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human downgrading

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

Human downgrading is the combined negative effects of digital technology on people and society. The term implies that pervasive elements of technology including smartphones, social media and ubiquitous, near-constant connectivity are degrading the quality of humans and human life.

Tristan Harris and others at the Center for Humane Technology (CHT) coined the term human downgrading, which they expand upon to provide “a systems-level explanation for how we ended up in the middle of a technology-driven existential crisis due to increasing the extraction of human attention.”

Digital technologies such as mobile computing and social media have benefited users in many ways. They’ve transformed the way that people can connect with friends and family, collaborate with coworkers, access information and forge new alliances with others around the world. However, what CHT and others in the humane tech movement are referring to as the extractive attention economy is also causing serious harm in a number of areas.

CHT lists the following areas of particular concern: digital addiction, increasing polarization, social comparison, cyberbullying, disinformation, political manipulation and superficiality. The humane tech movement is a growing grassroots initiative focused on realigning technology with humanity to redress these and other harms.

This was last updated in June 2019

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