-[mom] Okay.

Okay, you gotta leave it here, though,

All right, I'm plugging it in.

Let the record show... I'm backing away.


-You're on the clock.
-[Ben] One week.

Oh, my...

Think he can do it?

I don't know. We'll see.

Just eat, okay?

Good family dinner!

[Tristan] These technology products
were not designed

by child psychologists who are trying
to protect and nurture children.

They were just designing
to make these algorithms

that were really good at recommending
the next video to you

or really good at getting you
to take a photo with a filter on it.

[cell phone chimes]

[Tristan] It's not just
that it's controlling

where they spend their attention.

Especially social media starts to dig
deeper and deeper down into the brain stem

and take over kids' sense of self-worth
and identity.

[notifications chiming]

[Tristan] We evolved to care about
whether other people in our tribe...

think well of us or not
'cause it matters.

But were we evolved to be aware
of what 10,000 people think of us?

We were not evolved
to have social approval being dosed to us

every five minutes.

That was not at all what we were built
to experience.

[Chamath] We curate our lives
around this perceived sense of perfection

because we get rewarded
in these short-term signals--

hearts, likes, thumbs-up--

and we conflate that with value,
and we conflate it with truth.

And instead, what it really is
is fake, brittle popularity...

that's short-term and that leaves you
even more, and admit it,

vacant and empty before you did it.

Because then it forces you
into this vicious cycle

where you're like, "What's the next thing
I need to do now? 'Cause I need it back."

Think about that compounded
by two billion people,

and then think about how people react then
to the perceptions of others.

It's just a... It's really bad.

It's really, really bad.

[Jonathan] There has been
a gigantic increase

in depression and anxiety
for American teenagers

which began right around...
between 2011 and 2013.

The number of teenage girls out of 100,000
in this country

who were admitted to a hospital every year

because they cut themselves
or otherwise harmed themselves,

that number was pretty stable
until around 2010, 2011,

and then it begins going way up.

It's up 62 percent for older teen girls.

It's up 189 percent for the preteen girls.
That's nearly triple.

Even more horrifying,
we see the same pattern with suicide.

The older teen girls, 15 to 19 years old,

they're up 70 percent,

compared to the first decade
of this century.

The preteen girls,
who have very low rates to begin with,

they are up 151 percent.

And that pattern points to social media.

Gen Z, the kids born after 1996 or so,

those kids are the first generation
in history

that got on social media in middle school.

[thunder rumbling in distance]

[Jonathan] How do they spend their time?

They come home from school,
and they're on their devices.

A whole generation is more anxious,
more fragile, more depressed.

-[thunder rumbles]
-[Isla gasps]

[Jonathan] They're much less comfortable
taking risks.

The rates at which they get
driver's licenses have been dropping.

The number
who have ever gone out on a date

or had any kind of romantic interaction
is dropping rapidly.

This is a real change in a generation.

And remember, for every one of these,
for every hospital admission,

there's a family that is traumatized
and horrified.

"My God, what is happening to our kids?"

[Isla sighs]

[Tim] It's plain as day to me.

These services are killing people...
and causing people to kill themselves.

I don't know any parent who says, "Yeah,
I really want my kids to be growing up

feeling manipulated by tech designers, uh,

manipulating their attention,
making it impossible to do their homework,

making them compare themselves
to unrealistic standards of beauty."

Like, no one wants that. [chuckles]

No one does.

We... We used to have these protections.

When children watched
Saturday morning cartoons,

we cared about protecting children.

We would say, "You can't advertise
to these age children in these ways."

But then you take YouTube for Kids,

and it gobbles up that entire portion
of the attention economy,

and now all kids are exposed
to YouTube for Kids.

And all those protections
and all those regulations are gone.

[tense instrumental music playing]

[Tristan] We're training and conditioning
a whole new generation of people...

that when we are uncomfortable or lonely
or uncertain or afraid,

we have a digital pacifier for ourselves

that is kind of atrophying our own ability
to deal with that.

[Tristan] Photoshop didn't have
1,000 engineers

on the other side of the screen,
using notifications, using your friends,

using AI to predict what's gonna
perfectly addict you, or hook you,

or manipulate you, or allow advertisers

to test 60,000 variations
of text or colors to figure out

what's the perfect manipulation
of your mind.

This is a totally new species
of power and influence.

I... I would say, again, the methods used

to play on people's ability
to be addicted or to be influenced

may be different this time,
and they probably are different.

They were different when newspapers
came in and the printing press came in,

and they were different
when television came in,

and you had three major networks and...

-At the time.
-At the time. That's what I'm saying.

But I'm saying the idea
that there's a new level

and that new level has happened
so many times before.

I mean, this is just the latest new level
that we've seen.

There's this narrative that, you know,
"We'll just adapt to it.

We'll learn how to live
with these devices,

just like we've learned how to live
with everything else."

And what this misses
is there's something distinctly new here.

Perhaps the most dangerous piece
of all this is the fact

that it's driven by technology
that's advancing exponentially.

Roughly, if you say from, like,
the 1960s to today,

processing power has gone up
about a trillion times.

Nothing else that we have has improved
at anything near that rate.

Like, cars are, you know,
roughly twice as fast.

And almost everything else is negligible.

And perhaps most importantly,

our human-- our physiology,
our brains have evolved not at all.

[Tristan] Human beings, at a mind and body
and sort of physical level,

are not gonna fundamentally change.

[indistinct chatter]

[chuckling] I know, but they...

[continues speaking indistinctly]

[camera shutter clicks]

[Tristan] We can do genetic engineering
and develop new kinds of human beings,

but realistically speaking,
you're living inside of hardware, a brain,

that was, like, millions of years old,

and then there's this screen, and then
on the opposite side of the screen,

there's these thousands of engineers
and supercomputers

that have goals that are different
than your goals,

and so, who's gonna win in that game?
Who's gonna win?

How are we losing?

-I don't know.
-Where is he? This is not normal.

Did I overwhelm him
with friends and family content?

-Well, maybe it was all the ads.

No. Something's very wrong.
Let's switch to resurrection mode.

[Tristan] When you think of AI,
you know, an AI's gonna ruin the world,

and you see, like, a Terminator,
and you see Arnold Schwarzenegger.

I'll be back.

[Tristan] You see drones,
and you think, like,

"Oh, we're gonna kill people with AI."

And what people miss is that AI
already runs today's world right now.

Even talking about "an AI"
is just a metaphor.

At these companies like... like Google,
there's just massive, massive rooms,

some of them underground,
some of them underwater,

of just computers.

Tons and tons of computers,
as far as the eye can see.

They're deeply interconnected
with each other

and running
extremely complicated programs,

sending information back and forth
between each other all the time.

And they'll be running
many different programs,

many different products
on those same machines.

Some of those things could be described
as simple algorithms,

some could be described as algorithms

that are so complicated,
you would call them intelligence.

[crew member sighs]

I like to say that algorithms are opinions

embedded in code...

and that algorithms are not objective.

Algorithms are optimized
to some definition of success.

So, if you can imagine,

if a... if a commercial enterprise builds
an algorithm

to their definition of success,

it's a commercial interest.

It's usually profit.

You are giving the computer
the goal state, "I want this outcome,"

and then the computer itself is learning
how to do it.

That's where the term "machine learning"
comes from.

And so, every day, it gets slightly better

at picking the right posts
in the right order

so that you spend longer and longer
in that product.

And no one really understands
what they're doing

in order to achieve that goal.

The algorithm has a mind of its own,
so even though a person writes it,

it's written in a way

that you kind of build the machine,
and then the machine changes itself.

There's only a handful of people
at these companies,

at Facebook and Twitter
and other companies...

There's only a few people who understand
how those systems work,

and even they don't necessarily
fully understand

what's gonna happen
with a particular piece of content.

So, as humans, we've almost lost control
over these systems.

Because they're controlling, you know,
the information that we see,

they're controlling us more
than we're controlling them.

-[console whirs]
-[Growth AI] Cross-referencing him

against comparables
in his geographic zone.

His psychometric doppelgangers.

There are 13,694 people
behaving just like him in his region.

-What's trending with them?
-We need something actually good

for a proper resurrection,

given that the typical stuff
isn't working.

Not even that cute girl from school.

My analysis shows that going political
with Extreme Center content

has a 62.3 percent chance
of long-term engagement.

That's not bad.

[sighs] It's not good enough to lead with.

Okay, okay, so we've tried notifying him
about tagged photos,

invitations, current events,
even a direct message from Rebecca.

But what about User 01265923010?

Yeah, Ben loved all of her posts.

For months and, like,
literally all of them, and then nothing.

I calculate a 92.3 percent chance
of resurrection

with a notification about Ana.

And her new friend.

[eerie instrumental music playing]

[cell phone vibrates]

[Ben] Oh, you gotta be kiddin' me.

Uh... [sighs]


-[fanfare plays, fireworks pop]

[claps] Bam! We're back!

Let's get back to making money, boys.

Yes, and connecting Ben
with the entire world.

I'm giving him access
to all the information he might like.

Hey, do you guys ever wonder if, you know,
like, the feed is good for Ben?

-No. [chuckles slightly]

-[chuckles softly]
-["I Put a Spell on You" playing]

♪ I put a spell on you ♪

♪ 'Cause you're mine ♪

[vocalizing] ♪ Ah! ♪

♪ You better stop the things you do ♪

♪ I ain't lyin' ♪

♪ No, I ain't lyin' ♪

♪ You know I can't stand it ♪

♪ You're runnin' around ♪

♪ You know better, Daddy ♪

♪ I can't stand it
'Cause you put me down ♪

♪ Yeah, yeah ♪

♪ I put a spell on you ♪

♪ Because you're mine ♪

♪ You're mine ♪

[Roger] So, imagine you're on Facebook...

and you're effectively playing
against this artificial intelligence

that knows everything about you,

can anticipate your next move,
and you know literally nothing about it,

except that there are cat videos
and birthdays on it.

That's not a fair fight.

Ben and Jerry, it's time to go, bud!



[knocks lightly on door]

-[Cass] Ben.
-[Ben] Mm.

Come on.

School time. [claps]

Let's go.

[Ben sighs]

[excited chatter]

-[tech] How you doing today?
-Oh, I'm... I'm nervous.

-Are ya?
-Yeah. [chuckles]

We were all looking for the moment

when technology would overwhelm
human strengths and intelligence.

When is it gonna cross the singularity,
replace our jobs, be smarter than humans?

But there's this much earlier moment...

when technology exceeds
and overwhelms human weaknesses.

This point being crossed
is at the root of addiction,

polarization, radicalization,

vanity-ification, the entire thing.

This is overpowering human nature,

and this is checkmate on humanity.

-[sighs deeply]
-[door opens]

I'm sorry. [sighs]

-[seat belt clicks]
-[engine starts]

[Jaron] One of the ways
I try to get people to understand

just how wrong feeds from places
like Facebook are

is to think about the Wikipedia.

When you go to a page, you're seeing
the same thing as other people.

So, it's one of the few things online
that we at least hold in common.

Now, just imagine for a second
that Wikipedia said,

"We're gonna give each person
a different customized definition,

and we're gonna be paid by people
for that."

So, Wikipedia would be spying on you.
Wikipedia would calculate,

"What's the thing I can do
to get this person to change a little bit

on behalf of some commercial interest?"

And then it would change the entry.

Can you imagine that?
Well, you should be able to,

'cause that's exactly what's happening
on Facebook.

It's exactly what's happening
in your YouTube feed.

When you go to Google and type in
"Climate change is,"

you're going to see different results
depending on where you live.

In certain cities,
you're gonna see it autocomplete

with "climate change is a hoax."

In other cases, you're gonna see

"climate change is causing the destruction
of nature."

And that's a function not
of what the truth is about climate change,

but about
where you happen to be Googling from

and the particular things
Google knows about your interests.

Even two friends
who are so close to each other,

who have almost the exact same set
of friends,

they think, you know,
"I'm going to news feeds on Facebook.

I'll see the exact same set of updates."

But it's not like that at all.

They see completely different worlds

because they're based
on these computers calculating

what's perfect for each of them.

[whistling over monitor]

[Roger] The way to think about it
is it's 2.7 billion Truman Shows.

Each person has their own reality,
with their own...


Why do you think
that, uh, Truman has never come close

to discovering the true nature
of his world until now?

We accept the reality of the world
with which we're presented.

It's as simple as that.

Over time, you have the false sense
that everyone agrees with you,

because everyone in your news feed
sounds just like you.

And that once you're in that state,
it turns out you're easily manipulated,

the same way you would be manipulated
by a magician.

A magician shows you a card trick
and says, "Pick a card, any card."

What you don't realize
was that they've done a set-up,

so you pick the card
they want you to pick.

And that's how Facebook works.
Facebook sits there and says,

"Hey, you pick your friends.
You pick the links that you follow."

But that's all nonsense.
It's just like the magician.

Facebook is in charge of your news feed.

We all simply are operating
on a different set of facts.

When that happens at scale,

you're no longer able to reckon with
or even consume information

that contradicts with that world view
that you've created.

That means we aren't actually being

constructive individuals. [chuckles]

[crowd chanting] Open up your eyes,
don't believe the lies! Open up...

[Justin] And then you look
over at the other side,

and you start to think,
"How can those people be so stupid?

Look at all of this information
that I'm constantly seeing.

How are they not seeing
that same information?"

And the answer is, "They're not seeing
that same information."

[crowd continues chanting]
Open up your eyes, don't believe the lies!

[shouting indistinctly]

-[interviewer] What are Republicans like?
-People that don't have a clue.

The Democrat Party is a crime syndicate,
not a real political party.

A huge new Pew Research Center study
of 10,000 American adults

finds us more divided than ever,

with personal and political polarization
at a 20-year high.

[pundit] You have
more than a third of Republicans saying

the Democratic Party is a threat
to the nation,

more than a quarter of Democrats saying
the same thing about the Republicans.

So many of the problems
that we're discussing,

like, around political polarization

exist in spades on cable television.

The media has this exact same problem,

where their business model, by and large,

is that they're selling our attention
to advertisers.

And the Internet is just a new,
even more efficient way to do that.

[Guillaume] At YouTube, I was working
on YouTube recommendations.

It worries me that an algorithm
that I worked on

is actually increasing polarization
in society.

But from the point of view of watch time,

this polarization is extremely efficient
at keeping people online.

The only reason
these teachers are teaching this stuff

is 'cause they're getting paid to.

-It's absolutely absurd.
-[Cass] Hey, Benji.

No soccer practice today?

Oh, there is. I'm just catching up
on some news stuff.

[vlogger] Do research. Anything
that sways from the Extreme Center--

Wouldn't exactly call the stuff
that you're watching news.

You're always talking about how messed up
everything is. So are they.

But that stuff is just propaganda.

[vlogger] Neither is true.
It's all about what makes sense.

Ben, I'm serious.
That stuff is bad for you.

-You should go to soccer practice.
-[Ben] Mm.

[Cass sighs]

I share this stuff because I care.

I care that you are being misled,
and it's not okay. All right?

[Guillaume] People think
the algorithm is designed

to give them what they really want,
only it's not.

The algorithm is actually trying to find
a few rabbit holes that are very powerful,

trying to find which rabbit hole
is the closest to your interest.

And then if you start watching
one of those videos,

then it will recommend it
over and over again.

It's not like anybody wants this
to happen.

It's just that this is
what the recommendation system is doing.

So much so that Kyrie Irving,
the famous basketball player,

uh, said he believed the Earth was flat,
and he apologized later

because he blamed it
on a YouTube rabbit hole.

You know, like,
you click the YouTube click

and it goes, like,
how deep the rabbit hole goes.

When he later came on to NPR to say,

"I'm sorry for believing this.
I didn't want to mislead people,"

a bunch of students in a classroom
were interviewed saying,

"The round-Earthers got to him."

[audience chuckles]

The flat-Earth conspiracy theory
was recommended

hundreds of millions of times
by the algorithm.

It's easy to think that it's just
a few stupid people who get convinced,

but the algorithm is getting smarter
and smarter every day.

So, today, they are convincing the people
that the Earth is flat,

but tomorrow, they will be convincing you
of something that's false.

[reporter] On November 7th,
the hashtag "Pizzagate" was born.

[Renée] Pizzagate...

[clicks tongue] Oh, boy.

Uh... [laughs]

I still am not 100 percent sure
how this originally came about,

but the idea that ordering a pizza
meant ordering a trafficked person.

As the groups got bigger on Facebook,

Facebook's recommendation engine
started suggesting to regular users

that they join Pizzagate groups.

So, if a user was, for example,
anti-vaccine or believed in chemtrails

or had indicated to Facebook's algorithms
in some way

that they were prone to belief
in conspiracy theories,

Facebook's recommendation engine
would serve them Pizzagate groups.

Eventually, this culminated in
a man showing up with a gun,

deciding that he was gonna go liberate
the children from the basement 

of the pizza place
that did not have a basement.

[officer 1] What were you doing?

[man] Making sure
there was nothing there.

-[officer 1] Regarding?
-[man] Pedophile ring.

-[officer 1] What?
-[man] Pedophile ring.

[officer 2] He's talking about Pizzagate.

This is an example of a conspiracy theory

that was propagated
across all social networks.

The social network's
own recommendation engine

is voluntarily serving this up to people

who had never searched
for the term "Pizzagate" in their life.

[Tristan] There's a study, an MIT study,

that fake news on Twitter spreads
six times faster than true news.

What is that world gonna look like

when one has a six-times advantage
to the other one?

You can imagine
these things are sort of like...

they... they tilt the floor
of... of human behavior.

They make some behavior harder
and some easier.

And you're always free
to walk up the hill,

but fewer people do,

and so, at scale, at society's scale,
you really are just tilting the floor

and changing what billions of people think
and do.

We've created a system
that biases towards false information.

Not because we want to,

but because false information makes
the companies more money

than the truth. The truth is boring.

It's a disinformation-for-profit
business model.

You make money the more you allow
unregulated messages

to reach anyone for the best price.

Because climate change? Yeah.

It's a hoax. Yeah, it's real.
That's the point.

The more they talk about it
and the more they divide us,

the more they have the power,
the more...

[Tristan] Facebook has trillions
of these news feed posts.

They can't know what's real
or what's true...

which is why this conversation
is so critical right now.

[reporter 1] It's not just COVID-19
that's spreading fast.

There's a flow of misinformation online
about the virus.

[reporter 2] The notion
drinking water

will flush coronavirus from your system

is one of several myths about the virus
circulating on social media.

[automated voice] The government planned
this event, created the virus,

and had a simulation
of how the countries would react.

Coronavirus is a... a hoax.

[man] SARS, coronavirus.

And look at when it was made. 2018.

I think the US government started
this shit.

Nobody is sick. Nobody is sick.
Nobody knows anybody who's sick.

Maybe the government is using
the coronavirus as an excuse

to get everyone to stay inside
because something else is happening.

Coronavirus is not killing people,

it's the 5G radiation
that they're pumping out.

[crowd shouting]

We're being bombarded with rumors.

People are blowing up
actual physical cell phone towers.

We see Russia and China spreading rumors
and conspiracy theories.

[reporter 3] This morning,
panic and protest in Ukraine as...

[Tristan] People have no idea what's true,
and now it's a matter of life and death.

[woman] Those sources that are spreading
coronavirus misinformation

have amassed
something like 52 million engagements.

You're saying that silver solution
would be effective.

Well, let's say it hasn't been tested
on this strain of the coronavirus, but...

[Tristan] What we're seeing with COVID
is just an extreme version

of what's happening
across our information ecosystem.

Social media amplifies exponential gossip
and exponential hearsay

to the point
that we don't know what's true,

no matter what issue we care about.

[teacher] He discovers this.

[continues lecturing indistinctly]

[Rebecca whispers] Ben.

-Are you still on the team?
-[Ben] Mm-hmm.

[Rebecca] Okay, well,
I'm gonna get a snack before practice

if you... wanna come.

[Ben] Hm?

[Rebecca] You know, never mind.

[footsteps fading]

[vlogger] Nine out of ten people
are dissatisfied right now.

The EC is like any political movement
in history, when you think about it.

We are standing up, and we are...
we are standing up to this noise.

You are my people. I trust you guys.

-The Extreme Center content is brilliant.
-He absolutely loves it.

Running an auction.

840 bidders. He sold for 4.35 cents
to a weapons manufacturer.

Let's promote some of these events.

Upcoming rallies in his geographic zone
later this week.

I've got a new vlogger lined up, too.


And... and, honestly, I'm telling you,
I'm willing to do whatever it takes.

And I mean whatever.

-[Cass] Ben?

...and also come back
because I'm telling you, yo...

-[knocking on door]
-...I got some real big things comin'.

Some real big things.

[Roger] One of the problems with Facebook
is that, as a tool of persuasion,

it may be the greatest thing ever created.

Now, imagine what that means in the hands
of a dictator or an authoritarian.

If you want to control the population
of your country,

there has never been a tool
as effective as Facebook.

Some of the most troubling implications

of governments and other bad actors
weaponizing social media,

um, is that it has led
to real, offline harm.

I think the most prominent example

that's gotten a lot of press
is what's happened in Myanmar.

In Myanmar,
when people think of the Internet,

what they are thinking about is Facebook.

And what often happens is
when people buy their cell phone,

the cell phone shop owner will actually
preload Facebook on there for them

and open an account for them.

And so when people get their phone,
the first thing they open

and the only thing they know how to open
is Facebook.

Well, a new bombshell investigation
exposes Facebook's growing struggle

to tackle hate speech in Myanmar.

[crowd shouting]

Facebook really gave the military
and other bad actors

a new way to manipulate public opinion

and to help incite violence
against the Rohingya Muslims

that included mass killings,

burning of entire villages,

mass rape, and other serious crimes
against humanity

that have now led

to 700,000 Rohingya Muslims
having to flee the country. 

It's not
that highly motivated propagandists

haven't existed before.

It's that the platforms make it possible

to spread manipulative narratives
with phenomenal ease,

and without very much money.

If I want to manipulate an election,

I can now go into
a conspiracy theory group on Facebook,

and I can find 100 people

who believe
that the Earth is completely flat

and think it's all this conspiracy theory
that we landed on the moon,

and I can tell Facebook,
"Give me 1,000 users who look like that."

Facebook will happily send me
thousands of users that look like them

that I can now hit
with more conspiracy theories.

-[button clicks]
-Sold for 3.4 cents an impression.

-New EC video to promote.
-[Advertising AI] Another ad teed up.

[Justin] Algorithms
and manipulative politicians

are becoming so expert

at learning how to trigger us,

getting so good at creating fake news
that we absorb as if it were reality,

and confusing us into believing
those lies.

It's as though we have
less and less control

over who we are and what we believe.

[ominous instrumental music playing]

[vlogger] they can pick sides.

There's lies here,
and there's lies over there.

So they can keep the power,

-so they can control everything.
-[police siren blaring]

[vlogger] They can control our minds,

-so that they can keep their secrets.
-[crowd chanting]

[Tristan] Imagine a world
where no one believes anything true.

Everyone believes
the government's lying to them.

Everything is a conspiracy theory.

"I shouldn't trust anyone.
I hate the other side."

That's where all this is heading.

The political earthquakes in Europe
continue to rumble.

This time, in Italy and Spain.

[reporter] Overall, Europe's traditional,
centrist coalition lost its majority

while far right
and far left populist parties made gains.

[man shouts]

[crowd chanting]

Back up.

-[radio beeps]
-Okay, let's go.

[police siren wailing]

[reporter] These accounts
were deliberately, specifically attempting

-to sow political discord in Hong Kong.
-[crowd shouting]


-All right, Ben.
-[car doors lock]

What does it look like to be a country

that's entire diet is Facebook
and social media?

Democracy crumbled quickly.

Six months.

[reporter 1] After that chaos in Chicago,

violent clashes between protesters
and supporters...

[reporter 2] Democracy is facing
a crisis of confidence.

What we're seeing is a global assault
on democracy.

[crowd shouting]

[Renée] Most of the countries
that are targeted are countries

that run democratic elections.

[Tristan] This is happening at scale.

By state actors,
by people with millions of dollars saying,

"I wanna destabilize Kenya.
I wanna destabilize Cameroon.

Oh, Angola? That only costs this much."

[reporter] An extraordinary election
took place Sunday in Brazil.

With a campaign that's been powered
by social media.

[crowd chanting in Portuguese]

[Tristan] We in the tech industry
have created the tools

to destabilize
and erode the fabric of society

in every country, all at once, everywhere.

You have this in Germany, Spain, France,
Brazil, Australia.

Some of the most "developed nations"
in the world

are now imploding on each other,

and what do they have in common?

Knowing what you know now,

do you believe Facebook impacted
the results of the 2016 election?

[Mark Zuckerberg]
Oh, that's... that is hard.

You know, it's... the...

the reality is, well, there
were so many different forces at play.

Representatives from Facebook, Twitter,
and Google are back on Capitol Hill

for a second day of testimony

about Russia's interference
in the 2016 election.

The manipulation
by third parties is not a hack.

Right? The Russians didn't hack Facebook.

What they did was they used the tools
that Facebook created

for legitimate advertisers
and legitimate users,

and they applied it
to a nefarious purpose.

It's like remote-control warfare.

One country can manipulate another one

without actually invading
its physical borders. 

[reporter 1] We're seeing violent images.
It appears to be a dumpster

being pushed around...

[Tristan] But it wasn't
about who you wanted to vote for.

It was about sowing total chaos
and division in society.

[reporter 2] Now,
this was in Huntington Beach. A march...

[Tristan] It's about making two sides

who couldn't hear each other anymore,

who didn't want to hear each other

who didn't trust each other anymore.

[reporter 3] This is a city
where hatred was laid bare

and transformed into racial violence.

[crowd shouting]

[indistinct shouting]

[men grunting]

[police siren blaring]

[Cass] Ben!



[officer 1] Come here! Come here!

Arms up. Arms up.
Get down on your knees. Now, down.

[crowd continues shouting]

-[officer 2] Calm--

[officer 2] Hey! Hands up!

Turn around. On the ground. On the ground!

-[crowd echoing]
-[melancholy piano music playing]

[siren continues wailing]

[Tristan] Do we want this system for sale
to the highest bidder?

For democracy to be completely for sale,
where you can reach any mind you want,

target a lie to that specific population,
and create culture wars?

Do we want that?

[Marco Rubio] We are a nation of people...

that no longer speak to each other.

We are a nation of people
who have stopped being friends with people

because of who they voted for
in the last election.

We are a nation of people
who have isolated ourselves

to only watch channels
that tell us that we're right.

My message here today is that tribalism
is ruining us.

It is tearing our country apart.

It is no way for sane adults to act.

If everyone's entitled to their own facts,

there's really no need for compromise,
no need for people to come together.

In fact, there's really no need
for people to interact.

We need to have...

some shared understanding of reality.
Otherwise, we aren't a country.

So, uh, long-term, the solution here is
to build more AI tools

that find patterns of people using
the services that no real person would do.

We are allowing the technologists
to frame this as a problem

that they're equipped to solve.

That is... That's a lie.

People talk about AI
as if it will know truth.

AI's not gonna solve these problems.

AI cannot solve the problem of fake news.

Google doesn't have the option of saying,

"Oh, is this conspiracy? Is this truth?"
Because they don't know what truth is.

They don't have a...

They don't have a proxy for truth
that's better than a click.

If we don't agree on what is true

or that there is such a thing as truth,

we're toast.

This is the problem
beneath other problems

because if we can't agree on what's true,

then we can't navigate
out of any of our problems.

-[ominous instrumental music playing]
-[console droning]

[Growth AI] We should suggest
Flat Earth Football Club.

[Engagement AI] Don't show him
sports updates. He doesn't engage.

[AIs speaking indistinctly]

[music swells]

[Jaron] A lot of people in Silicon Valley
subscribe to some kind of theory

that we're building
some global super brain,

and all of our users
are just interchangeable little neurons,

no one of which is important.

And it subjugates people
into this weird role

where you're just, like,
this little computing element

that we're programming
through our behavior manipulation

for the service of this giant brain,
and you don't matter.

You're not gonna get paid.
You're not gonna get acknowledged.

You don't have self-determination.

We'll sneakily just manipulate you
because you're a computing node,

so we need to program you 'cause that's
what you do with computing nodes.

[reflective instrumental music playing]

Oh, man. [sighs]

[Tristan] When you think about technology
and it being an existential threat,

you know, that's a big claim, and...

it's easy to then, in your mind, think,
"Okay, so, there I am with the phone...

scrolling, clicking, using it.

Like, where's the existential threat?

Okay, there's the supercomputer.

The other side of the screen,
pointed at my brain,

got me to watch one more video.
Where's the existential threat?"

[indistinct chatter]

[Tristan] It's not
about the technology

being the existential threat.

It's the technology's ability

to bring out the worst in society...

...and the worst in society
being the existential threat.

If technology creates...

mass chaos,

outrage, incivility,

lack of trust in each other,

loneliness, alienation, more polarization,

more election hacking, more populism,

more distraction and inability
to focus on the real issues...

that's just society. [scoffs]

And now society
is incapable of healing itself

and just devolving into a kind of chaos.

This affects everyone,
even if you don't use these products.

These things have become
digital Frankensteins

that are terraforming the world
in their image,

whether it's the mental health of children

or our politics
and our political discourse,

without taking responsibility
for taking over the public square.

-So, again, it comes back to--
-And who do you think's responsible?

I think we have
to have the platforms be responsible

for when they take over
election advertising,

they're responsible
for protecting elections.

When they take over mental health of kids
or Saturday morning,

they're responsible
for protecting Saturday morning.

The race to keep people's attention
isn't going away.

Our technology's gonna become
more integrated into our lives, not less.

The AIs are gonna get better at predicting
what keeps us on the screen,

not worse at predicting
what keeps us on the screen.

I... I am 62 years old,

getting older every minute,
the more this conversation goes on...

-[crowd chuckles]
-...but... but I will tell you that, um...

I'm probably gonna be dead and gone,
and I'll probably be thankful for it,

when all this shit comes to fruition.

Because... Because I think
that this scares me to death.

Do... Do you...
Do you see it the same way?

Or am I overreacting to a situation
that I don't know enough about?

What are you most worried about?

[sighs] I think,
in the... in the shortest time horizon...

civil war.

If we go down the current status quo
for, let's say, another 20 years...

we probably destroy our civilization
through willful ignorance.

We probably fail to meet the challenge
of climate change.

We probably degrade
the world's democracies

so that they fall into some sort
of bizarre autocratic dysfunction.

We probably ruin the global economy.

Uh, we probably, um, don't survive.

You know,
I... I really do view it as existential.

[helicopter blades whirring]

Is this the last generation of people

that are gonna know what it was like
before this illusion took place?

Like, how do you wake up from the matrix
when you don't know you're in the matrix?

[ominous instrumental music playing]

[Tristan] A lot of what we're saying
sounds like it's just this...

one-sided doom and gloom.

Like, "Oh, my God,
technology's just ruining the world

and it's ruining kids,"

and it's like... "No." [chuckles]

It's confusing
because it's simultaneous utopia...

and dystopia.

Like, I could hit a button on my phone,
and a car shows up in 30 seconds,

and I can go exactly where I need to go.

That is magic. That's amazing.

When we were making the like button,

our entire motivation was, "Can we spread
positivity and love in the world?"

The idea that, fast-forward to today,
and teens would be getting depressed

when they don't have enough likes,

or it could be leading
to political polarization

was nowhere on our radar.

I don't think these guys set out
to be evil.

It's just the business model
that has a problem.

You could shut down the service
and destroy whatever it is--

$20 billion of shareholder value--
and get sued and...

But you can't, in practice,
put the genie back in the bottle.

You can make some tweaks,
but at the end of the day,

you've gotta grow revenue and usage,
quarter over quarter. It's...

The bigger it gets,
the harder it is for anyone to change.

What I see is a bunch of people
who are trapped by a business model,

an economic incentive,
and shareholder pressure

that makes it almost impossible
to do something else.

I think we need to accept that it's okay

for companies to be focused
on making money.

What's not okay
is when there's no regulation, no rules,

and no competition,

and the companies are acting
as sort of de facto governments.

And then they're saying,
"Well, we can regulate ourselves."

I mean, that's just a lie.
That's just ridiculous.

Financial incentives kind of run
the world,

so any solution to this problem

has to realign the financial incentives.

There's no fiscal reason
for these companies to change.

And that is why I think
we need regulation.

The phone company
has tons of sensitive data about you,

and we have a lot of laws that make sure
they don't do the wrong things.

We have almost no laws
around digital privacy, for example.

We could tax data collection
and processing

the same way that you, for example,
pay your water bill

by monitoring the amount of water
that you use.

You tax these companies on the data assets
that they have.

It gives them a fiscal reason

to not acquire every piece of data
on the planet.

The law runs way behind on these things,

but what I know is the current situation
exists not for the protection of users,

but for the protection
of the rights and privileges

of these gigantic,
incredibly wealthy companies.

Are we always gonna defer to the richest,
most powerful people?

Or are we ever gonna say,

"You know, there are times
when there is a national interest.

There are times
when the interests of people, of users,

is actually more important

than the profits of somebody
who's already a billionaire"?

These markets undermine democracy,
and they undermine freedom,

and they should be outlawed.

This is not a radical proposal.

There are other markets that we outlaw.

We outlaw markets in human organs.

We outlaw markets in human slaves. 

Because they have
inevitable destructive consequences.

We live in a world

in which a tree is worth more,
financially, dead than alive,

in a world in which a whale
is worth more dead than alive.

For so long as our economy works
in that way

and corporations go unregulated,

they're going to continue
to destroy trees,

to kill whales,

to mine the earth, and to continue
to pull oil out of the ground,

even though we know
it is destroying the planet

and we know that it's going to leave
a worse world for future generations.

This is short-term thinking

based on this religion of profit
at all costs,

as if somehow, magically, each corporation
acting in its selfish interest

is going to produce the best result.

This has been affecting the environment
for a long time.

What's frightening,
and what hopefully is the last straw

that will make us wake up
as a civilization

to how flawed this theory has been
in the first place

is to see that now we're the tree,
we're the whale.

Our attention can be mined.

We are more profitable to a corporation

if we're spending time
staring at a screen,

staring at an ad,

than if we're spending that time
living our life in a rich way.

And so, we're seeing the results of that.

We're seeing corporations using
powerful artificial intelligence

to outsmart us and figure out
how to pull our attention

toward the things they want us to look at,

rather than the things
that are most consistent

with our goals and our values
and our lives.

[static crackles]

[crowd cheering]

[Steve Jobs] What a computer is,

is it's the most remarkable tool
that we've ever come up with.

And it's the equivalent of a bicycle
for our minds.

The idea of humane technology,
that's where Silicon Valley got its start.

And we've lost sight of it
because it became the cool thing to do,

as opposed to the right thing to do.

The Internet was, like,
a weird, wacky place.

It was experimental.

Creative things happened on the Internet,
and certainly, they do still,

but, like, it just feels like this,
like, giant mall. [chuckles]

You know, it's just like, "God,
there's gotta be...

there's gotta be more to it than that."

[man typing]

[Bailey] I guess I'm just an optimist.

'Cause I think we can change
what social media looks like and means.

[Justin] The way the technology works
is not a law of physics.

It is not set in stone.

These are choices that human beings
like myself have been making.

And human beings can change
those technologies.

[Tristan] And the question now is
whether or not we're willing to admit

that those bad outcomes are coming
directly as a product of our work.

It's that we built these things,
and we have a responsibility to change it.

[static crackling]

[Tristan] The attention extraction model

is not how we want to treat
human beings.

[distorted] Is it just me or...

[distorted] Poor sucker.

[Tristan] The fabric of a healthy society

depends on us getting off
this corrosive business model.

[console beeps]

[gentle instrumental music playing]

[console whirs, grows quiet]

[Tristan] We can demand
that these products be designed humanely.

We can demand to not be treated
as an extractable resource.

The intention could be:
"How do we make the world better?"

[Jaron] Throughout history,

every single time
something's gotten better,

it's because somebody has come along
to say,

"This is stupid. We can do better."

Like, it's the critics
that drive improvement.

It's the critics
who are the true optimists.

[sighs] Hello.

[sighs] Um...

I mean, it seems kind of crazy, right?

It's like the fundamental way
that this stuff is designed...

isn't going in a good direction.

Like, the entire thing.

So, it sounds crazy to say
we need to change all that,

but that's what we need to do.

[interviewer] Think we're gonna get there?

We have to.

[tense instrumental music playing]

[interviewer] Um,
it seems like you're very optimistic.

-Is that how I sound?
-[crew laughs]

[interviewer] Yeah, I mean...

I can't believe you keep saying that,
because I'm like, "Really?

I feel like we're headed toward dystopia.

I feel like we're on the fast track
to dystopia,

and it's gonna take a miracle
to get us out of it."

And that miracle is, of course,
collective will.

I am optimistic
that we're going to figure it out,

but I think it's gonna take a long time.

Because not everybody recognizes
that this is a problem.

I think one of the big failures
in technology today

is a real failure of leadership,

of, like, people coming out
and having these open conversations

about things that... not just
what went well, but what isn't perfect

so that someone can come in
and build something new.

At the end of the day, you know,

this machine isn't gonna turn around
until there's massive public pressure.

By having these conversations
and... and voicing your opinion,

in some cases
through these very technologies,

we can start to change the tide.
We can start to change the conversation.

It might sound strange,
but it's my world. It's my community.

I don't hate them. I don't wanna do
any harm to Google or Facebook.

I just want to reform them
so they don't destroy the world. You know?

I've uninstalled a ton of apps
from my phone

that I felt were just wasting my time.

All the social media apps,
all the news apps,

and I've turned off notifications

on anything that was vibrating my leg
with information

that wasn't timely and important to me
right now.

It's for the same reason
I don't keep cookies in my pocket.

Reduce the number of notifications
you get.

Turn off notifications.

Turning off all notifications.

I'm not using Google anymore,
I'm using Qwant,

which doesn't store your search history.

Never accept a video recommended to you
on YouTube.

Always choose.
That's another way to fight.

There are tons of Chrome extensions
that remove recommendations.

[interviewer] You're recommending
something to undo what you made.

[laughing] Yep.

Before you share, fact-check,
consider the source, do that extra Google.

If it seems like it's something designed
to really push your emotional buttons,

like, it probably is.

Essentially, you vote with your clicks.

If you click on clickbait,

you're creating a financial incentive
that perpetuates this existing system.

Make sure that you get
lots of different kinds of information

in your own life.

I follow people on Twitter
that I disagree with

because I want to be exposed
to different points of view.

Notice that many people
in the tech industry

don't give these devices
to their own children.

My kids don't use social media at all.

[interviewer] Is that a rule,
or is that a...

That's a rule.

We are zealots about it.

We're... We're crazy.

And we don't let our kids have
really any screen time.

I've worked out
what I think are three simple rules, um,

that make life a lot easier for families
and that are justified by the research.

So, the first rule is
all devices out of the bedroom

at a fixed time every night.

Whatever the time is, half an hour
before bedtime, all devices out.

The second rule is no social media
until high school.

Personally, I think the age should be 16.

Middle school's hard enough.
Keep it out until high school.

And the third rule is
work out a time budget with your kid.

And if you talk with them and say,

"Well, how many hours a day
do you wanna spend on your device?

What do you think is a good amount?"

they'll often say
something pretty reasonable.

Well, look, I know perfectly well

that I'm not gonna get everybody
to delete their social media accounts,

but I think I can get a few.

And just getting a few people
to delete their accounts matters a lot,

and the reason why is that that creates
the space for a conversation

because I want there to be enough people
out in the society

who are free of the manipulation engines
to have a societal conversation

that isn't bounded
by the manipulation engines.

So, do it! Get out of the system.

Yeah, delete. Get off the stupid stuff.

The world's beautiful.
Look. Look, it's great out there.


-[birds singing]
-[children playing and shouting]