Big Technology

‘Social Dilemma’ Star Tristan Harris Responds to Criticisms of the Film, Netflix’s Algorithm, and More

In a new interview, the former Google design ethicist weighs in on the backlash to the popular Netflix doc

Alex Kantrowitz
Published in
30 min readOct 7, 2020


Tristan Harris

OneZero is partnering with the Big Technology Podcast from Alex Kantrowitz to bring readers exclusive access to interview transcripts with notable figures in and around the tech industry.

This week, Kantrowitz sits down Tristan Harris, the star of the Social Dilemma film on Netflix. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

To subscribe to the podcast and hear the interview for yourself, you can check it out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Overcast.

You won’t find a more controversial film in Silicon Valley than The Social Dilemma. The film, now available on Netflix, features confessions from early consumer internet employees who rue the destruction their inventions have wrought.

The film’s portrayal of social media causing conflict, isolation, nationalism, and disaster has resonated with a broad audience. But tech insiders say it’s guilty of many of the practices it decries, stoking fear and outrage in exchange for mass appeal.

To address the film and its critiques, Tristan Harris, its star and the co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology, sat down for an interview on the Big Technology Podcast with no questions off limits.

Kantrowitz: Let’s start with your life. Your house burned down in the middle of the California fires. Is that right?

Harris: Yeah, That just happened a few days ago. We are reeling from that. It’s a pretty, pretty significant event.

How are you holding up and where are you staying?

Luckily we have a lot of different friends. It was our family’s house and we lost basically everything that we own, so it’s a good exercise and impermanence, non-attachment. So just taking it day by day and figuring out soon what the future is going to look like.

Living in the Bay Area, it’s so crazy to see all these natural events happening and then it really



Alex Kantrowitz

Veteran journalist covering Big Tech and society. Subscribe to my newsletter here: