Digital deception: We 'love' using our devices and it's making us miserable
"Obviously, technology product and app designers seek to entice us to use their products. Few designers, however, are worried about the adverse effects of encouraging overuse."
The technology industry is taking a lot of fire for its role in spreading misinformation but there are more fundamental problems in its products: they limit our choices and are designed to keep us addicted. Instead of making us happy and bringing us together, technology is ripping societies apart.
It may seem that the Internet is an endless array of choices, but in reality, the choices are becoming less useful to us. Google started as a neutral place to find the best answer to a question, and the most unbiased source of information. It evolved into an online advertising channel that makes it extremely difficult to find content that either isn’t paid for or hosted on the largest web properties. Search Google for “best hotels in San Francisco” and you will find the listings are dominated by larger web properties, online booking engines, and individual hotel sites, for example.
Maybe Google’s algorithm is right in concluding that TripAdvisor has more inbound links than does some small blog by a local writer living in San Francisco. But maybe the gem that we seek, the best advice for us personally, resides with a small blogger. Today we may have to flip through 10 pages of results to get to the blogger, because it is a less popular site than some, even if it is as valuable as any other.
Facebook, for its part, curates our news feeds to maximize engagement without actually asking us whether we enjoy the endless array of pictures of our friends’ children. (We must, because we click, right?) Over time, both strategies, with their inbuilt positive feedback, cause the most popular content to grow even more popular and easier to find and the less popular content to become more deeply buried in the weeds. Occasionally, the less popular content is passed around and goes viral; however, it is a chicken-and-egg problem. Because Facebook buries this lesser content, it dramatically reduces the chances that it will be exposed and that causes it to become harder to find. (All the news publishers have learned the hard way what happens when Facebook changes their algorithms).
In general, even as the amount of online content has exploded, the ability of the tech companies to expose that content has lagged.
The second problem increasingly evident in Silicon Valley's products is that they foster a psychological addiction without consideration for the human cost or alternative design structures that might be less profitable but healthier for people over the long-haul. I am not making this up. One of the best selling books on the topic, “Hooked” by Nir Eyal, explicitly talks about designing applications to stimulate our brains to create dopamine that makes us happy.
Obviously, technology product and app designers seek to entice us to use their products. Few designers, however, are worried about the adverse effects of encouraging overuse. With massive computation conducting all manner of real-time tests of whether a red-banner ad drives 1% more traffic, and with some of the smartest minds in the world working to convince us to spend more time on their apps, it’s no wonder that we struggle to disengage from technology every minute of every day.
It is not a fair fight. The product developers have us massively outmatched. We can turn off our apps but we become subconsciously addicted to them as part of the onboarding experience. When someone joins Instagram, the apps tells their news friends to give them some “love”. They send nice notes, which come in at random intervals, encouraging the new user to keep checking the app in anticipation of “likes” or notes. This is precisely how Las Vegas casinos design slot machines to hook users, as documented in detail in the book “Addiction by Design”.
The question then becomes how we can reverse these trends. How can we create better choices and live our technology lives such that we can see these alternatives and weigh them, rather than have to click through 10 pages of search results to find them? In addition, how can we both instruct the tech companies to back off and allow us to establish our own cadence for using their tech? For our part, we need to learn to better control the addiction in the face of these distractions.
There are a number of ideas addressing both of these themes. To give us back our choice, Google might allow us to select an “ad free” version of search results and charge us a monthly fee for doing so. Perhaps no one else would take it up, but I certainly would. The time savings alone would be worth the cost. By switching users from being the product to being the buyer, Google would be incentivized to give us the best content rather than compromised by desire for commerce. And Facebook could offer multiple modes for our newsfeed. We could have an “All Articles from Friends” mode that would allow us to see all the news articles our friends are posting rather than just the ones Facebook thinks we will click on. Why can’t Netflix ask us to opt-in to autoplay of the next video rather than be forced to dive deep in the menu to turn it off and charge us 50 cents more per month per subscriber?
Or Apple might allow us, on the home screen, to select a “Focus Mode” that would turn off all notifications and disable all social apps and that would take the additional step of hiding all applications on our home screens: a huge improvement over our needing to do it piecemeal. Netflix, Facebook, and YouTube all allow us to turn off autoplay of videos, but maybe they could all make such exits possible via a prominent button in the upper right rather than via a dive deep into the menu structure.
These are just some suggestions for making product design friendlier to users. And, by extension, for improving our ability to find what we need and to consume what we want to — making our use of the Internet and its associated technology an experience based on freedom rather than on baited traps.
It is about taking technology back to its original goals: to give us greater freedom and knowledge and making our lives better.
What would happen if you tripled the US population? Join Matthew Yglesias and Charles Duhigg at 1pm ET on Monday, September 28.
Whether or not women think beards are sexy has to do with "moral disgust"
- A new study found that women perceive men with facial hair to be more attractive as well as physically and socially dominant.
- Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength, social assertiveness, and formidability.
- Women who display higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, are more likely to prefer hairy faces.
Beards and perceptions of masculinity<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg0MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkxMjM3N30.cH-GqNwP5GVqvstgJWAhBPn1B_lYpVEAI0I7iax7EQw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C1900%2C0%2C849&height=700" id="caae6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cb0a355a4e8e1899789bc45f3f7aef56" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Credit: Wikimedia<p>The study used 919 American (mostly white) women ages 18-70 who rated 30 pictures of men they were shown with various stages of facial hair growth. The photographs depicted men with faces that had been digitally altered to look more feminine or more masculine, with a beard and without a beard. The women rated the men according to perceived attractiveness for long-term and short-term relationships. The study found that the more facial hair the men had, the higher the men were rated on their attractiveness, particularly for their suitability for a long-term relationship.</p><p>Part of this might be attributed to facial masculinity — i.e. protruding brow ridge, wide cheekbones, thick jawline, and deeply set narrow eyes — which conveys information to a woman about a man's underlying health and formidability. Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength and social assertiveness. It can also indicate a man with a superior immune response. The researchers suggested that their findings favoring bearded men could be due to the fact that facial hair enhances the masculine facial features on a man's face, like creating the illusion of a thicker jaw line. This could communicate direct benefits to women like resources and protection that would enhance survival among mothers and their infants. In other words, while a beard doesn't mean superior genetics in and of itself, it might be a primitive, ornamental way of saying, "Hey girl, I'm a testosterone-fueled lean, mean, pathogen fighting machine." <br></p><p>It could also be that a beard becomes its own destiny. The researchers in this study cite prior research that found that by growing a beard, men felt more masculine and had higher levels of serum testosterone, which was linked to a higher level of social dominance. They also tended to subscribe to more old-school beliefs about gender roles in their relationships with women as compared to men with clean-shaven faces.<span></span><br></p>
What does disgust have to do with beard preference?<p>Obviously, not all women dig beards. The researchers were particularly interested in what traits make a women prefer bearded men over clean-shaven faces. They looked into several factors including a woman's disgust levels on various concepts, her desire to become pregnant, and her exposure to facial hair in her personal life. </p><p>According to the study, women who were not into facial hair were turned-off by potential parasites or other critters they imagined could be in the hair or skin. Women ranking high on this "ectoparasite disgust" scale might have viewed beards as a sign of poor grooming habits. However, women who ranked higher in levels of "pathogen" did find the bearded men to be desirable, possibly because they perceived beards as a signal of good health and immune function. An intriguing discovery in the study was links to morality. Women who displayed higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, were more likely to prefer hairy faces. The authors opined that this could reflect a link between beardedness, politically conservative outlooks, and traditional views regarding performances of masculinity in heterosexual relationships.</p>
Additional findings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg1My9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDI1NjUyOX0.P9B8WbmJR0q4nfzYZKbuNSA-2SAigVWJgrQE-_Gxlds/img.gif?width=980" id="49143" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2ed3b1d6f20fc170bf2974646e565e8d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Giphy<p>The correlations that existed between married and single women's rating on the attractiveness of beards were not particularly clear, although the researchers noted that single and married women who wanted children tended to find beards more attractive than the women who didn't want children. They also found that women with bearded husbands found beards to be more attractive, which might indicate that social exposure to beards influences how desirable they are perceived of as being. Or it could be that men with wives who like beards grow beards.</p><p>It's important to note that culture plays a huge role in how attractive women perceive certain male characteristics as being. This study looked at a small, culturally specific group of American women, so no big, universal claims should be made about masculinity, facial hair, and male desirability to women. However, research like this is important in highlighting how human grooming decisions are driven by much more than fashion trends. Sociobiological, economic, and ecological factors all play a part in the way we choose to present ourselves.</p>
Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live.
Having been exposed to mavericks in the French culinary world at a young age, three-star Michelin chef Dominique Crenn made it her mission to cook in a way that is not only delicious and elegant, but also expressive, memorable, and true to her experience.
New experiments find weird quantum activity in supercold gas.
Quantum Mechanics, Onions, and a Theory of Everything<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="036ae7b8dd661df2d125a3421a0299ba"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/bcVruA0AJ-o?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Researchers say that moral self-licensing occurs "because good deeds make people feel secure in their moral self-regard."
Books about race and anti-racism have dominated bestseller lists in the past few months, bringing to prominence authors including Ibram Kendi, Ijeoma Oluo, Reni Eddo-Lodge, and Robin DiAngelo.