Center for Humane Technology

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Center for Humane Technology
FounderTristan Harris, Aza Raskin, Randima (Randy) Fernando and others
Formerly called
Time Well Spent

The Center for Humane Technology (formerly known as Time Well Spent) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to radically reimagining the digital infrastructure. Its mission is to drive a comprehensive shift toward humane technology that supports the collective well-being, democracy and shared information environment. CHT has diagnosed the systemic harms of the attention economy, which it says include internet addiction, mental health issues, political extremism, political polarization, and misinformation.[1][2] Founded in 2013, the organization gained greater renown after its involvement in the Netflix original documentary The Social Dilemma, which examined how social media companies profit off of political polarization and the spread of conspiracy theories, while also causing psychological and emotional harm to users.


Former Google employee Tristan Harris founded the project to raise awareness about the intentional design to make consumer technology addictive.[citation needed] James Williams co-founded the movement, and also dedicates his time to focusing on the ethics of technology design.[3][4] Harris, Williams, Aza Raskin, and Randima (Randy) Fernando[5] founded the organization to spread awareness and talk about the aspects of technology that are often ignored, such as attention and distraction and their effects on the user.[3] After beginning to spread his ideas about the ethics of technological design through the community at Google, Harris adopted the title "product philosopher," where he researched how the company could incorporate ethical design.[6] Harris left his position at Google in December 2015 to focus on the organization.[6]


The organization encourages designers and companies to respect users' time and to create products which have as an end goal something other than maximizing use of products to sell advertising.[1][6] There are multiple ways that technology companies try to maximize the use of their products: by using an intermittent variable reward system, causing people to fear missing something important, increasing the desire for social approval, strengthening the need to reciprocate others' gestures, and interrupting individuals' daily activities to alert them of a notification.[7] Harris claims that technology parallels slot machines, in that both use intermittent variable rewards to increase addiction.[7] According to Harris, companies have a responsibility to reduce this effect, through techniques such as increasing the predictability of their designs and eliminating the intermittent variable reward system all together.


In a 2018 post, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg described feeling a "responsibility to make sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people's well-being", announcing "a major change to how we build Facebook" so that time spent on the site is "time well spent."[8] It has been suggested that this is an allusion to the organization.[9]

One of the efforts of the Center for Humane Technology will be a media campaign about the dangers of technology, with Common Sense Media. Common Sense has commitments of $50 million of donated media and airtime from partners including Comcast and DirecTV.[10]

In 2020, CHT co-founders Tristan Harris, Aza Raskin, and Randy Fernando were featured in the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma, which examines how social media's design is meant to nurture an addiction, manipulate politics, and spread conspiracy theories. The film also examines social media's negative effects on mental health, including the mental health of adolescents and rising teen suicide rates. In the film, Tristan Harris states, "Never before in history have 50 designers made decisions that would have an impact on two billion people."[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b O'Brien, Miles (30 January 2017). "Your phone is trying to control your life". PBS NewsHour. PBS. Retrieved 1 February 2017.
  2. ^ Menn, Joseph (24 April 2019). "Technology ethics campaigners offer plan to fight 'human downgrading'". Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  3. ^ a b "#62 Time Well Spent with James Williams - Digital Mindfulness". Digital Mindfulness. 2016-12-30. Retrieved 2017-04-10.
  4. ^ "James Williams — Oxford Internet Institute". Retrieved 2018-01-19.
  5. ^ "Who We Are". Retrieved 2020-09-14.
  6. ^ a b c Bosker, Bianca (November 2016). "The Binge Breaker". The Atlantic. Retrieved 1 February 2017.
  7. ^ a b Harris, Tristan (2016-05-27). "How Technology Hijacks People's Minds". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2017-04-10.
  8. ^ Zuckerberg, Mark. "One of our big focus areas for 2018 is making sure the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent". Facebook.
  9. ^ "'Time well spent' is shaping up to be tech's next big debate". The Verge. Retrieved 2018-01-19.
  10. ^ "Early Facebook and Google Employees Form Coalition to Fight What They Built". The New York Times. 2018-02-04. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-05-03.
  11. ^ Girish, Devika (2020-09-09). "'The Social Dilemma' Review: Unplug and Run". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-10-13.

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