Ashton Kutcher has plenty of thoughts on social media, 5G, and more.

Richard Peterson / CNET

Let’s face it, social media can be a mess. You don’t have to search much to find a hotbed of insults and inflammatory comments, which just keep escalating. Actor and tech investor Ashton Kutcher has a deceptively simple way to reduce at least some of this toxicity, and it has to do with the “Like” button.

Or, more precisely, an “I don’t like” button.

While social networks allow you to “like” or “heart” a post, there is no parallel function on Twitter or Instagram. Kutcher argues that a dislike button would represent a much less volatile expression of disagreement. This, he believes, would avoid a lot of hate on social media.

“If we just gave people a very simple, frictionless way to say, ‘I don’t agree with this’, you’d probably be reducing a huge amount of the kind of negative sweat that exists inside social media.” , he said in an interview on Wednesday. .

His thoughts on a “I don’t like” button are just one of many he shared in an interview following his appearance at a 5G event hosted by AT&T last week in New York. Kutcher may be best known for his roles on Netflix’s That ’70s Show, Punk’d, or more recently The Ranch, but he’s been a tech investor for 15 years with smart bets on companies like Uber, Airbnb. and a trading application. Robinhood, which is expected to be released later this year. He is also a future astronaut, who sold his ticket one Galactic Virgo flight after his wife, actress Mila Kunis, urged him to skip the trip.

In view of the event, he of course discussed his interest in 5G, as well as games and his approach to ethical investing. But it was a social media question that gave Kutcher a pause for a while, eliciting his most thoughtful response.

If we could just talk for a moment

The absence of a “dislikes” or “heart” means that people will leave comments or respond. And while some of them are troll and extraordinarily offensive, much of the commentary is likely coming from an innocent place, even if the tone or wording sounds more aggressive than it is, Kutcher said.

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Kutcher (right) was on an AT&T panel to discuss 5G applications.

AT&T

“Different people speak in different ways,” he said. “My wife’s criticism of me is very different from my criticism of my wife, not only in content, but in the way we criticize each other. And we’ve had arguments in life that were just about the fact that I didn’t understand the way she criticized me and that she didn’t understand the way I criticized her, but with love.

“Now apply this to foreigners in general. “

This fundamental misunderstanding and the ability to appreciate the background and context of comments and responses – something you could do better if you spoke to them face to face – is the root of many disputes that get out of hand.

“So what’s happened is you’ve got this massive escalation and the crowd mentality around that escalation,” Kutcher said. “And then people get beaten up.”

In the early days

Kutcher was among the first to recognize the power of social media, jumping early on platforms like Twitter. Back then, the vibe was experimental and you weren’t penalized for saying or asking the wrong thing.

“It was this community where you could try out ideas,” he said. “You didn’t have to be right.

But now even asking the wrong question can invite a stack. In 2011, a tweet from Kutcher about the sacking of longtime Penn State coach Joe Paterno sparked a massive backlash, prompting him to reduce its use of the platform.

“Now he’s cut your head off, you cancel, you’re done,” he said in the interview. “It’s more of a comment on society than on social media. Society has become intolerant.”

Kutcher also believes people are motivated to comment negatively because it’s the best way to get attention.

“I think incentive systems have to change if we are to change social media,” he said.

Why 5G is exciting

The pandemic has highlighted the need for better video conferencing, and 5G is poised to deliver that enhanced experience. Its low latency, or near real-time responsiveness, and ultra-high resolution video capability will be critical as more meetings take place via teleconference.

Kutcher recalled about six years ago when he checked out a military grade video conferencing system. When he asked why it was necessary, the answer was, “When you decide whether or not to go to war, you want to see if the general is sweating,” he said.

With bigger decisions now happening in video calls, he understands why 5G is essential. This applies to business and the medical field, where doctors can truly see their patients from a distance.

5G’s low latency and bandwidth improvements will also be key for self-driving cars. Kutcher said he has invested in a startup called Helm.ai, which specializes in artificial intelligence for autonomous technologies.

On 5G games

The initial benefit of 5G is the ability to detach yourself from a stationary console, Kutcher said. He invested in Backbone, a startup making a zero-latency wireless gaming controller that pairs with your smartphone.

Just outside our interview room, AT&T had hosted a demo of Google’s Stadia running on a Pixel phone that’s connected only to its 5G network. The intention was to show how the experience is similar to being at home on a wired computer.

Kutcher notes that he is not a player.

“What excites me the most is the idea that the game shouldn’t just be on screen,” he said, alluding to experiences similar to augmented reality-based Pokemon Go. . “The game can be here.”

The ultra-responsiveness of 5G should also do wonders for virtual reality, eliminating any video lag that could make the experience uncomfortable, he said.


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Invest ethically

Kutcher said examining the societal impact of a potential investment is central to his decision making.

“If we have any indication that there is a side or tertiary effect that we can proactively and preemptively anticipate that is negative in nature, we simply will not invest,” he said. “I don’t care about making money that much.”

But he noted that many of his businesses are in the very early stages of growth. These companies end up having a tendency to pivot, making the manager one of the most important parts of his investments.

“A lot of times the company you initially invested in isn’t the one that gets really big and massive, is it? ” he said. “Because start-ups, especially smart founders, are constantly evolving what the business is. ”

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