Are We Being Programmed?

This creates, what Parker calls “a social validation feedback loop” and is precisely the kind of thing a hacker would come up with.

Salesforce CEO, Marc Benioff, told CNBC that social networks, such as Facebook, should be regulated like the cigarette industry.

A company like Facebook, where politics can be manipulated by the ads displayed to users, is ripe for government regulation.

Although, this might sound like hysteria from a few eccentric people, these high profile techies are publicly trying to make the addictive powers of technology known to warn the masses.

How to Program PeopleIvan Pavlov’s reflex system research, more commonly known as classical conditioning, is taught in every introductory psychology course.

As Wikipedia states:Classical conditioning (refers to learning procedure in which a biologically potent stimulus(e.


food) is paired with a previously neutral stimulus (e.


a bell).

But, behavioral psychology has come a long way from just having dogs drool.

Now using similar techniques, behavioral psychology can influence elections, profitability of a company, and a heck of lot more.

Facebook ran an experiment back in 2010 to test whether they could influence voting behavior.

Users in the test group received a social message displaying six randomly selected friends profile pics who stated that they voted in the upcoming election.

These users were significantly more likely to vote or seek out additional information about the upcoming elections.

An estimated increase of 60,000 users voted because of this.

That’s pretty darn powerful!The MethodBJ Fogg is a behavioral psychologist at Stanford whose research has demonstrated how computers can persuade people.

He has had numerous grad students go on to make ripples in the tech world including Facebook, Instagram, and Google.

According to Fogg, what causes behavior change is: motivation, ability, and a trigger as laid out in his diagram below.

MotivationFogg’s Behavior Model has three main motivators: Sensation, Anticipation, and Belonging.

Each of these has two sides: pleasure/pain, hope/fear, acceptance/rejection.

If we think back to the Facebook Like Button, a motivator can start by social acceptance.

You post something to be involved with your friends.

After several posts, and the likes that went with it, you start associating likes to social acceptance.

From there, harvesting likes becomes pleasure, whether or not it’s still social acceptance.

AbilityIn order to perform a target behavior, a person must have the ability to do so.

If a product wants you to share it with all your friends, but the user first has to sign up, check through a form, update their profile, and five other tasks, this inhibits the user from sharing the product.

The less roadblocks, the more likely the user has the ability to share.

TriggersThis goes right back to the Pavlov bell.

If you don’t ring that bell, the dog is not going to salivate.

Fogg even uses Facebook as an example on his website:Facebook uses Triggers effectively to achieve their target behaviors.

Here’s one example: I hadn’t used my “BJ-Demo” Facebook account in a while, so Facebook automatically sent me this Trigger to achieve their target behavior: Sign into Facebook…Note how this specific behavior — signing in — is the first step of Facebook’s larger goal: reinvolve me in Facebook.

Once, you have a trigger going , you can chain it to more complex tasks.


Get users to log in (the email does this)2.

Get user to link to more friends (the “Find people” page does this)3.

Trust that new friends will respond to inactive user (a natural result of friending people)4.

Trust that inactive user will respond to friends and get more involved with Facebook (again, a natural reaction)And soon, you have a social network that is freely giving data to the system to keep running.

This might sound simple, but it’s powerful, used by the majority of online social networks, and addicts billions of people in the world to keep using these networks.

These sound like a bunch of hypotheticals…The internet is not run by a bunch of academics who want to philosophize.

Instead it’s run by a bunch of venture capitalist trying to make money, engineers who can build it, and data scientists who can study their population and know with statistical certainty when that population has been altered.

Data scientists are the key here.

Do not listen to the name.

Data scientists are really statisticians studying human interactions with software.

Data scientists can see if a website change, such as, adding a like-button, really increases user participation, and hence, influence more users stay on the site for longer.

The venture capitalist want this because longer user activity leads to more ad revenue.

Here’s the basic flow:The general flow for a data scientist’s experimentThis works better with the more users a company has, which is why Facebook with its billion of users can affect elections.

Google, however, is the first place most internet users go to to search for the site they want, find directions where to go, or formulate their questions.

Google has the closest access to the human brain than almost the human herself.

Okay, so companies can get influence people at large but not me…This works really well for affecting large amounts of the population, but most people probably figure they are immune.

That probably depends on your internet footprint.

If you never use a computer or smartphone, you’re probably right.

But if you make searches to the internet, allow any permissions on your phone for camera, microphone, and GPS, and/or have social media accounts, you probably have left enough data for companies like Google to make a rather good predictive model of your individual behavior.

Google already sells your information in bulk which can allow companies to target you directly.

Using Google Maps data, a company that purchases this data can see where you spend most of your time, which neighborhoods you’re in, where you work, and where you sometimes get out to.

This can be used to target you personally for ads.

The same can be done with internet surfing.

To get around the personal data thing, they just might not label you as person, but a number.

Are We Already Programmed?How did you see this article?.Did a buzzing notification ring up?.Did a little red dot appear on your screen that couldn’t be ignored?.Did you reload or scroll down through articles that are meant to catch your eye?.For most us, that’s probably the case.

Finally, even if you think you’re immune because of your amazing filtering capabilities with ads or your seldom use of the internet, do you know if the reason you bought that new smartphone is because you saw it on an ad, or if your friends saw it on an ad and told you about it?.

. More details

Leave a Reply