Behavior Modification

The most interesting chapter in Zuboff’s book is the one that talks about behavior modification through surveillance.

Here is an example. Facebook conducted its first very publicized experiment on influencing voter behavior back in 2010. It’s very easy for FB to bring tens of thousands more voters to the polls. Since Facebook knows how you vote, it can easily sway elections by targeting its campaigns that encourage people to vote to certain electoral groups. It doesn’t take that many voters to sway elections. Just ensure that the candidate you like gets a slightly higher turnout and you control the election.

As one of the engineers of these behavior modification systems said, “we write the music and they [the users] dance to it.”

In the meantime, we fret about imaginary Russians messing with the voting machines while Facebook and Co are contentedly messing with our minds.

And I know that the very human thing to do is to believe that everybody but oneself can get brainwashed. People are so invested into convincing themselves that their minds can’t be manipulated that they will disregard all evidence to the contrary.

I have been manipulated and duped and see no shame in acknowledging it. Anybody can be manipulated. It’s quite easy. And it’s the whole endgame of surveillance capitalism.

Opportunity in Illinois

Bad news:

The Illinois House of Representatives has voted to legalize the possession and sale of cannabis to residents over the age of 21, making it the eleventh state to establish a recreational-cannabis market.

But wait, it gets worse:

“This will have a transformational impact on our state, creating opportunity in the communities that need it most and giving so many a second chance,” Pritzker said in his statement.

Is he fucking trolling us or what? A second chance to develop psychosis? Get addicted? Become unemployable?

What’s Your Reaction?

Here is a situation.

A 45-year-old fellow. Spoiled and pampered his whole life but a total loser. Can’t get a job and constantly complains he’s a victim, finally gives up completely and moves in with the parents. The parents go out of the way to make him comfortable, furnish a basement apartment, stock up the fridge, never criticize.

Possible reactions:

A. God, what an infantile loser. Poor parents!

B. If he’s such a loser, the parents must have done something to make him this way. I’m not sorry for them, I’m sorry for him.

C. Gosh, it must be great to have such wonderful, supportive parents!

Which is your reaction?

Mine is obviously A (I hate professional victims) but I’m asking because I discovered that different people react very differently to the story.