Artificial Intelligence is everywhere. Screen time, too, is evolving, My belief is that AI is likely to increase the need for Screen Time and here's why.
AI is going to make consumer products, in particular addictive consumer products, a whole lot better.
The smartphone and social media revolution of the last ten years are going through a major evolution with AI. Some are net positives, and we are excited about the potential for technology to serve humans in novel ways. Others will have detrimental impact on people's ability to focus.
We see three likely scenarios:
- Social media’s attention-grabbing machines evolve into a intimacy-generating machines, which is far more powerful and potentially disruptive. Looking back, our current phone dopamine hits feel like broccoli.
- Previously siloed apps and data sources will plug in to a central command interface you can talk to in natural language, allowing you to access all your data seamlessly from a single app.
The fundamental need for a third party that helps you guard your Focus is going to be even more important.
Even though Artificial Intelligence will upgrade a number of aspects of consumer tech, there are a few things which are not likely to change:
- Focus is an essential human quality. That is, the ability to direct mental effort on the most relevant information in the environment, and act on it.
- Incentives of the biggest technology providers do not align with Focus - but with influencing or manipulating it for profit. The incumbents in consumer technology are likely to benefit most from the advances of Artificial Intelligence, and their business model is based on monetising attention*.
- With or without a screen, the battleground for our attention remains the same. If screenless AI devices become mainstream, we will be even more connected. We'll be able to have these devices 24-7 and they will completely blend into our daily lives.
* Caveat to the above, attention economy apps may evolve into subscription apps, which would change their incentives and the outcome
Screen Time in the AI Era will evolve, too.
That's why I believe the AI evolution is likely to increase the need for Screen Time - an independent guardian to help humans Focus in an increasingly connected world.
To match this need, there will need to be work done in a variety of fields
- Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), neuroscience, habit formation research and positive psychology will take on a even more central role to study the effects of screen time, in particular when interacting with an AI, and unlock new ways to Focus.
- Operating Systems will need to enable more access to screen time tools like APIs for third party developers, to foster an ecosystem with better tools built for various use cases, from knowledge workers, students, employers and colleges, or child/parents, which each have specific needs - there is no one size fit all for Screen Time.
- Software developers will use the advances of research and tools made available by Operating Systems to build Screen Time software that can really improve the outcomes for billions of people.
It's no surprise by I'm hoping Opal will contribute greatly to the last category. We're students of the latest research coming out in those fields, and we're going to look for ways to partner with more research institutions that are advancing the field. We've also been partners with Apple in building and improve Screen Time API for individual use, and became in September 2023 the first app to use the API.
I think software (like our app) can enable a virtuous reinforcement loop with the goal of sustained behaviour change to increase focus, productivity and mental wellbeing.
Here is how I think about this loop:
1. First, we make you more conscious of your screen time in everyday life,
2. then we help you build better habits in a frictionless way,
3. finally you unlock rewards that reinforce the motivation required to keep going.
In short, we're pretty exited about what is ahead, and we'll keep building Opal into an independent force to help humans focus better.