We believe technology should help us live well. It can and should be designed to help us be intentional, to do the things that truly matter.
Yesterday, iOS 15 was introduced to the world. It's an exciting update, and includes meaningful steps towards more comprehensive tools for digital wellbeing, like modes and better notifications.
And yet, Apple could do a lot more to help us be more intentional.
Computers were supposed to be a bicycle for the mind
Somewhere along the way, ads got in the way. And with ads came the imperative to maximize engagement. Which led to a trillion-dollar industry built on extracting human attention.
For social media companies with an ad-based business model, addiction is good for business. Even when it comes at the expense of our shared well-being, democracy, and capacity for solving the world's hardest problems.
Apple is as a uniquely positioned company. The core of Apple's DNA is about empowering world-changing creativity. Its business is not built around ads. Our lifetime-value is higher for Apple if we get to live meaningful and creative lives and solve the worlds hardest problems.
As the provider of iOS and the AppStore, Apple makes the rules for that ecosystem. We believe Apple can and should give users more awareness and control over how they're being manipulated.
With "Ask app not to track" Apple recently changed the game of privacy, at the dismay at the global advertisement industry.
To lead the industry towards technology that is truly respectful of human attention. To align the incentives for developers with the users best interest. To change the course of technology once more.
Apps that are using persuasive design could be required to list all the techniques they use, as part of the App Store review process.
Apple could then show an onboarding screen that provides the user with relevant information around this app, and the option to turn some of these techniques off.
If apps use certain persuasive design techniques, Apple could require developers to offer less distracting settings in order to pass the app review.
- There could even be an option to hide the most distracting parts of an app, like Facebooks video tab, Instagram Explore, and non-friend stories in Snapchat
Time Well Spent?
Time-on-site is one of the main metrics that ad-based businesses are optimizing for. In contrast, 'Time well spent' is a different kind of metric meant to better account for what really matters to you. After engaging with a certain app, do you feel like it made your life better? Was it time well spent?
- Regret Tax Apple could introduce a tax for App Store listings below a certain Time Well Spent percentage. This would a) directly incentivize developers to optimize for time well spent and b) could be used to accelerate Humane Tech projects and reward apps with a very high time well spent metric.
Do I really want to download an app that people spend more than an hour on a day without even enjoying it?
Apple could analyze usage patterns and detect mindless browsing, such as idly switching between apps, opening & closing apps rapidly, scrolling back and forth, ...
For example if you're struggling to use Tinder responsibly, you could create a condition that you can only use the app while FaceTiming with a friend.
You could for example make sure that when you're using Twitter, you're in a good mental and physical state.
While this is more speculative than the previous suggestions, it goes to show just how many possibilities there are to help us do the things that we truly want to do.
changes like these could improve millions of lives — helping people focus, be well, sleep well, live more meaningful lives. It's time to show addiction-based businesses their proper place in the world. You can do it, maybe better than any other entity in the world. Will you?
One More Thing
At Potential, we believe technology can and should help us live well. We believe our digital environment can inspire and enable us to do the things we truly want to do. That's why we're working on an app that unlocks better choices on your phone.
It helps you be intentional and align your behavior with your aspirations — and some of our early users are really excited. They find it easier to be mindful with their phones and do more of the things they actually want to be doing.
You can join the waiting list below, and we'll do our best to onboard you as soon as possible.