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Captology

Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. — James 1:14

Deleazo, (enticed) literally means, “to bait a hook.” And that's what temptation is, it’s bait. Go ahead, ask any fish you ever catch—they’ll all tell you the same thing: "The bait was good and the hook was bad.” Exelko, is “to be forcefully dragged away.” That’s the hook. No one likes to be forcefully dragged anywhere, but that’s exactly why fishermen bait the hook. If fish are not discerning enough to know someone is fishing above them, they may go for the wrong food—which is food that has a hook in it.

Whereas, few of us will ever be forcefully dragged away by kidnappers or a foreign military, we can put ourselves in potentially addictive situations that can be equally as dangerous. The addictive side of life has many faces, some of which we’re quick to recognize, and others that are more covert.

Captology is the study of computers as persuasive technologies. This includes the

design, research, ethics and analysis of interactive computing products (computers,

mobile phones, websites, wireless technologies, mobile apps and video games) which are created for only one purpose. Companies now employ specialists who make adjustments to a “screen” experience to ensure that we remain in front of that screen for indefinite periods of time.

For example, you may have noticed that, after you watch one episode of the favorite show you recorded, your television provider automatically plays the next episode, unless you tell it not to. This past week, Mark Zuckerberg had the joy of defending himself before a fairly hostile congressional committee, arguing about such things as whether a Facebook user should have to opt-out of sharing their personal information or be asked to opt-in. By the way, while Zuckerberg was answering their questions, he made around $3B.

As in the case of the casino slot-machine, which is the predecessor of these current versions of persuasive technology, money is the motivation and, as they say, “The house always wins.”

This generation’s father of behavior design is a Stanford science professor named BJ Fogg. In a recent interview, it became clear that “he is increasingly troubled by the realization that those who originally told him his ideas were dangerous may have been on to something.”

Ian Leslie, writing for The Economist, cites one of Fogg’s graduates, a guy named Nir Eyal, who wrote a book entitled, Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products. He argues that “Facebook, Pinterest and other technologies tap into our hard-wired need for connection, approval and affirmation, and dispense their rewards on a variable schedule. Every time we open Instagram or Snapchat or Tinder, we never know if someone will have liked our photo, or left a comment, or written a funny status update, or dropped us a message. So, we keep tapping the red dot, swiping left and scrolling down.”

Interacting with personal technology is highly addictive. No one argues that. At a neurological level, the chemical Dopamine is released every time you get a text, which is why young people are always reaching out to their friends—not always because they have something to say, but simply to get a response, because getting a text back provides that much-needed hit of Dopamine. By the way, that’s the same chemical that makes addicts feel good when they smoke, drink or gamble. While society puts age restrictions on smoking, drinking and gambling, cell phones are just distributed to young kids with great enthusiasm. I’m not saying that’s always the wrong call. But, if you choose to feed your children with technological toys, just be aware of something. People are up there fishing. And most of them are not your friends.

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© 2020 by Tom Mercer