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Tuesday, 12 February 2019

How to rescue our time from the digital giants

Someone's helping themselves to something very precious: your time:
Technology has given us more time than ever ... to waste on technology | Digital Trends
How to stop social media and technology from stealing your precious time - MarketWatch
Tristan Harris: How a handful of tech companies control billions of minds every day | TED Talk
BBC Radio 4 - Don’t Tell Me The Score - Is your smartphone making you less productive? 

As considered on Radio 4 today: 

Driven to Distraction

Are we really more distracted than ever before? Historian Rhys Jones explores the history of distraction and how previous generations have fought back

We are often told we are in the middle of a distraction crisis - big tech companies have learned how to monetise procrastination and are stealing our attention from us. Yet Rhys Jones explores how, throughout history, there has been an interplay between people who try to take our attention from us and people who resist - from 18th century worries about the novel to protestors against advertising posters in 19th century Paris.

Rhys also meets those trying to find ways to live without distraction today. Susan Maushart decided to turn off all her screens and live in the dark for six months, while James Williams a former Google staffer, is campaigning for the tech industry itself to reform, creating an ethics of distraction.

Can we go back to a place where technology is about changing our lives rather than stealing our attention?

With Abigail Williams, Tim Wu, Nir Eyal, Susan Maushart and James Williams.


BBC Radio 4 - Driven to Distraction

This is from an excellent piece on how our time gets taken from us: click on the link below for the full piece:

>> 5 Creepy Ways Video Games Are Trying to Get You Addicted: 

David Wong March 2010

#5. Putting You in a Skinner Box

this article is really freaking disturbing. It's written by a games researcher at Microsoft on how to make video games that hook players, whether they like it or not. He has a doctorate in behavioral and brain sciences. Quote:

"Each contingency is an arrangement of time, activity, and reward, and there are an infinite number of ways these elements can be combined to produce the pattern of activity you want from your players."

His theories are based around the work of BF Skinner, who discovered you could control behavior by training subjects with simple stimulus and reward.

This sort of thing caused games researcher Nick Yee to once call Everquest a "Virtual Skinner Box."

Braid creator Jonathan Blow said Skinnerian game mechanics are a form of "exploitation." It's not that these games can't be fun. But they're designed to keep gamers subscribing during the periods when it's not fun, locking them into a repetitive slog using Skinner's manipulative system of carefully scheduled rewards.

#4. Creating Virtual Food Pellets For You To Eat

the highest court in South Korea ruled that virtual goods are to be legally treated the same as real goods.

If you want to make him press the lever as fast as possible, how would you do it? Not by giving him a pellet with every press--he'll soon relax, knowing the pellets are there when he needs them. No, the best way is to set up the machine so that it drops the pellets at random intervals of lever pressing.

They call these "Variable Ratio Rewards" in Skinner land and this is the reason many enemies "drop" valuable items totally at random in WoW. This is addictive in exactly the same way a slot machine is addictive. 

BF Skinner knew. He called that training process "shaping." Little rewards, step by step, like links in a chain.

#2. Keeping You Pressing It... Forever

Humans need a long-term goal to keep us going, and the world of addictive gaming has got this down to a science. Techniques include...

Easing Them In:
First, set up the "pellets" so that they come fast at first, and then slower and slower as time goes on.

Play It Or Lose It:
This is the real dick move. Why reward the hamster for pressing the lever? Why not simply set it up so that when he fails to press it, we punish him? Behaviorists call this "avoidance." They set the cage up so that it gives the animal an electric shock every 30 seconds unless it hits the lever.

Well, we humans play games because there is a basic satisfaction in mastering a skill, even if it's a pointless one in terms of our overall life goals. It helps us develop our brains (especially as children) and to test ourselves without serious consequences if we fail. This is why our brains reward us with the sensation we call "fun" when we do it. Hell, even dolphins do it:

#1. Getting You To Call the Skinner Box Home

Why do so many of us have that void? Because according to everything expert Malcolm Gladwell, to be satisfied with your job you need three things, and I bet most of you don't even have two of them:
> Autonomy (that is, you have some say in what you do day to day);
> Complexity (so it's not mind-numbing repetition);
> Connection Between Effort and Reward (i.e. you actually see the awesome results of your hard work).

It's less about instant gratification and more about a freaking sense of accomplishment. 

The terrible truth is that a whole lot of us begged for a Skinner Box we could crawl into, because the real world's system of rewards is so much more slow and cruel than we expected it to be. In that, gaming is no different from other forms of mental escape, from sports fandom to moonshine.

David Wong is the Editor of Cracked.com and the author of the comedy horror novel John Dies at the End, currently banned in 72 countries.

5 Creepy Ways Video Games Are Trying to Get You Addicted
5 Creepy Ways Video Games Are Trying to Get You Addicted | Huffington Post
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