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01.02.20

All Technology Designed (Deliberately) to be Addictive or Give a False Perception of Social Life/Proximity/Importance is Toxic

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF at 5:23 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Escaping reality for vacuous ‘glory’. This ‘cancer’ may take a while for its true toll to become fully apparent.

A cigar collection

Summary: The concept of collecting so-called ‘friends’ (surrogates for real friends) is addictive to social climbers, but it can be morbidly addictive and as ruinous as smoking (or totally pointless, like collecting cigars); there are cautionary tales in other so-called ‘industries’ which sought to financially prey on addictability

Richard Stallman (rms/RMS) has decided to amass a bunch of good examples of addictive technology — a list to which he openly asked people to contribute to (his front page states: “send me examples of how proprietary programs have been designed to be addictive” and also “send me examples of how proprietary programs have been designed to cause programmed obsolescence of products”). As we've just mentioned social control media, here are examples listed by this article of Dillard-Wright at this moment (the list of examples may grow a lot longer over time). It was published almost exactly 2 years ago and said: “In my experience, some people have the ability to override the addictive impulse, and others less so. All of us, to some extent, can say to ourselves, “Okay, if I scroll all the way to the bottom of this feed, it will just load a new batch of entries.” The continuous nature of feeds on Facebook and Reddit leave no natural stopping points where it would make sense to just quit surfing. Apps that swipe left and right mean that there are loops in all directions: up, down, and sideways. So we can logically know that the feed keeps going forever, but can we take the next step and disconnect from the platform? There are multiple sites dedicated to video game addiction, with some games, World of Warcraft being the most famous example, leading users to quit their jobs, neglect children, and get divorced–all just to keep playing the game. As games get even more immersive, with augmented reality and virtual reality features, combined with monetized incentives and built-in conditioning, the addictive aspects seem likely to increase in the years ahead. So far, Facebook and Twitter use are less likely to be stigmatized than compulsive video game playing, but they are arguably just as addictive.”

“It is encouraging to see that Stallman caught up with such risks and spoke about them several times last year.”We know that addictive traits were very much actively pursued by executives at companies like Facebook (it’s not a side effect or an accident; they did studies on emotional and psychological manipulation, even experimented on unwitting users). The gambling and gaming industries had done the same in the past.

Here’s the BBC’s article from 1.5 years ago, “Social media apps are ‘deliberately’ addictive to users” (when they say “apps” they mostly allude to mobile phones people carry around with them all the time and typically lodge nearby while sleeping).

It is encouraging to see that Stallman caught up with such risks and spoke about them several times last year. This is one of several reasons the FSF needs him back on board (and the Board). He has long had foresight; he saw threats well before people fully recognised these (whereupon it was likely too late to do something about them).

Old MacDonald had a farm.
  (How much do I owe?)
And on his farm he had a loan.
  (How much do I owe?)
With a mortgage here, a mortgage there;
  Here a debt, there a debt, everywhere insolvent,

RMS (Stallman)

“Nor does Stallman have a car, a TV, or a mortgage. By his own admission, the 46-year-old bachelor lives frugally in a rented room”Wired, 1999

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