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The way smartphones are distracting us

More than two and a half billion people in the world today use smartphones and most of them can’t even think of spending time without this device. There is always an app coming out that increases the speed of such addiction. For such companies, the addiction brings huge profits.

However, as much as users are responsible for this, smartphone devices are more responsible. Following the general psychology, these devices are designed in such a way that we are forced to fall into its trap. However, anyone who understands this trick will find a way out of it.

‘Attention’ acts as a finite resource at a given time. Much like the amount of money you use each month. You cannot use this amount of attention at any one time. Nowadays, most of our attention is being spent on unnecessary apps and content.

The world we live in now is a world of constant distractions. According to some studies, on an average, more than 63 notifications come to our phone every day. This number is 90 in the email inbox. On average we change jobs every three minutes.

When we are distracted by something, the two regions of our brain are at war with each other. These two regions are the parietal cortex and the frontal cortex. The parietal cortex responds to the type of psychosis. On the other hand, the frontal cortex helps in intellectual or work that requires attention. Therefore, we lose focus when trying to dominate the parietal cortex in the middle of any work of the frontal cortex. On the other hand, if the frontal cortex controls the parietal cortex, we can focus.

Our brain decides what is important and what is not. This decision requires attention. If you want to clear the email box, there are many small decisions to make. You have to think about which email to keep, which to delete. In general, it is not a heavy intellectual task. But after seeing so many emails like this, you can’t afford to make any other important decisions.

In August 2016, the UK’s telecom regulator Ofcom reported that people checked their smartphones every twelve minutes on average. 61 percent never turn off their phones. And 40 percent of people pick up a smartphone within five minutes of waking up.

Linda Stone, a former consultant at Apple and Microsoft, coined the term ‘Continuous Partial Attention’. Anytime, anywhere we always focus part of our attention on smartphones. This constant alertness makes it difficult for us to focus on anything else. We have become accustomed to it. But the hormones adrenaline and cortisol are creating a ‘hyper-alert’ state of mind, which is always looking for stimuli. Thus a terrible addiction has been created. The question is, is it possible to get out of this addiction by using a smartphone at the same time?

Tristan Harris worked as a design atheist for Google. Now he runs a non-profit organization called Time Well Spent, whose main job is to inform how technology companies can distract us and make a profit from it. According to him, we are living inside two billion Truman shows. In The Truman Show (1997), the protagonist wakes up and sees that everything is arranged just for him, just like him. The same is true of smartphones, but we don’t understand them easily. All the apps here are arranged just like its user, a synergy between them works, so that the user can be attracted.

Tristan Harris has come up with three easy ways to get rid of this strong attraction of smartphones. The very first step is to turn off all notifications. If a real person wants to contact you, the only thing they can do is show up in the notification panel. Usually when someone wants to communicate, they do so through calls and text messages. There are many apps that create an illusion of such social interaction. For example, if Facebook sends a notification that a friend is interested in going to an event, then they are trying to play the role of a puppet master. In order to build social relationships, they increase the desire to use your app more and more.

Notifications have not always worked that way. When BlackBerry introduced the first push notification feature for email in 2003, it emerged as a way to reduce phone usage. In today’s world, notifications are available from any app. So, every time you look at the phone, you can see that a lot of notifications have come and made the panel heavier. Each of these notifications has the potential to create a different feeling.

The biggest trick here is, these notifications are pretty random. Which will make you feel better. Some will be upset again, for example: many people are jealous when they see someone living a good life through social media. If most of these notifications felt good or mostly bad, the illusion of this addiction would be cut off. Let me explain.

Slot machines are very popular in America. It even earns more than the combined profits of the baseball, movie and theme park industries. This is because it creates addictions 3-4 times faster than any other gamble. Pulling the lever of the slot machine gives the same result at once. It creates a desire in people that the next result will work for them. It is this desire that triggers addiction. Because of their ability to empty people’s pockets of slot machines, such as thieves, they are often referred to as ‘one-arm bandits’.

Many apps have added the ‘pull to refresh’ feature, mimicking the way this lever is pulled on slot machines. These apps are capable of constantly updating their feeds. By doing this ‘pool’, the feed is also updated. Here, like a slot machine, a user’s desire is created that in the next update he will see something good, desirable. And ‘pooling’ creates an illusion of control, which is quite addictive. This feature has been used in social media giants like Facebook, Twitter.

In one study, a group of people were asked to check their emails whenever they wanted. Another group got to see their emails at regular intervals, in batch form. It was found that those who divided their emails into three to five batches faced relatively less stress. Their ability to control their attention was also seen more.

Imagine, your attention is a calm lake, where uninterrupted reflection falls. Let’s think of this reflection as the ability to hold attention. Every notification is like a raindrop on this lake. As a result, the reflection of the lake is shaken, the calm feeling is disturbed. The kind of notifications we are constantly confronted with can be called a storm in the likeness of this lake. Every time our attention is diverted, we have to work hard to get that attention back. As a result, we become more and more exhausted at the end of the day.

In 2005, Dr. A study by Glenn Wilson found that those who were distracted by email and phone calls dropped their IQ scores by ten points. This effect is almost double that of marijuana use. Half of the people who took part in the study said they sat down to reply as soon as they received an email. 21 percent admitted that they do this even in important meetings. This type of psychosis has the effect of not being able to sleep at night.

Tristan Harris’ second suggestion is to make the phone screen black and white or ‘grayscale’. The human eye is more sensitive to warm colors. These colors are the easiest way to attract the user to the screen. As seen in itracking experiments, the bright red color is able to create the most attraction. Because of this, most apps use bright and warm colors when redesigning their icons. Notification bubbles are red for the same reason.

The easiest way to prevent this trick is to use black and white. This option can be found in the accessibility settings of modern phones. If all the apps look black and white, the brain will not be extra attracted to any app. This is the biggest reason behind the dominance of bright colors in slot machines.

Tristan Harris’ latest advice is to keep only the daily necessary apps on the home screen. That is, after unlocking the phone, only the apps that are necessary in your life, you can see in front of your eyes. Some of these apps are Uber, Maps, Calendar. These apps are not capable of dragging the user down to the ‘bottomless vertex of staff’.

Let’s explain ‘Bottomless Vortex of Staff’. Simply put, it refers to apps that you can constantly scroll through. There is no end to this scroll. Naturally, apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram can come to your mind. On the other hand, let’s think about the Google search page. There, you need to click to see the new content.

Such ‘infinite scroll’ automatically causes new content to appear at the bottom of the page. There is no end to the built-in of these pages. YouTube video auto play or messenger story auto play works the same way. This interface gives the user an experience of viewing unrestricted content. At the same time, it creates a feeling that the user has control in his hands. But, this automation is hard enough to turn off. Because, we are trapped in a mental trap.

A 2005 study found that people who ate soup from a bowl that was automatically full ate 73 percent more soup than others. But their satisfaction level was lower than others. So, it is better to have no constraint in sight. Because, it gives a better idea of ​​when the feeling of self-satisfaction should stop than it is. Since many mainstream apps do not offer this ‘end point’ concept, without putting them on the homescreen, the risk of distraction is reduced.

A study was done on university students. They were asked to find a specific building. A team did this with the help of smartphones. Another group did it without a smartphone. Those who used smartphones arrived naturally early. But at the same time, they felt less connected to the community. So, for speed, we should think about what we have to pay to use these devices. Social bonds are very important to keep the society together. But it is slowly disappearing from us.

We are constantly using smartphones a lot. Many people underestimate the value of this unnecessary use. Hopefully, the idea of ​​a different type of interface is being discussed, where apps will communicate more transparently with the user, giving an idea of ​​how much time an action will take as a result of an action. So, technology may not always be the same.

Which item really deserves your attention? According to Tristan Harris, this is a profound philosophical question. What would be the answer for you? This is a very difficult question. But most of us never think about it. So, from the moment we read this article, we should all think about the answer to this question.

The fall of Yahoo: The story of losing the crown of the best

There are currently more than 140 search engines in the world of the Internet. But far from using them, how many do we know? Most people know Google as a search engine, but those who have a long association with the Internet and have been using the search engine for a long time will want to keep Yahoo alongside Google. Because this search engine once ruled the world of the net.

In 2005, Yahoo was one of the most popular websites in the world. Just as we use Google Mail or Gmail today, most people used Yahoo Mail back then. Yahoo Mail also topped the list for a few days in 2011. But gradually Google seemed to snatch everything from Yahoo. Finally, in July 2016, Yahoo agreed to sell its core business to US telecommunications company Verizon for 4.46 billion. Forbes author Brian Solomon called the deal one of the saddest in the technology world.

We may all witness the fall of Yahoo, but little is known about its glorious days. Let’s find out now.

History of the beginning

Yahoo began its journey in 1994 with the help of two Stanford University electrical engineers, David Filo and Jerry Young. But in the beginning the name was not Yahoo. David and Jerry named their website “David and Jerry’s guide to the World Wide Web”. The website was renamed Yahoo in March 1994. At that time the whole internet world was scattered. So the main purpose of creating the website was to create a directory of websites like telephone directory. At the time, the website of two new graduates was one of the biggest efforts in the technology world.

Despite its lack of recognition on the World Wide Web, Yahoo quickly gained popularity in the 1990s. When Yahoo first made a public offering in 1997, it was valued at about মিল 900 million. Yahoo! Over the next two years, the company’s stock rose about 600 percent. By mid-1997, Yahoo had added a variety of services, including email, shopping, games, traveling, maps, weather, and online magazines.

Shares of Yahoo rose to বিল 40 billion that year. Yahoo started its journey at the speed of a storm. The company soon made it to the top of the technology market by providing search engines and free email services. But even then Google has not started its journey, no one could have imagined that the day of black shadow is ahead.

Yahoo’s times were like waves – sometimes up and sometimes down. In 2000, Yahoo’s total value stood at বিল 125 billion, the highest in the company’s history. Soon after, the dot com sites started gaining immense popularity by rushing and the prices also increased tremendously. This is called dot com crash or dot com bubble. The value of Yahoo is slowly declining due to the high price of these sites. In just two years, it dropped from 125 billion in 2002 to 10 billion, a shadow of past glory.

The idea of the services we receive today, such as YouTube and Facebook, was born out of Yahoo. Broadcast.com was a platform similar to YouTube, which later became known as Yahoo TV. There was also Flickr like Instagram, Yahoo Notebook like Evernote and Yahoo Music was Spotify at that time. But where did they get lost?

Mountains of wrong decisions

There may be various theories behind Yahoo’s downfall, but everyone will agree that Yahoo’s decisions were grossly flawed. Yahoo’s mistake is also responsible for Google’s position today.

In 1997, two Stanford PhD students went to Yahoo to sell their algorithms. Yahoo didn’t think it was reasonable to buy that algorithm for 1 million. Who were those two young men? Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Thanks to the pagerdank algorithm they created, today we get the desired thing as soon as we type a word in Google.

Larry and Sergei offered to sell Google to Yahoo even after Google was well established. However, the then CEO of Yahoo Terry Semel did not take it seriously. When he wanted to give his consent, the price of Google has increased to 5 billion dollars!

Around that time, a 22-year-old man who turned down Yahoo’s offer was Mark Zuckerberg. Yahoo wanted to buy Facebook for 1 billion, but Zuckerberg refused.

Not only sound education but his alertness and dedication too are most required. In 2008, Microsoft expressed interest in buying Yahoo for 44.6 billion, much higher than its current value. But then that too was rejected.

Wrong investment

In 1999, Yahoo signed two famous acquisition deals, two of the worst in the history of technology. One is Geocities, and the other is Broadcast.com.

At the time, Geocities was the third most browsed site in the Internet world. In 1999, Yahoo bought Geocity for ৭ 3.6 billion. This allowed users to create their own homepages on the Internet. Due to lack of proper management and innovation, it gradually lost its users and was discontinued in 2009.

In the same year, Yahoo bought online video streaming service Broadcast for ৭ 5.7 billion. Yahoo later launched a separate music and video service from Broadcast. The internet at that time was very slow for video streaming. Arguably, the broadcast was ahead of its time. Although Yahoo could not manage properly, the founder of the broadcast, Mark Cuban, made a name for himself.

In 2005, Yahoo bought photo-sharing site Flickr for 30 million. They tried to turn it into a social media site but failed due to poor management. The main concern was how to survive without innovation. In the same year, Yahoo bought a 40 percent stake in Alibaba. This later saved Yahoo from bankruptcy, and the current value of this percentage is about ৫০ 50 billion.

But why did so many failures surround Yahoo? Because no CEO of Yahoo was ideal. From the beginning, no one had a clear idea of ​​how the company would be run. They were not a search company, nor a tech company. Yahoo was a media company that had technology to make a profit. Employees besides the CEO are responsible for the failure. Yahoo was full of unskilled workers. As a result, they have not been able to innovate in any sector. As of 2015, Yahoo had acquired 114 companies, none of which had returned their glory.

Former Google employee Melissa Meyer was appointed CEO of Yahoo in 2012. This is the only one in the history of Yahoo that could bring the company back. But it was too late for Melissa to arrive. Melissa also failed to give proper direction to the company that lost everything, and finally Yahoo’s internet business ended in 2016 and Altaba.Inc was formed with the rest of the company.

Yahoo is a real example of a billion-dollar company that could collapse if it doesn’t keep up with the flow of technology. What Philo and Young have created is undoubtedly worthy of praise, but they have not managed Yahoo properly. Wrong decisions and mismanagement have ruined Yahoo’s existence. The wrong steps taken by Yahoo will be instructive for any technology company.

When the state harbors hackers: Nation-State hacking

In the modern technological world, all nations are competing to outdo each other. Conflicts are not limited to the confines of conventional battlefields due to geopolitical conflicts, but also the misuse of technology to intercept important information of opponents or to interfere in the internal political arena. Words like cyber attack or hacking are now heard almost all the time. But when the state emerges as the savior of hackers involved in these crimes, all the equations change, with the issue of technical security having to sit at the negotiating table anew.

Opponents can be easily identified on conventional battlefields. But the new war that has started in the modern age through cyber warfare or technology, you have to burn a lot of wood to identify your opponent, yet there is no guarantee of accuracy. And the battlefield is so large that with the click of a mouse, important information about the military secrets of a country thousands of miles away is seized or the website is disrupted. All in all, the new topic called ‘Nation State Hacking’, which is being discussed a lot, has brought to the fore such incidents as theft of information from foreign countries or hacking of websites by unscrupulous hackers using the technological advancement of the states.

ময়নসহসনস
The hacker is the figure of a man who always carries out a vicious cyber operation from behind; image source: csoonline.com

A hacker is an image of a person or a group of people hiding themselves, who keep themselves hidden from everything in the world and sit for hours in front of a computer screen, whose lives are not interrupted in any particular way. The things that are very incomprehensible to the common people about technology are pulses and rice to them. Hackers always want to stay out of the discussion, love to involve themselves in the battle of technology from behind the scenes. In the case of nation-state hacking, it is even more important to remain secretive, as diplomatic relations between the two countries are likely to end in bitterness if the adversary senses it. That’s why when the state uses hackers, the hackers get state protection.

There is a reason behind every hacking or cyber attack. Just as there must be a reason behind every action according to the causal rules of logic, there must be a reason behind every attack by hackers in the state. This could be an attempt to steal important information, to warn opponents about their own technical dominance, or to lure hackers to avenge a political event. Hacking is much more affordable than conventional warfare. In military warfare, where huge sums of money have to be spent on weapons of mass destruction, there is little cost in conducting cyber warfare (compared to conventional warfare). In addition, the issue of civilian-military casualties in conventional warfare is also very important for every state, but there is no such problem in the war of technology.

In the current case of nation-state hacking, China’s name is being pronounced quite loudly. It is thought that there are thousands of hackers under the People’s Liberation Army, the Chinese military, who are conducting numerous hacking campaigns in the national interest of China. The role of hackers in the Sino-US trade war cannot be underestimated. For years, China has struggled to seize not only important military information but also the intellectual property of American scientists and researchers. Chinese companies are developing their own innovations by harnessing the research information available to US scientists and researchers as ‘intellectual property’ through hacking. Occupying the global market, the company that is now able to bring new versions of products through constant innovation will survive. According to a US study, the United States loses about 300 billion a year due to the acquisition of intellectual property by the Chinese.

Chinese hackers and Chinese spies are playing a huge role in China’s healthcare improvement graph, which is rising every year. In fact, the technologies that are still being developed in the health sector are largely being done by Western European countries. In this case, China is working to bring European technology to its country through hacking and intelligence. Hacking is an attempt to seize intellectual property. Suppose a French scientist has designed a new model for the development of a technology used in healthcare or is on the verge of inventing a new device. In this case, the job of Chinese hackers is to somehow steal various information about the design or possible discovery from the computer of that scientist. If the stolen information or design is later handed over to the Chinese Communist Party, they will use it to improve health care. In this way, it is possible to radically change any government sector of a country through hacking.

The geopolitical situation is responsible for the activities of state hackers in Iran or North Korea. Currently, the US Trump administration is trying its best to isolate Iran through various sanctions. On the other hand, relations between North Korea and the United States are not good. Geopolitical differences with Shiite-majority Iran and other Middle Eastern countries can be openly speculated. And since the Korean War, North Korea’s relations with South Korea have been at an all-time low. Iran’s cyber-attacks are mainly carried out in Sunni countries in the Middle East. Attempts have been made to seize the military websites of these countries, unwittingly interfering with the social media accounts of military dignitaries. On the other hand, the main target of the North Korean attack is the website of the US military bases located in South Korea and South Korea. The idea is that North Korean hackers have been trained in China and Russia.

Russia, like China, does not have thousands of hackers, but those who do, should have no doubts about their skills. It is said that Russia is the most skilled hacker in the world. The Kremlin spends large sums of money on hackers, and Russia is already at the top of the world in terms of technology. Incidents such as interfering in the 2016 US presidential election show how skilled Russian hackers are. When the crisis was raging in Georgia in 2006, it was clear from the hacking campaign of Russian hackers that the Russian government was using their hackers in place.

Hackers in the United States and Israel use technologically advanced devices. It is generally believed that the United States conducts hacking in the interests of its own national security, with the aim of ensuring the security of its own government websites or important military information. North Korea, Iran, Russia or China – all target America. So America has to use hackers for its own benefit to ensure state security. However, it is not the case that America does not conduct hacking at all in foreign countries. Many of the world’s most vicious campaigns have been run by US hackers. The use of malware known as Stuxnet has caused great damage to Iran’s nuclear program, which has been done by US hackers.

Originally nation-state hacking campaigns or operations were officially classified, nothing was made public. Even then a lot goes into the media. In 2006, Israel learned that Syria was secretly pursuing a nuclear program. The Israelis launched an airstrike to destroy the nuclear plant. It is said that before the airstrikes, Israeli hackers hacked and disrupted the Syrian military’s air defense system. An Iranian hacker group hacked the official website of Saudi Arabia’s famous oil company Aramco in 2012 using a virus called Shamoon. Later, Iranian hackers deleted a lot of information from the website and hung pictures of the burning of the American flag on the website’s homepage. In 2013, the malware was found on millions of Android smartphones in Russia and Russian-speaking countries, where it is thought that Russia did so to monitor its own people.

We all know the bitter relations between India and Pakistan. Geopolitically, the two countries are eternal enemies of each other. More than once they have been involved in war. The technology battle between India and Pakistan is also going on all the time. In 2009, a Pakistani hacker group called the Pakistan Cyber ​​Army hacked the official website of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), India’s highest police agency, and shut it down. In 2012, Pakistani hackers took over about 100 government websites. In retaliation, Indian hackers also launched a massive hacking campaign called ‘Operation Hangover’.

The country, run by almost all authoritarian rulers, has powerful hacker groups. In the national interest of these countries, hackers try their best to hack foreign websites or spy through malware. One of the great advantages of states in conducting cyber warfare is that they can wage war in disguise, which is also economically viable. It is often seen that where intelligence agencies fail and come back, hackers see the face of success. In the days ahead, when technology becomes completely dependent, hacker groups will become more powerful, and states will be drawn to more and more vicious hackers.