I’ve just read an article that is so important, I’m posting about it here and on Medium. The article is entitled:
How Technology is Hijacking Your Mind — from a Magician and Google Design Ethicist
Oddly enough, it wasn’t the bit about the writer being a magician that caught my attention, it was the label of ‘Google Design Ethicist’ that made me start reading. Having just learned how Google invades our privacy, I was primed to be interested.
Almost immediately, I recognized the term ‘intermittent rewards’ as one of the ‘behaviour mod[ification]’ techniques I’d studied at university. The course was Behavioural Sciences, and back then I’d wanted to become a psychologist.
In a nutshell, behaviour mod. started out as a therapy for:
Inducing positive change in an individual’s behavior through such techniques as positive and negative reinforcement, or punishment for poor behavior. This therapy method is based off of the experiments by B.F. Skinner and his theory of operant conditioning.
My interest in psychology was sidelined by my introduction to computers, so I never ‘used’ my studies for anything, but apparently industry had. Intermittent rewards are used to make people addicted to all sorts of things, including slot machines and…social media. When you see people obsessively checking their phones, or computers, for messages, emails, or ‘Likes’ on social media platforms like Facebook, it’s because they’ve been conditioned to do so by the technique of intermittent rewards.
You can see exactly how intermittent rewards work on social media by reading the article:
We’ve been turned into Pavlov’s Dogs by ‘social engineers’ who either never question the ethics of what they’re doing, or simply don’t care. The only way to turn social media into something that benefits us is to:
a) become aware of how we’re being manipulated and
b) kick up such a stink that companies benefiting from this manipulation are forced to change, or go under.
I’m so angry, I’d be happy to see them all crash and burn.