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Ben Pring: “Start slow and taper”

I think we should introduce an age-limit to use social media. Giving incredibly powerful and seductive tech to young kids is a recipe for disaster; a disaster we can see unfolding all around us right now. We don’t let kids get behind the wheel of a car, or vote, or join the army until we […]

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I think we should introduce an age-limit to use social media. Giving incredibly powerful and seductive tech to young kids is a recipe for disaster; a disaster we can see unfolding all around us right now. We don’t let kids get behind the wheel of a car, or vote, or join the army until we think they’re mature enough to handle that — but we put some of the most powerful technologies known to humans in the hands of 13 year olds and then wonder that on-line bullying and trolling and FOMO and YOLO and body dysmorphia are all of the charts.


As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Ben Pring.

Ben Pring co-founded and leads the Center for the Future of Work at Cognizant, an American multinational technology company that provides consulting, information technology and outsourcing services. Ben sits on the advisory board of the Labor and Work Life program at Harvard Law School. In 2018 Ben was a Bilderberg Meeting participant. Ben was named as one of 30 management thinkers to watch in 2020 by Thinkers 50. He was recently named a leading influencer on the future of work by Onalytica. In 2007, Ben won Gartner’s prestigious Thought Leader Award. His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, the London Times, the Drucker Forum Report, Business Insider, Forbes, and Fortune. Based near Boston since 2000, Ben graduated with a degree in Philosophy from Manchester University, in the UK where he grew up. Ben is the co-author of Monster A Tough Love Letter On Taming The Machines That Rule Our Jobs, Lives, and Future (Wiley; March 16, 2021).


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Loving Star Trek as a young kid. Wanting to boldly go where no one has been before. Technology has always been about the frontier, and I’ve always wanted to know what’s around the river bend (to mix my cultural references).

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Being invited to talk about the future of work at the 2018 Bilderberg Meeting. I could tell you what I said, but then I’d have to kill you.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

Being curious. I love Picasso’s thought, “computers are useless, they can only give you answers”. Being able to ask the “next best question” will take you a long way.

Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

I think we should introduce an age-limit to use social media. Giving incredibly powerful and seductive tech to young kids is a recipe for disaster; a disaster we can see unfolding all around us right now. We don’t let kids get behind the wheel of a car, or vote, or join the army until we think they’re mature enough to handle that — but we put some of the most powerful technologies known to humans in the hands of 13 year olds and then wonder that on-line bullying and trolling and FOMO and YOLO and body dysmorphia are all of the charts.

How do you think this will change the world?

It’ll be a start towards “taming the monster” that tech is increasingly becoming.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

I think we’re already living in an episode of Black Mirror. I don’t think we should worry about the unintended consequence of what I’m proposing — but more worry about the unintended consequence of what’s happened since techno-utopians thought we should give tech to young kids in the first place.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

Watching my own teenagers become addicted to the tech that I gave them and realizing that I’d made a terrible mistake.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

People — young and old — to wake up and say, “hang on, we’ve taken a wrong turn. We need to get back on track”.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Look after the days and the years will look after themselves. Anon.

Tidy up as you go. A.W.R. Pring

The only people who, after the age of 30, talk about which university they went to are people who haven’t done anything memorable since university.

Smile. Star. Strong — great advice from Broadway Danny Rose.

Start slow and taper — the moto of the Dolphin South End Runners Club of San Francisco.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

Be curious, be funny, be funky, be loving, be closing. Mix those traits together and you’ll go far.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Don’t share shirts off work-out selfies. (You’ll have to figure out who I’m referring to here ☺)

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@benjaminpring (irony alert — someone promoting a book about the downsides of social media via Twitter ☺)

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

My pleasure — thanks for asking such great questions!

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