Exploring the Intersection of Mental Health, Social Media, and AI Regulation: Insights from the Michael Milken Institute Global Gathering

I’m at the Michael Milken Institute Global Gathering, I don’t know, officially called. And this is my very nice hotel room that they gave me for being a moderator here. Thank you.

In the foreground, you can see the wetsuit I wore this morning when I went surfing rather than smoothing, but I still got there by like 10:30. That’s pretty good. And I did this panel and it was actually really interesting. And I was a little dubious going into it, but it actually was very interesting. So here were the participants.

The CEO of Pinterest, Bill Ready. The chief science officer of the city of New York. Ashwin Han. I’m sorry if I’m say that wrong. Physician, the ce, interim CEO of Sesame Workshop, the Sesame Street people, the first partner of California tradition. She would be known as the First Lady, but she kills herself. The first partner. She runs a bunch of kind of family health and wellness initiatives under the umbrella of the state. And Kenneth Cole, Guy who is running something called the Mental Health Coalition. It’s a collection of like 22 different agencies and research groups that are trying to come up with like standards around the subject of the panel, which was mental health, phones, social media, kids.

And right, if you follow me for a while, you know, right, like we’ve talked and talked about this, like, right, the science is increasingly coalescing around there’s all kinds of bad stuff going on that isn’t the phone fault of social media companies. That isn’t the fault of the phone makers. But that stuff is making it worse. And the science has determined also, right, that our brains develop in this very a progressive way. And the progression is basically your sort of early development at 10 years old, 10 to 12 is where you’re learning about like social rewards in the use of your peers, the stuff of social media basically. And it’s not until you’re like 25 that you begin learning how to truly regulate your emotions and control your pulses and those sorts of things.

And so all the science is basically finding, right, that these companies are like fundamentally driving, right, at what makes our brains, you know, what drives our reward centers at an age when we really shouldn’t be making decisions for ourselves. So this whole concept of like, we should be like, that kids should be free to just be unsupervised on the internet after the age team is just . Anyway, so this was a really interesting group because like right now I’m leading a group in my school that is trying to, I’m part of a group at my school trying to create a pledge among all the parents to basically keep smartphones out of our kid’s hands. And this is not a radical idea that the main university, the sort of national academies of France is just announced that’s totally gonna be their national recommendations that kids should not have their on phone to 13 and they certainly shouldn’t be on social media until 18 at least. You know, so the science and the policy is coalescing in the rest of the world, but here in the United States, it’s totally unregulated and parents like us are just having to make it up. And so we are always saying to one another as we make the digital pledge, you know, you, you know, you cannot trust that anyone else is gonna come along and help us with this. We have to make it up ourselves. We have come to our own conclusions about the stuff.

And so what was interesting about this panel is that this was truly a mix of people. And Bill ready, the CEO of Pinterest, is specifically turning away from the business models of social media and is pushing a private only system for any user under the age of 16 is specifically coding the pattern recognition systems, the AI systems, the recommendation algorithms to go for positive feelings rather than kind of really engaging negative feelings that a lot of social media is geared for or very interesting. And he’s taken a hit on his stock price in doing so. He says now that it’s going the right direction. But you know, remains, we seen you make a business out of that. We don’t know the Sesame Street, Sesame Labs, Sesame Workshop ahead. She was talking about this notion that we gotta start with kids a lot earlier than high school, that some really fundamental basic young, early life lessons have to be built in.

And then the rest of it was kind of an argument about like, where is regulation as opposed to the somehow the self regulation of the private sector and what kind of public private partnerships should there be. But there was a general consensus even from the CEO of this social media company, that there needs to be a basic floor of regulation that one of the pieces of regulation should be the different social media platforms should be basically regulated differently depending on what they optimize for. So if they optimize for your most addictive impulses, if they optimize for your darkest feelings, if they optimize for things that are proven scientifically to lead to things like loneliness, they should have to basically pay for that in a regulatory way. They should be held to a legal standard around that stuff. If you optimize instead for positive pro social things, then maybe you get a lighter touch.

That was one idea we floated. Anyway, it was a very sophisticated conversation attended by all sorts interesting people. A member, the Lord member the house of Lords was there. People were in from all over the world talking about. And at the end of it, a guy came to me and he’s got a new project in which they’re creating AI powered kids stuff. Basically like, and he basically said, if you think social media, he literally said to me, he’s like, if you think social media is addictive and problematic for kids, just wait till you get going with AI. He said, you know, our product is scaring the Jesus out of us and we wanna be on the right side of this thing. Give any suggestions for us. And I didn’t really, I had a, but anyway, turns out, looks like we’re gonna be talking about that next.