Hippocratic Oath for Tech Designers
The suggestion there that you need an ethicist, it suggests at least to me that they're concerned about the addictiveness of the products. In fact, Tristan himself has written about that, and that's exactly what he says. He suggests that there should be, in the design world, a Hippocratic oath — just as in medicine doctors should “do no harm,” he believes the same should be true of designers of these kinds of platforms; that people who design tech, people who design social media platforms, should be forced to obey the same rules — do no harm.
I like this idea, a lot. The problem is I don't think the tech industry will adopt it. Not unless the industry moves away from making money using an ad-based model.
You see with an ad-based model, you want your users using your apps/products/services for as long as possible. And you want them coming back as often as possible. Why? So you can serve them even more ads and rack up the profits.
If a tech company is in the business of making money this way, then it will be really hard for them to design their apps in such a way that stops the users from becoming addicted. They want the users addicted to their app, because that's how they make money. So you can see how implementing or following a “Hippocratic Oath” when designing their apps, can go against the company's objective of making money.
Now to be fair, the whole tech industry is not like that. There are some companies who are making an effort to try to keep their user's well being in mind. Here are some examples:
In the game Guild Wars 1, you get a reminder to take a break if you've been playing for an hour. I don't remember if this feature is in Guild Wars 2. I don't recall seeing it in GW2.
Sticking with Guild Wars, you also don't need to pay a monthly subscription to keep playing. This means I don't end up feeling like I'm wasting money every month if I don't play the game. I can come and go as I like. Actually that's how I've been with Guild Wars 2. I've already finished the game years ago. Arenanet, the makers of Guild Wars, releases new content every year, but I don't feel pressured to login and play every night, because I don't have to pay for a subscription just to play. Sleep is more important than MMOs.
Netflix will ask the viewer if they are still watching after a few hours of non-stop streaming. I think they should just change this to tell the user to take a break instead. The irony here though is that they will also auto-play the next video, which encourages the viewer to binge-watch.
Apple has added the Screen Time feature that can help users set limits for app usage and track how much time they are spending on their phones. (I believe Android phones have a similar thing, but I do not own one so I cannot confirm.) The irony here is that smartphones themselves are addicting for various reasons. Of course they won't stop selling phones, so I don't know how they will rectify that. They might not even be able to.
Instagram has a feature that tells the user if they have caught up to all the new photos on their feed. And I believe it also has a Daily Reminder feature, but I cannot confirm right now as I don't have the app installed. I can only install it on weekends, that's my rule :(
Edit: I totally forgot to include write.as in this list. Matt and his team at write.as are doing a great job with this writing/publishing platform. They separated the act of writing a post from the distractions of a news feed. There are no ads, even on the free plan. There are no “like” buttons. Comments are coming, but in a different, hopefully less instrusive implementation. This is one very good example of a product that is looking after their customers/users.
So you see some companies are already trying to look after their users, but more work needs to be done. I believe technology is supposed to help people, not bring them harm. As someone who works in the tech industry, this is something that I will try to keep in mind whenever I end up designing new applications.