Former Facebook Executive Says: “You are being programmed.”

Former Facebook Executive Says: “You are being programmed.”

Facebook executive

The former Facebook vice president of user growth Chamath Palihapitiya said the following to the audience at Stanford Graduate School of Business last November:

I think that we have created some tools which are ripping apart the social fabric of how the society is working. The short-term dopamine driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how the society works.

His comments have first emerged on VERGE. He expressed regret for his part in building tools. He also warned his audience by saying:

If you need the beast, that beast will destroy you. So it’s time for you to take a short break for some of these tools. 

This former Facebook executive, who left Facebook in 2011, says:

The short-term dopamine, which is driven feedback loops that we have created, is destroying how the society of today works. There is no civil discourse, no cooperation, as well as misinformation and mistruth. And this is not an American problem. This is also not about Russian ads. This is in fact, a global problem and it is eroding the core foundations of how people behave by, as well as between each other. 

He added:

I don’t have a good solution. My solution is that I do not need to use these tools anymore. I haven’t used them for years. Nowadays, bad actors can manipulate large swaths of people to do anything that they want. It is a really bad state of affairs, and we also compound the problem. We curate our lives around this perceived sense of perfection as we are getting a reward (likes, hearts, thumb-ups) in these short-term signals. We also conflate that with value, as well as with truth.

Palihapitiya also warned his audience: “you do not realize it but you are being programmed” (as is everyone).

He is not the only Facebook executive that has expressed such belated insight into the consequences of the work that they did at Facebook years ago. His commitments are a part of an ongoing debate which is about the seemingly unlimited power, as well as the reach of social media.

At an event of Axios, the founding president of Facebook, Sean Parker has also sounded the alarm on how the social network purposely hooks up and potentially cause some mental damage.

Parker explained that he was “something of conscientious objector” to the general social media. The executive director Palihapitaya revealed that he is not using that “thing” anymore and even his children are not allowed to use it as well.

What Parker said at the Axios has actually been very damning:

The thought process of building these applications, Facebook being among the first… was all about: How do we consume as much of our time, as well as conscious attention as possible? This means that we have to give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while because you liked or maybe commented on a photo, a post or whatever. And that is going to get us to contribute more content which will bring us more likes and comments. It is a social validation loop. It is exactly the kind of thing which every hacker would come up with, as you are exploding vulnerability in human psychology.

Palihapitiya said it was unintentional, but yet Parker admitted that every one of them knew what they were doing — hooking costumer engagement through regular dopamine spurts.

Both of these executives echo the feeling which is expressed some time ago by Google, Twitter, as well as Facebook software engineers that helped in making technology so addictive.


Watch his interview HERE.



BBC News

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic



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