Billionaire ex-Facebook president Sean Parker unloads on Mark Zuckerberg and admits he helped build a monster


sean parker facebook president
Sean Parker, the former
president of Facebook.

Theo
Wargo/Getty Images for Global Citizen



  • Facebook’s first president, Sean Parker, has been
    sharply critical of the social network, accusing it of
    exploiting human “vulnerability.”
  • “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s
    brains,” he said.
  • His comments are part of a wave of tech figures
    expressing disillusionment and concern about the products they
    helped build.

Sean Parker, the first president of Facebook, has a disturbing
warning about the social network: “God only knows what it’s doing
to our children’s brains.”

Speaking to the news website Axios, the entrepreneur and
executive
talked openly about
what he perceives as the dangers of
social media and how it exploits human “vulnerability.”

“The thought process that went into building these applications,
Facebook being the first of them … was all about: ‘How do we
consume as much of your time and conscious attention as
possible?'” said Parker, who joined Facebook in 2004, when it was
less than a year old.

“And that means that we need to sort of give you a little
dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or
commented on a photo or a post or whatever,” he told Axios. “And
that’s going to get you to contribute more content, and that’s
going to get you … more likes and comments.”

Parker added: “It’s a social-validation feedback loop … exactly
the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with,
because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”

“The inventors, creators — it’s me, it’s Mark [Zuckerberg], it’s
Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it’s all of these people — understood
this consciously,” he said. “And we did it anyway.”

Facebook did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s
request for comment.

Some in tech are growing disillusioned — and worried

Parker isn’t the only tech figure to express disillusionment and
worry by what they helped create. Tristan Harris, a former Google
employee, has been outspoken in his criticism of how tech
companies’ products hijack users’ minds.

“If you’re an app, how do you keep people hooked? Turn yourself
into a slot machine,” he wrote in
a widely shared Medium post in 2016
.

“We need our smartphones, notifications screens and web browsers
to be exoskeletons for our minds and interpersonal relationships
that put our values, not our impulses, first,” he continued.
“People’s time is valuable. And we should protect it with the
same rigor as privacy and other digital rights.”


iPhone X
The iPhone: a slot machine
in your pocket?

Hollis
Johnson


In a recent feature, The Guardian
spoke to tech workers and industry figures
who have been
critical of Silicon Valley business practices.

Loren Brichter, the designer who created the slot-machine-like
pull-down-to-refresh mechanism now widely used on smartphones,
said, “I’ve spent many hours and weeks and months and years
thinking about whether anything I’ve done has made a net positive
impact on society or humanity at all.”

Brichter added: “Pull-to-refresh is addictive. Twitter is
addictive. These are not good things. When I was working on them,
it was not something I was mature enough to think about. I’m not
saying I’m mature now, but I’m a little bit more mature, and I
regret the downsides.”

And Roger McNamee, an investor in Facebook and Google, told The
Guardian: “The people who run Facebook and Google are good
people, whose well-intentioned strategies have led to horrific
unintended consequences … The problem is that there is nothing
the companies can do to address the harm unless they abandon
their current advertising models.”

The comments from Parker and others are further evidence of
souring public sentiment about Silicon Valley. Once lauded in
utopian terms, companies like Facebook have now come under heavy
criticism over their role in the spread of “fake news” and
Russian propaganda.


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