Title: The scientists who make apps addictive
Context: “You can’t make people do something they don’t want to do.” Wanna bet?
Synopsis: For all of its wondrous complexity, the human brain remains an imperfect machine. It cuts corners at times, it is infallible on occasion, and—perhaps most self-destructively of all—it is easily fooled, as long as you know which buttons to push. And the makers of some of today’s most popular online services and apps know exactly which buttons to push to keep you pushing the buttons they want you to. We are still biologically primitive in some respects. The difference between a rat tapping at a feeder bar to get a morsel of food and a human tapping at a reload button to get a dose of dopamine are really not that far from each other in evolutionary terms. As designers, we can use this information for the benefit of society at large or for our own. The ethics of hacking people’s brains remains questionable. The ethics of hacking together an app that people can’t tear themselves away from? That’s an unquestionable business success story.
Best Bit: “No matter how useful the products, the system itself is tilted in favour of its designers. The house always wins.”