The Living Thing / Notebooks : Clickbait bandit problems and Skinnerian human behaviour control

The science of treating consumers of modern news media like what they are, near-passive objects of surveillance and control. Because trying to rely on peoples’ rationality and agency to get things done has a poor track record in recent history. There is a lot of stuff being done in, e.g. bandit problems specifically to model consumers and web pages.

The “bandit problems” phrase comes, by the way, from an extension of the “one armed bandit”, the poker machine, into a mathematical model for exploring the world by pulling on the arms of a poker machine.

Pseudopolitical diversion: There is a pleasing symmetry in that modern poker machines, and indeed the internet in general, model the customer as a metaphorical poker machine upon whose arm they pull to get a reward, and that this reward is addicting the customer to pulling on the arms of their literal poker machine. It’s a two-way battle of algorithms, but one side does not update its learning algorithms.

You should read this next one before you blame someone (especially a millenial, especially if you are not a millenial) for having no attention span, then take a deep look into your soul. Michael Schulson, if the internet is addictive, why don’t we regulate it?

As a consultant to Silicon Valley startups, Eyal helps his clients mimic what he calls the ‘narcotic-like properties’ of sites such as Facebook and Pinterest. His goal, Eyal told Business Insider, is to get users ‘continuing through the same basic cycle. Forever and ever.’

[…] For a tech company in the attention economy, the longer you’re engaged by variable rewards, the more time you spend online, and the more money they make through ad revenue.

Yet we keep blaming people.

Stupid rats, running the mazes we set them, instead of dotcom startups.