Former Apple designer Tony Fadell, heralded by many as the "father of the iPod," says he believes the late Steve Jobs would be pleased to see his technology everywhere if he were alive, but would still look upon society's growing tech addiction as a problem.
"He'd say, 'Hey, we need to do something about it. We didn't see this coming 11 years ago. Let's make something happen'" Fadell, the founder of Nest Labs and one-time head of the Google Glass project team, said in a recent interview with Cheddar.
Over the past several years, psychologists and Silicon Valley insiders have expressed growing concern that consumer tech is designed to keep users hooked -- often against their best interests.
Former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya said the site is "ripping apart the social fabric of how society works." Sean Parker, former Napster head and Facebook president, said social media "literally changes your relationship to society." And in a recent Atlantic article, psychologist Jean Twenge asserted smartphones were "destroying" the generation of today's teenagers and early college students.
Fadell was instrumental in developing the iPod in the early 2000s. He worked closely alongside Jobs to develop the first-generation music player. When asked if Jobs would be happy with the current tech landscape, Fadell had a mixed answer.
Although Jobs developed the first computer as a way to connect millions of people around the world and democratize technology, he still wanted to uphold societal standards. For instance, neither iTunes music or video store, nor the App Store, could host pornography or anything malicious, Fadell said.
The guidelines may persist, but the broader culture around technology design has changed, Fadell suggested. As former Google design ethicist Tristan Harris has attested, user engagement has become the ultimate metric at many companies. And that has led to the current problem of tech addiction.
"I've talked to my friends there (at Apple), and they understand what's going on," Fadell said.
On Jan. 9, the day before Fadell's interview, Apple agreed to introduce new features to its operating system in response to a letter from two of the company's shareholders. The letter outlined numerous studies that found kids are highly vulnerable to tech addiction.
Apple didn't go into any detail about what the new features and enhancements might involve.