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Ashton Kutcher has a simple solution for rage on social media


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

Richard Peterson / CNET

Let’s face it, social media can be a huge mess. You do not have to look hard to find a focal point for insults and inflammatory comments, which are constantly increasing. Actor and technical investor Ashton Kutcher has a deceptively simple way of curbing at least some of that toxicity, and it has to do with the “like” button.

Or, more precisely, a “dislike” button.

While social networking makes it easy to “like” or “heart” a post, it is not a parallel feature on platforms like Twitter or Instagram. Kutcher argues that a dislike button would represent a far less unstable expression of disagreement. He thinks this would deter a lot of hatred on social media.

“If we just gave people a very simple, friction – free way of saying, ‘I disagree with this,’ you would probably reduce a massive amount of the kind of negative swaller that exists inside social media,” he said in an interview Wednesday. .


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


His thoughts on a “dislike” button are just one of many he shared in an interview after the appearance of a 5G event hosted by AT&T last week in New York. Kutcher is perhaps best known for his roles in That 70s Show, Punk’d or, most recently, Netflix’s The Ranch, but he has been a technical investor for the past 15 years with smart games at companies such as Uber, AirBNB and the trading app Robinhood, which is ready to go public later this year. He is also an upcoming astronaut who sold his ticket a Virgin Galactic escape after his wife, actress Mila Kunis, encouraged him to skip the trip.

Given the event, he of course discussed his interest in 5G, as well as gaming and his approach to ethical investing. But it was a question on social media that paused Kutcher for a moment, eliciting his most thoughtful response.

If only we could talk for a moment

The lack of a “reluctance” or “heart” means that people will leave comments or respond. And while some of it is magical and extraordinarily offensive, much of the comment probably comes from an innocent place, even if the tone or wording feels more aggressive than it is, Kutcher said.

“Different people talk 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 have just been about me not understanding the way she gave me criticism and that she did not understand the way I gave her criticism, but with love.

“Use it now on strangers in general.”

The fundamental misunderstanding and the ability to appreciate the background and context of comments and responses – something you can do better if you talked to them face to face – is the cause of many disputes that get out of hand.

“So what has happened is that you have this massive escalation, and the mob mentality around that escalation,” Kutcher said. “And then people get beaten.”

In the old days

Kutcher was among the first to recognize the power of social media, and jumped early on platforms such as Twitter. Then the mood was experimental, and you were not punished for saying or asking wrong.

“It was this community where you could try ideas,” he said. “You did not have to be right.”

But even asking the wrong questions can invite a pile-on. Back in 2011, a Kutcher tweet about the firing of longtime Penn State football coach Joe Paterno caused a massive setback, prompting him to reduce the use of the platform.

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

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

“I think the incentive systems need to change if we want social media to change,” he said.

Why 5G is exciting

The pandemic put the spotlight on the need for better video conferencing, and 5G is ready to deliver the enhanced experience. The low latency or response in real time and the ultra-high resolution video capacity will be crucial because more meetings take place through teleconferencing.

Kutcher remembered a time about six years ago when he checked out a video conferencing system of a military nature. When asked why it was necessary, the answer was: “When you make a decision whether to go to war or not, you will see if the general is sweating,” he said.

With more important decisions happening over video calls now, he gets why 5G is so critical. This applies to the business and the medical field, where doctors can really see their patients remotely.

The improvements with low latency and 5G bandwidth will also be the key to self-driving cars. Kutcher said he invested in a startup called helm.ai that specializes in artificial intelligence for autonomous technologies.

On 5G games

The first benefit of 5G is the ability to detach from a desktop console, Kutcher said. He has invested in Backbone, a startup that creates a zero-latency wireless game controller that fits with your smartphone.

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

But Kutcher notes that he is not a player.

“What pleases me more about it is the notion that the game does not just have to be on screen,” he said, referring to experiences similar to augmented reality-based Pokemon Go. “The game can be out here.”

5G’s ultra-responsiveness should also work wonders for virtual reality, eliminating any video delay that could make the experience uncomfortable, he said.


Ashton Kutcher says he is excited about 5G’s ability to provide more bandwidth and a more responsive connection, which will help everything from games to telemedicine.

Richard Peterson / CNET

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Investment ethical

Kutcher said that looking at the societal impact of a potential investment is at the heart of his decision-making.

“If we have an indication that there is a secondary or tertiary effect that we can proactively, predictably predict that is negative, we just will not invest,” he said. “I do not care about making so much money.”

But he noted that many of his companies are in the extremely early stages of growth. These companies eventually tend to fluctuate, making the person in charge one of the most important elements of his investments.

“Often, the company you originally invested in is not the company that becomes very large and massive, right?” he said. “Because early-stage companies, especially if they are smart founders, are constantly developing what the company is.”

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