Wednesday

17th Jan 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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • 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.

Bulgaria's corruption problem mars EU presidency start

A dispute between the government and the president over an anti-corruption law has put the spotlight on one of the Bulgaria's main problems - just as it is trying to showcase its economic and social progress.

Romania searching for EU respectability

Ten years after its accession and a year before holding the EU presidency, the fastest-growing EU economy wants to "engage" more with its partners. But concerns over the rule of law continue to give the country a bad image.

Bulgaria's corruption problem mars EU presidency start

A dispute between the government and the president over an anti-corruption law has put the spotlight on one of the Bulgaria's main problems - just as it is trying to showcase its economic and social progress.

Magazine

Schulz: 'hero to zero' in 2017 - but back in 2018?

For Martin Schulz, 2017 was the year he was supposed to go from European Parliament president to German chancellor. He failed badly yet now he looks set to return to centre-stage in 2018, possibly as Germany's foreign minister.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement and Same-Sex Couples in Romania – Case Update!
  2. EU2017EEEstonia Completes First EU Presidency, Introduced New Topics to the Agenda
  3. Bio-Based IndustriesLeading the Transition Towards a Post-Petroleum Society
  4. ACCAWelcomes the Start of the New Bulgarian Presidency
  5. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li and President Tusk Stress Importance of Ties at ASEM Summit
  6. EU2017EEVAT on Electronic Commerce: New Rules Adopted
  7. European Jewish CongressChair of EU Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism Condemns Wave of Attacks
  8. Counter BalanceA New Study Challenges the Infrastructure Mega Corridors Agenda
  9. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  10. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% Plastics Recycling Rate Attainable by 2025 New Study Shows
  11. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  12. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology

Latest News

  1. Post-Brexit trade roll-over not automatic, EU paper says
  2. Oettinger pushes plastic tax but colleagues express doubts
  3. MEPs target exports of cyber surveillance tech
  4. Kosovo killing halts EU talks in Brussels
  5. ECB withheld information on 'flawed' bank supervision
  6. Fewer MEPs than visitors turn up for Estonian PM
  7. EU names China and Russia as top hackers
  8. Ten Commandments to overcome the EU's many crises

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  2. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  4. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  5. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  6. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  7. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  8. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties
  9. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  10. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  11. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage
  12. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla