In an event in 2017, Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, said “…we actually compete with sleep…”
Now if you wondered, like I did, as to whether there was any doubt or remorse in his tone as he said that, Hastings clarifies with the rest of that sentence: “… and we’re winning!”.
Sleep is one of the more complicated and less understood aspects of human health. But without a shred of doubt, sleep is central to our well-being. Matthew Walker, a neuroscientist who specializes in the study of sleep, talks in this podcast episode about how sleep clears the brain of metabolic toxins that have accumulated through the day. He mentions how sleep deprivation is linked with Alzheimer’s, obesity, diabetes and several forms of cancer.
In Walker’s words, “Mother nature wouldn’t waste time putting you into a state that wasn’t necessary.” And yet, in the same episode, he laments how most doctors have only 2 hours of sleep education in their curriculum. 1 out of every 2 adults in the US are sleep deprived. Further, he estimates that sleep deprivation costs a country 2% of its GDP – an amount that Netflix probably considers its market opportunity.
To sense how ruthless a technology company is, just listen to them speak about their competition. As part of their investor notes, Netflix mentions how it competes against “people going out to dinner with friends, enjoying a glass of wine with their partner”. You can also add getting a good night’s sleep to that list. Perhaps Hastings considers all of human behaviour (at least the parts that don’t constitute bingeing endless streams of entertainment) his competition.
We live in times when the leader of an organization that is worth about $ 150 billion and hires some of the best brains on the planet is cheering them on its war against some of the most fundamental aspects of human well-being (without facing a shred of public outcry). On the bright side, they are being open and unabashed about it rather than trying to hide behind a garb of making the world a better place.
I wonder how many of the folks who binge watch a series late into the night realize that they are mercenaries in Netflix’s war against sleep.