You may have heard this before, but Frankenstein is the scientist, not the monster (if you’re deep, then you’d probably say that Frankenstein as a human is the real monster, or something like that). As the story famously goes, Dr. Frankenstein came to greatly regret his creation, which we call Frankenstein’s monster.

This trope sometimes translates into real life with scientists and inventors who find their innovations corrupted. Sometimes they knew what their research was for and only later came to regret the results, and other times they had no real idea how things would turn out. Regardless, it’s something we’re familiar with. Probably the most famous example would be that of American scientists who aided the construction of the atomic bomb–Robert Oppenheimer being the most notable. Still, you can find examples anywhere: Alfred Nobel, of Nobel prize fame, regretted his invention of dynamite. So did Arthur Galston, who helped develop Agent Orange for botanical purposes. Most interestingly, Orville Wright–yes, one of the original Wright brothers–expressed sorrow the airplane would come to be used for such destructive purposes in World War II (though he didn’t regret it, technically).

Today’s latest Dr. Frankensteins are executives and engineers of social media companies. There are a lot of current or former architects of our digital world who express some regret or concern for what they helped build. It’s a fascinating phenomenon, and since this blog is all about documenting, here’s a list to make it easier for you to keep track. Yes, this will be updated!

*Note: If only one hyperlink is provided, it’s because it also contains the other cited pieces of information as well. A section will only have multiple hyperlinks if there are multiple sources used.

#1. Justin Rosenstein

Known for: helping to create Gchat and Facebook’s ‘like’ button.

Reason for placement on the list:

  • Describes likes as “dings of pseudo pleasure” that can be as hollow as they are seductive.
  • Tweaked laptop to block Reddit, has banned himself from Snapchat, and limits his own use of Facebook.
  • Compared Snapchat to heroin.

#2. Leah Pearlman

Known for: Working with Rosenstein on the team that invented ‘like’ button.

Reason for placement on the list: 

#3. Tristan Harris

Known for: Working for Google as a product manager, then design ethicist before becoming disillusioned and leaving. Now he is the founder of an advocacy group that works to make software design more ethical.

Reason for placement on the list:

#4. Loren Britcher

Known for: Inventing the pull-to-refresh feature.

Reason for placement on list:

  • Says the feature is similar to pulling a slot machine in Vegas.
  • “I’ve spent many hours and weeks and months and years thinking about whether anything I’ve done has made a net positive impact on society or humanity at all.”
  • “Pull-to-refresh is addictive. Twitter is addictive. These are not good things. When I was working on them, it was not something I was mature enough to think about. I’m not saying I’m mature now, but I’m a little bit more mature, and I regret the downsides.”
  • restricts his own internet use and limits use of his Telegram app.

#5. Roger McNamee

Known for: Being a venture capitalist who made a lot of money off of early investments in Facebook and Google; introducing Mark Zukerberg to Sheryl Sandberg, current COO of Facebook.

Reason for placement on list:

Note: he made a lot of money off of tech investing, so he probably doesn’t regret his involvement too much.

#6. James Williams

Known for: Being a highly decorated Google strategist, and co-founding the design advocacy group mentioned earlier (#3).

Reason for placement on list:

  • “[The tech industry is] the largest, most standardised and most centralised form of attentional control in human history.”
  • “I realised: this is literally a million people that we’ve sort of nudged or persuaded to do this thing that they weren’t going to otherwise do.”
  • “The dynamics of the attention economy are structurally set up to undermine the human will.”

#7. Sean Parker

Known for: co-founding Napster, being the founding president of Facebook.

Reason for placement on list:

  • (In reference to the founding team’s thoughts in 2004): “How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible? And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. And that’s going to get you to contribute more content, and that’s going to get you . . . more likes and comments.”
  • God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains

#8: Chamath Palihapitiya

Known for: Being former vice president of user growth at Facebook.

Reason for placement on list:

  • “Tremendous guilt” for “tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.”
  • “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth.”
  • “This is a global problem. It is eroding the core foundations of how people behave by and between each other.”
  • “I can’t control them [Facebook]. I can control my decision, which is that I don’t use that shit. I can control my kids’ decisions, which is that they’re not allowed to use that shit.”
  • “Your behaviors, you don’t realize it, but you are being programmed.”

#9: Evan Spiegel

Known for: co-founding Snapchat and reigning as its current CEO, plus being the world’s youngest billionaire in 2015.

Reason for placement on list:

Note: You better not believe he regrets anything, though. The linked article is all about how great Snapchat is, unlike those fake news-fueling sites (i.e., Facebook and Twitter).


For now, this is our list. Count on it being updated.

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