The Persuasion Architecture of the Attention Economy

It’s a broad focus, but one which is necessary now.  Zucked by Roger McNamee.  Just came out.  This guy was with ol’ Zuck at the beginning.  One of those gradual disillusionment stories.  Let us eliminate from consideration the prospect that Zuckerberg was overtly malevolent in crafting and implementing his designs for his “platform”.  So, what was it?  In the review of the book by Tom Bissell to be found in the NYT today, there was a telling sentence in the comments section appended this morning:  Facebook “leaves the faceless mob in charge of your once independent thinking.”  But surely this explanation is not a comprehensive one.  How did the mind give up its control to the faceless mob?  This intertwines with the story of the rise of Rationalism in the 17th century.  Then, superstition reigned under the protective umbrella of the Catholic  Church.  To put forward the opinion that the earth moved around the sun, in the wrong company, could get you burned as a heretic.  So, everything had to be put to the test of rationality and logic to combat this madness.  This is individual rationality.  But in the 19th century individual rationality began to be replaced by technological rationality.  It was the dictates of the device–machines, automobiles, that reconfigured the relationship between the individual and his or her environment.  The dictates of the device took precedence over the dictates of individual conscience and logic.

Zuckerberg and his ilk, then, have managed to “soften up” the mind of everyman and everywoman through the relentless implementation of the Fogg Behavior Model and related techniques, with social consciousness at its heart.  Everyone wants to belong.  The costs of this belonging don’t seem to be given their proper weight by most people.    “Simply stating what options are more popular, or merely preselecting default choices, is often enough to influence decision…”  we call this Status-quo bias.  In this way social deviance is pushed into a disreputable corner.  There’s something wrong with you if you don’t identify with the masses, or so goes this grotesque reasoning.  Our democratic system authorizes this. And after all, one isn’t making anyone do anything they don’t want to do in the first place by implementing Fogg’s Persuasive Design methodology in our internet marketplace.   People need structure.  They need routine.  The flight from self demands it.  Nowadays the smartphone provides the template for our daily routines.  It orders our life in ways we couldn’t manage without it.  You have been trained, smartphone users.  Oh, there’s no real self anyway, so why put any faith in something that doesn’t exist?  The softening up.  Look at all those nice red dots popping up every 40 seconds, it feels so good, a mini-orgasmatron waiting to stimulate me every waking moment.  Wait till they find a way to electronically integrate this with the clitoris…the faceless mob has been in charge since time immemorial, and with the rise of democracy, it became the sovereign force in society.  Of course this force is wretched and stupid and can easily be manipulated by bad actors. We have found in the last years just how easily manipulable it is.

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