Kids Are More Than Data Points
Excerpted from The Atlantic:
Fifteen years ago, Ken Auletta wrote a fascinating book called The Highwaymen, which offered a remarkable insider's view of the various media moguls who were competing for control of the global media and entertainment industries. The book revealed a great deal about their basic psyches and world views. It essentially showed them to have split personalities and to be industry leaders who bifurcated their personal and professional lives.
During his research for the book, Auletta asked a very simple but pointed question to these powerful media and entertainment-industry leaders, “What won't you do?” What Auletta discovered about such media moguls of that era as Disney's Michael Eisner, News Corp's Rupert Murdoch, and GE/NBC's Jack Welch was that they somehow disassociated what they did at work from what they permitted in their own homes. They would not let their kids watch certain shows or movies at night. Yet by day, their networks and studios would go and make the very same shows and movies that they would not let their own kids watch. These media executives simply didn't take responsibility for the consequences that their programs and content might have on other people's children. Their focus on profit trumped all other concerns.
Today, I see a very similar split personality emerging among the engineers and tech industry pioneers who now dominate the online and social media worlds. They too are driven by the pursuit of advertising profits as well as the stock price of their IPO, though perhaps somewhat less so than the Michael Eisner's and Rupert Murdoch's of the 1990s entertainment industry. Yes, they too like their enormous profits and their rising stock prices, but they truly love their data. They justify their business actions and behaviors through the engineer's rationale that “data is virtue.” In Mark Zuckerberg's case, they justify this massive fixation with personal data by claiming that it's all about “transparency” and “sharing.”
But what are the consequences of this unbridled pursuit of data and all the “transparency” and “frictionless sharing” that it supposedly engenders? Most importantly, what are the consequences of this for an immature 10-year-old or a vulnerable 12-year-old or an emotionally troubled teen? The Mark Zuckerbergs of the world don't appear to have considered the consequences in any meaningful way.