Clueless, evil technology masterminds


I’m going to let you in on a dirty little secret: no applied psychologist, behavioral scientist, or neuroscientist knows how to change all behavior all the time.


We’re not magical wizards, bestowed with mind-reading abilities and surefire spells.

Some of us understand a lot about the brain, and methodically use that information to build better productrs, marketing campaigns, and self-help programs… but none of us have a 100% hit rate.

If we did, we’d be billionaires–laughing while drinking $10,000 bottles of wine (and smoking $200 cigars) in a castle somewhere in the Cayman Islands.

This is why all the talk about “technology addiction” is so silly.

Yes, some people use their smartphones too much.

Yes, people in Silicon Valley have created awesome products that a lot of people like to use for hours a day.

But let me tell you… their understanding of why people do what they do, and their ability to change behavior are much less sophisticated than you think.

The other day I was listening to an interview with one of these “technology addiction” whistleblowers. He was talking about how each tech company has 100s of people sitting around, plotting how to better hook their users… the implication being that these companies are evil.

That’s effective framing, but it’s just plain stupid.

The same thing can be said of any company. NBC has 1000s of people constantly working to create the best content possible–so that you tune into them instead of Fox. Starbucks has 1000s of people constantly working to make their stores (and their food) as good as possible–so that you choose them over Peets. Home Depot has 1000s of people constantly working to make their stores even better–so that you choose them instead of the local hardware shop. Even your local dogwalker spends plenty of time thinking about how to get more repeat customers.

Are they trying to “hook” you?


Are they evil?


They’re just trying to create the best experience for you as possible. The same thing is true of Google, Facebook, you name it.

The fact of the matter is that we’re social creatures. We like people watching. We like gossiping. Give us a digital platform in which we can people watch, and we’ll do it. A lot.

That’s the reason that all these social platforms are so “addictive”. They tap into a fundamental human interest.

All the other stuff they do (like adding streaks, an algorithmic feed, etc.) are just marginal improvements. They may increase engagement by 5%, but they’re not the nuclear addiction-bombs these neurotic talking heads make them out to be.

“But Jason, then why would these tech whistleblowers go public with this information?”

That’s an interesting question; one I’ll answer in the next email.

Hint: There’s a lot of money (and fame) to be made in the magnificent world of moralizing and fear-mongering.

Until tomorrow,


PS: I’ve created a Facebook group for people who want to get more regular (and unhinged) updates from me.

There’s an approval process. Existing customers of my Premium Newsletter and my other products will get priority.

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