Sunday

24th Jun 2018

Interview

Polish president's advisor calls for online 'abstinence'

  • Some EU commissioners are also fond of their digital devices. Andrzej Zybertowicz thinks we should learn 'cyber abstinence' (Photo: European Commission)

It was almost as if the universe wanted to prove Andrzej Zybertowicz's point.

The social advisor to the president of Poland had uttered only five words in a conversation with EUobserver, before his phone began ringing.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

  • At the Cybersec conference in Krakow, Zybertowicz called for "cyber-free social institutions" (Photo: Kosciuszko Institute)

"Oh excuse me," he said, before quickly turning his phone off.

Zybertowicz met with this website on Tuesday (10 October) at the Cybersec conference in Krakow, after he spoke in a panel calling for "cyber-free social institutions". He surprised some of the audience members by saying that "probably we should establish a ban on every sort of addictive technology".

In the interview, Zybertowicz said children, like his 13-year-old son, were becoming "addicted to digital gadgets".

"When I talk to other parents, they have serious problems with their children. It seems as if a thief would invade our families and take our children away," said Zybertowicz.

"We should first learn and then teach cyber abstinence," he said. "It's pretty difficult because every single week new addictive technologies are developed."

"We should be more aware of side-effects of new technologies," the Pole added.

The professor has been a researcher in the field of sociology for several decades, but also has close ties with Poland's ruling party, the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS).

He had been an official state security advisor to both prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski (for five months in 2007) and for president Lech Kaczynski (2008-2010).

Zybertowicz, who tried but narrowly failed in 2014 to be elected to the European Parliament, recently co-wrote a book called 'Suicide of Enlightenment? How Neuroscience and New Technologies Devastate the Human World.'

In the interview, he referred to the tactics of technology companies to stimulate the use of their applications and devices, and mentioned the US company Dopamine Lab, which advertises with the slogan "Dopamine makes your app addictive".

"They were using research from neuroscience, from behavioural economy, in such a way to make people unable to behave as free agents," he said.

A ban is 'not easy'

When asked to elaborate on his comments about banning certain technologies, Zybertowicz said it would "not [be] easy" for the Polish government, or any, to do so independently.

"We need cooperation," he said, referring to one of the Cybersec panels that discussed a "digital Geneva convention" - although that one was more about cybersecurity than effects on society.

"Free societies have to regulate the internet," he said.

"When cars were invented, initially there was no regulation of that traffic. When it increased substantially, we had to write rules. … If we want arrange regulation of the internet, they might be diversified locally. But some patterns should be universal."

What exactly should be done, is "open to the debate", he said.

The European Union is in the process of moving towards a digital single market, but the political focus is not on what Zybertowicz called "the dark side of the technological progress".

Having Duda's ear

However, Zybertowicz is an advisor to Andrzej Duda, the president of the EU's sixth most populous country – number five after Brexit.

He said he hasn't discussed his views on "addictive technologies" with Duda, and spoke in his personal capacity.

But he admitted that as advisor he has Duda's ear, and that he wouldn't "exclude that one day [the] president might use his legislative initiative" if he felt the government was not doing enough.

Zybertowicz also noted that his views coincide with the "conservative attitudes" of Law and Justice.

"We are conservative, ... we think ... technological progress should be slowed down. Society should balance individualism and community."

"Europe needs to put more focus on common values, not only the freedom of individuals to self-realise. I think that my attitude to technology, follows from this basic conservative ideology."

Focus

EU leaders impatient with digital rules, leak says

'Despite considerable progress, work in this area needs to be accelerated in order to meet this deadline' of finishing the digital single market by the end of 2018, leaked draft conclusions of next week's summit said.

EU court backs right to restrict online gambling

Europe's highest court has ruled that governments are within their rights to restrict online gambling. The sector's private operators have reacted by calling on the European Commission to propose new legislation.

Focus

Trust is 'gold' in digital age

Trust is perhaps the most important resource and the key to building successes, but new Nordic research indicates that challenges may lie ahead in the digital age.

Analysis

Greece facing post-bailout challenges

Creditors are expected to agree Thursday on a final loan and debt relief measures for Greece. After eight years on an international lifeline, the country will remain under close surveillance - but will have to find a new economic model.

Basque threat of 'second front' for independence

Last weekend some 175,000 people in the Basque country demanded a 'right to decide'. For some, it means more autonomy from Spain, others independence. "We want to open a second front within the Spanish state," says one Basque politician.

News in Brief

  1. Venice Commission: Hungary should repeal NGO law
  2. Trump threatens to slap 20 percent tariff on EU cars
  3. EU closes deficit procedure against France
  4. Romania's ruling party leader gets jail sentence
  5. EU states defer individual decisions on asylum reforms
  6. Commission opens case on Qatar gas flow
  7. EU adopts posted workers directive
  8. EU leaders to call for 'coordinated plan' on AI

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMHRMI Launches Lawsuits Against Individuals and Countries Involved in Changing Macedonia's Name
  3. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  4. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  6. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  10. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  11. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network

Latest News

  1. Migration row at centre of EU summit This Week
  2. Merkel's woes cast shadow on EU's future
  3. Europe's tech race - trying to keep pace with US and China
  4. Merkel and Juncker's mini-summit risks fiasco
  5. Greece and creditors proclaim 'end of crisis'
  6. How a US firm pushed for EU €2.1trn pension fund
  7. Commission defends Africa migrant plan ahead of summit
  8. Bavaria hijacks EU migration talks

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  2. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  4. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  5. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  7. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  9. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  10. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  11. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  12. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us