John Fitzgerald

 The book: Our digital age is more conducive to addiction than any period in human history. Twentieth-century neuroscientists once believed that only drugs and alcohol could stimulate addiction, but recent research shows that addictive behaviors, like checking Facebook or catching a rare Pokémon, produce the exact same brain responses as drug abuse.

The addictions are no accident: Technologies are designed to be irresistible. Facebook’s feed is limitless; emails almost demand an instant reply; Netflix automatically launches the next episode … And it’s becoming increasingly difficult to travel, hold down a job, or communicate without the aid of highly addictive technologies.

In his book, Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked (Penguin), Adam Alter *09 addresses various consequences of modern addictive behavior. For example, the average attention span in the United States has fallen from 13 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds in 2013 — lower than that of a goldfish; and college students today are less likely to show empathy for others as compared to studies from 30 years ago.

Alter proposes solutions, like disabling work email accounts between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m., building games with natural stopping points like book chapters, and designing social media platforms without counting “likes” that drive damaging social comparison and chronic goal setting.

The author: Adam Alter *09 is an associate professor of marketing and psychology at New York University’s Stern School of Business. He is the author of Drunk Tank Pink (Penguin), which investigates how external hidden forces shape our behavior. Irresistible has been named a New York Magazine and Forbes top pick of 2017. 

Opening paragraphs: At an Apple event in January 2010, Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad …

For ninety minutes, Jobs explained why the iPad was the best way to look at photos, listen to music, take classes on iTunes U, browse Facebook, play games, and navigate thousands of apps. He believed everyone should own an iPad.

But he refused to let his kids use the device.

In late 2010, Jobs told New York Times journalist Nick Bilton that his children had never used the iPad. “We limit how much technology our kids use in the home.” Bilton discovered that other tech giants enforced similar restrictions. … It seemed as if the people producing tech products were following the cardinal rule of drug dealing: never get high on your own supply.

Reviews: Arianna Huffington, author of The Sleep Revolution says, “If you can't stop checking, clicking, surfing and liking, put your device down and read Adam Alter’s Irresistible, an important, groundbreaking book about why we’re addicted to technology, how we got here, and what we should do next.”