- MIT psychologist Sherry Turkle says technology and food both play vital roles in our lives but can easily be misused.
- Like food manufacturers that load their products with sugar, Turkle says tech companies design their apps unethically.
- In the future, she hopes we look back on this period as a gross misunderstanding of tech’s power.
When Sherry Turkle looks at how obsessed people have become with their personal devices, she sees the traces of another public health epidemic: obesity.
“You have to eat, and people need to learn how to make good food choices,” Turkle, an MIT psychologist and author of “Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other,” told Business Insider. She said the same is true for technology.
Over the past couple decades, Turkle has become a leading voice in the ways technology has been tearing at our social fabric. Roughly 77% of Americans own a smartphone, and the typical person touches a phone roughly 2,600 times each day. Through polls, studies, and interviews, Turkle has concluded this digital lifestyle has made us worse at making in-person connections.
“The way I like to put it is technology can make us forget what we know about life,” she said. “One of the things it’s made us forget is that we need to tend to our relationships and other people and our own feelings.”
Personal tech is designed a lot like processed food
The way much of technology is designed mirrors the food industry, Turkle said. Just as major food corporations sell processed foods that are loaded with added sugar and chemicals meant to keep people eating, big tech companies have been repeatedly accused of designing their apps to maximize the time people spend on them.