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Are 'Nudging Technologies' Ethical?

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the directing-your-thoughts dept.

Science 227

An anonymous reader writes "Researchers are debating the ethics of so-called 'nudging technologies' — ambient technology systems designed to shape or influence human behavior, such as an installation which encourages people to take the stairs rather than the lift by using hanging colored balls to represent stairs vs lift usage. A researcher on the project said: 'Most people, when we asked them, "Do you think this has changed your behavior," they said no. But the data showed that it had actually done that.'"

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advertisements (5, Insightful)

cheeks5965 (1682996) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479078)

Isn't this the goal of advertizing? To change people's behavior without them realizing it's being changed? Now we'll have all sorts of subliminal installations guiding us to the desired purchases.

Re:advertisements (1)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479196)

No I guess what works are things like Congestion Charge.
You have to pay 15 - 20$ to drive into the City.
It somehow 'discourages' you and if not, it will just be 95$ or whatever works.

Re:advertisements (0)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479574)

Isn't this the goal of advertizing?

Of course it is. And if "nudging technologies" are ethically questionable, then marketing is absolutely evil.

The marketing of today, including the so-called "neural marketing" has nothing to do with the simple advertising of half a century ago. When American industrialists were selling a middle-class lifestyle of new refrigerators, TVs, Fords and toothpaste to the wives of returning veterans of WWII, it was to help a nation that had developed enormous industrial and manufacturing capacity during the war transform itself into a consumer economy. Today, the techniques are far more sophisticated, to the point where it is pretty much impossible to resist.

I like to challenge people who say, "I don't let advertising influence me". Given a few minutes, and their honest answers to my questions, I can always come up with ways that not only has their buying patterns been influenced by advertising, but even their opinions about what is "good" and "bad" and what is "good design" vs "bad design". Do you think the iPhone has a more attractive design than another smartphone? Do you think a Lexus or Porsche has better design than Chevy? It's because of advertising. Why is "shiny" and "hard" considered superior to "matte" and "cushy" in handheld communications technology? Why is aluminum and glass better than plastic? Why do you think one "feels better" than another? Marketing, that's why.

Even ardent avoiders of advertising like me who don't own a television cannot help but be influenced by the ubiquitous marketing that we have today.

Re:advertisements (1)

endymion.nz (1093595) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479710)

"Do you think a Lexus or Porsche has better design than Chevy?"

Lexus are built by Toyota. Of course they are designed better than Chevy's.

Re:advertisements (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36479846)

Would the plural not be lexi?

Re:advertisements (1)

obarel (670863) | more than 3 years ago | (#36480204)

No, it's the fourth declension.

Re:advertisements (1)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 3 years ago | (#36480060)

Doesn't that depend? Do you want the vehicle to accelerate when you press the pedal? Or do you want the vehicle to not accelerate when you don't press the pedal?

(I jest.)

I don't have a tv blah blah (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36479794)

Here we go again with the anti-tv slant. Gotta throw that gem into every conversation, don't you? I don't own a boat but you don't find me gloating over this fact...

Re:advertisements (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36480074)

Seriously, what?

I actually don't allow advertising crap to influence me.
Your whole argument is flawed by assuming that most people are idiots who will buy the next shiniest thing they see.
In fact, it reads like one of those "televisions are bad mmkay" posts.

Aluminum and glass are better than plastic because it is cooler. And by that, I don't mean the misuse of the term, I mean literally cooler. Cool hands make for good typing. Plus, crap plastic wears away quickly, which is what most things are made from.
But shiny is terrible. Matte screens are the only good screens.

I buy things that I actually want to use.
Advertisements just make my life easier to find things I am interested in.
And this is one of the reasons I actually LIKE advertising systems that cater to YOUR interests, because I am not a privacy freak who thinks the advertising industry are out to rape my family and lock me in the fiery pits of hell.
I actually research stuff before I buy things. I weigh out the specifications between as many similar things as possible to what I need.

Re:advertisements (3, Insightful)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#36480112)

I actually don't allow advertising crap to influence me... Advertisements just make my life easier to find things I am interested in.

*Smirk*

Re:advertisements (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#36480078)

Do you think a Lexus or Porsche has better design than Chevy? It's because of advertising. Why is "shiny" and "hard" considered superior to "matte" and "cushy" in handheld communications technology? Why is aluminum and glass better than plastic? Why do you think one "feels better" than another? Marketing, that's why.

Even ardent avoiders of advertising like me who don't own a television cannot help but be influenced by the ubiquitous marketing that we have today.

LOLWUT? There's a BIG difference between a Porsche Carerra R and a Chevy...anything.

For handheld design I prefer matte finishes, what does that say?

It's not all marketing, some of it is personal taste and objectively better design (not in looks - I find most Porsches ugly actually - but in mechanical design).

Re:advertisements (1)

bhagwad (1426855) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479806)

"...she stumbled upon a solution whereby nearly 99% of all test subjects accepted the program as long as they were given a choice, even if they were only aware of that choice at a near-unconscious level"

Sounds familar?

Is this actually a question? (3, Informative)

RoverDaddy (869116) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479112)

It's not even really a question in the study being described. From TFA:

"There's lots of discussion about nudging technologies - whether it's ethical, whether it's not - but people still get to choose,"

There, that's as much as TFA talks about ethics.
How about asking whether -advertising- is ethical? At least these 'nudging technologies' are intended to -help- the person affected.

Re:Is this actually a question? (4, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479152)

To be pedantic, Those nudging technologies are being used to help people..but they could also be used for many things. They're tools.

Re:Is this actually a question? (1)

Java Pimp (98454) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479494)

... They're tools.

The people or the technology?

Re:Is this actually a question? (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479714)

Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.
If you know what I mean.

Re:Is this actually a question? (2)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479186)

> How about asking whether -advertising- is ethical?

Exactly the right question. Strip away the tech angle and this is just basic marketing being practiced. And that ship has sailed, for good or ill we aren't getting rid of advertising and marketing... even if it were possible to do so.

> At least these 'nudging technologies' are intended to -help- the person affected.

Said he who considers himself superior to the lesser beings being nudged. I'll be the judge of what is good for me and you figure out what is best for you. Now toss me another Brawndo will ya.

Re:Is this actually a question? (1)

benhattman (1258918) | more than 3 years ago | (#36480016)

> At least these 'nudging technologies' are intended to -help- the person affected.

Said he who considers himself superior to the lesser beings being nudged. I'll be the judge of what is good for me and you figure out what is best for you. Now toss me another Brawndo will ya.

I think you're saying this sarcastically, but I never really understood the people who actual make these kinds of arguments. Sure, there are many topics where we may all disagree. But if there's a simple nudge that helps people eat more vegetables and less sweets, then who can honestly be against that. And, I'm not just saying it because I think all those fat people need the help. As a decently healthy adult, I don't think it is a bad thing if I am nudged towards a healthier diet or a little more physical activity or using less electricity. Those are all things I want to do, but I can still use the help so long as it doesn't feel intrusive.

In short. Libertarians - BAH!

Re:Is this actually a question? (2)

hardwarejunkie9 (878942) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479232)

Advertising *is* nudging, no question. It frequently manipulates decisions instead of persuading.

Re:Is this actually a question? (1)

psithurism (1642461) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479292)

I was thinking along the lines of management coming in and saying:
"Either we hang some colored lights around that will make you feel like taking the stairs or we put: 'Take the stairs rather than the elevator whenever possible' on your list of yearly goals."
I would really prefer the former. Just because I don't think that colored lights encourage me to take the stairs doesn't mean its unethical for them to do so. Balls that light up depending on whether or not I'm being green or not are preferable to most of the creepy posters companies already put up in order to influence my behavior.

Personally I think the employees are right. I don't think the color of an art piece would make me change whether I take the stairs or not, but the reminder that I'm making a choice about it would definitely make consciously choose, rather than defaulting to the more convenient elevator. Also the implication that management prefers the stairs over the elevator would be a strong influence on me.

Re:Is this actually a question? (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 3 years ago | (#36480162)

I'd have just put some fake rubber vomit on the escalator then see how many people take the stairs instead.

Fuck off. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36479114)

Every fucking technology changes people's behaviour. What a shitty question.

Short answer: no (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36479120)

Are signs suggesting people take the stairs unethical?
Are seatbelt laws unethical?
How do you really wrest an ethical dilemma out of something like this?

Re:Short answer: no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36479164)

A bunch of libertarians will shortly show up to argue that seatbelt laws are unethical.

Here I am (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36479244)

I'm a Libertarian. I'm here to take a shit in your living room. Don't worry, the free market will sort it out.

(blatantly stolen from someone else on /.-- free market, come and get me!)

Re:Here I am (1)

brusk (135896) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479376)

That will be $100, please.

Re:Here I am (1)

AtomicOrange (1667101) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479506)

You charge people $100 to take a dump on your living room carpet? Intriguing... if you would adjust your business model to anyone's carpet - I think you'd have something there...

Re:Here I am (1)

brusk (135896) | more than 3 years ago | (#36480004)

Who said anything about carpet? That's $5000 extra. I charge $100 to go in my chamber pot. There's a business model you can monetize! Make money at home by making your house into a public restroom!

Re:Short answer: no (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36480208)

A bunch of libertarians will shortly show up to argue that seatbelt laws are unethical.

...And they'll be right, at least about the laws that apply to adults driving their own vehicles.

Re:Short answer: no (5, Insightful)

RoverDaddy (869116) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479180)

Well seat belt laws go beyond advice and suggestion to the point of coercion (i.e. Don't do what -we- think is good for -you- and you will be punished), so I don't think that's a good example. But as far as this topic goes, I agree. No ethical issue at all.

Re:Short answer: no (2)

lgw (121541) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479370)

"Follow this safety procedure or we'll kill you" does seem remarkable popular reasoning these days. But here there's no threat, no donside, so I also don't see the ethical question.

Re:Short answer: no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36479214)

I think you're answering the wrong question. You're answering whether these uses are ethical; the real question is whether the tools are.

Re:Short answer: no (1)

Ruke (857276) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479984)

The tools themselves are a completely amoral force. You can question the ethics of the decisions of the people surrounding these tools; whether it is ethical to create them, or to use them in a given situation, but the tools are just... things.

I mean, look at gun control laws. I'm for gun control laws, personally. However, it would be ridiculous to say that "guns are bad". I think guns are dangerous, but this isn't a moral judgement on them. It's a more pragmatic evaluation of expected-outcome-of-confrontation-involving-a-firearm. (Gun control is not the issue here. I seriously don't want to debate guns right now.)

I think a more interesting question is when, if ever, it's ethical to "nudge" people using subliminal tools. If you're nudging a person towards doing good, is that acceptable in a way that nudging them towards consumption is not? Are we willing to say that the "nudging" itself is amoral, and we only care about the outcome; if it's used for a "good" end, it's good, and if it's used for an "evil" end, it's evil? Or is there an ethical component towards nudging someone towards doing anything that they might not want to do on a conscious level?

Influence is a tool... (3)

darkwing_bmf (178021) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479130)

...that can be used for good or for evil.

Re:Influence is a tool... (1)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479174)

...that can be used for good or for evil.

Like The Force!

Re:Influence is a tool... (1)

LandDolphin (1202876) | more than 3 years ago | (#36480140)

or the Schwartz

Re:Influence is a tool... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36479524)

Every information input(environmental stimulus) influences decision making. If you notice something, it has some consequence on your thoughts and decisions.

Ethics only comes in when deceit or coercion are intentionally applied. Otherwise, one might as well say a 'we are open' sign is unethical.

the headlines today... (0)

drb226 (1938360) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479132)

make me want to quit slashdot. Slow nerd news day.

Re:the headlines today... (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#36480202)

Ah! So that's your response to nudging headlines.

So first we have the "poke"..... (2)

Jailbrekr (73837) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479142)

and now we have the "nudge"? Whats next, the "bitchslap"?

Re:So first we have the "poke"..... (2)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479368)

No, the sarcastic reply.

Re:So first we have the "poke"..... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36479652)

Oh, like THAT would ever work.

Re:So first we have the "poke"..... (1)

Abstrackt (609015) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479940)

Oh, that sounds useful....

I say yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36479148)

Sure, you can view them as unethical, because you're trying to manipulate people instead of being upfront about it. But use of force is even less ethical than subliminal cues, and we're already doing that.

Mentalism! (1)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479154)

Yay! Mentalists are really good at altering your behavior or implanting suggestions without you realizing it. It's kind of awesome to watch, and in a way, disturbing. I actually wonder how susceptible I am to all of this, myself...

Re:Mentalism! (4, Funny)

Zirnike (640152) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479290)

I actually wonder how susceptible I am to all of this, myself...

I hope everyone liked the post I made snowgirl make.

Re:Mentalism! (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479382)

You did that well.

Here's your cookie: @

Tomorrow you will empty your bank account and mail it to me.

Tomorrow you will get cake.

Re:Mentalism! (1)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479416)

*makes a waving motion with her hand* These are not the droids you are looking for.

Re:Mentalism! (2)

BadPirate (1572721) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479688)

Spoiler: The cake is a lie.

Re:Mentalism! (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479400)

Yeah, you rule!

Wait, why did I just type that?

Re:Mentalism! (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479556)

Pretty straightforward actually. A mentalist will exude confidence to such a degree that you, I, or anyone else becomes submissive to their ideas. Being a mentalist means tapping into this primal human behavior as a method of directing. On a subconscious level, we have the ability to determine if someone's confidence is encapsulating the truth, or a lie. A mentalists however must not let their subject/s even approach the concept of questioning at that level.

One might say that a sociopath is a natural born mentalist.

Marketing packaged into a PhD thesis (5, Insightful)

stating_the_obvious (1340413) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479156)

Nudging technologies have been around for as long as people have traded one good for another. Prices ending in .99, "buy one, get one free", and the ever popular "act now" are all examples of efforts to nudge someone to action. It can only be a good thing that these subliminal forces are finally being harnessed to encourage positive behavior (e.g., stairs versus elevators or washing hands after using the bathroom)

Re:Marketing packaged into a PhD thesis (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#36480124)

But the more we understand free will, the less it seems to exist. How far will it go? What fun is a gambling without the perception of chance? What fun is life without the perception of choice? I'm not faulting the research, but I'm considering getting annoyed at the universe.

Re:Marketing packaged into a PhD thesis (1)

RobinEggs (1453925) | more than 3 years ago | (#36480248)

I think the unspoken current of this conversation, however, is if and when it's ethical to use completely deliberate nudging on someone's subconscious. The advertising and pricing phrases you mention still communicate directly, even if they're largely attacking the subconscious by exploiting the lizard brain or playing to societal norms. In contrast, when you talk about applying these sorts of experiments to marketing you'd be asking whether it's ethical to play soothing music if it increases sales by keeping people in the store longer or put the smell of popcorn in the air conditioner at a movie theater. People already do both of those things, and now we're wondering how far you can ethically take that sort of behavior, wherein there's no way at all to perceive that you're being sold on something.

Oblig. Fun Theory (4, Interesting)

Jim Hall (2985) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479172)

The Fun Theory does this from time to time. My favorite is the piano stairs [youtube.com] in Stockholm. It's a classic example of a "nudging" effect, and yes - I do consider it "ethical".

Of course, the question is if the "nudging" effect lasts over the long haul. I wonder how many of these people would have used the piano stairs after a few days, or a week?

Re:Oblig. Fun Theory (1)

Kugrian (886993) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479314)

How many people went up and down the stairs several times and messed up the traffic?

Re:Oblig. Fun Theory (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479446)

Traffic is still probably moving faster in those cases than with the escalator. It's also giving them that much more exercise. I think that's a fair trade.

Re:Oblig. Fun Theory (2)

swanzilla (1458281) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479362)

Not sure about the long haul, but I would assume that stair usage and hangover severity would be inversely proportional to one another.

Re:Oblig. Fun Theory (1)

Golddess (1361003) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479656)

My favorite is the piano stairs [youtube.com] in Stockholm.

Well that at least makes sense for how it influences people into taking the stairs. Step on a step, instant positive feedback.

I RTFA, and I still don't get how those colored balls could influence people to take the stairs.

Re:Oblig. Fun Theory (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36479830)

I would have made the escalator electrocute people :)

Re:Oblig. Fun Theory (1)

Abstrackt (609015) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479972)

I RTFA, and I still don't get how those colored balls could influence people to take the stairs.

My theory is that they just looked interesting enough to encourage people to take the stairs for a closer look at them.

Ethics... (2)

econolog (2081738) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479182)

We can say it's unethical but it has happened the world over for many years now and in less noticeable ways than signs. The source of this isn't always the government of that area. Marketing is a form of this for example. The ways people can be manipulated are not limited to just this. TV is a very good medium. There are ways this can be applied in other media but video tends to be the most effective. Social media is also very powerful. As far as this altering your experience (which shapes the individual) it can be summarized that you have less control than you think.

It all depends what you are nudgin people to (1)

director_mr (1144369) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479194)

Nudging technologies have existed ever since people had technology I would presume. Exit signs, Stop lights, one way street signs all of these things are meant to direct people in a certain way. I though the way the designers made an atrium where your choices would affect the environment in a fun and interesting way was great. You are basically rewarding behavior you want people to choose with a very modest display, but one that will encourage them to monitor each other's behavior and have a positive outcome. This is about as ethical as you can be. Is there any more ethical way to influence behavior you can think of?

Sounds a bit harsh actually (2)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479202)

I mean...to hang someone by the color of their balls and all.

Marketers have been using it for decades (2)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479212)

Why do you think America has been going bankrupt trying to keep up with the Jones next door.

Or walk into a casino? When someone wins large lights and very loud sounds are made while the machine dispatches the cash slowly all for everyone to see that someone else made money.

Re:Marketers have been using it for decades (1)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479332)

What might be an even better example is one of the Vegas casinos (forgot which one) that has a moving sidewalk to take you from the street to the entrance doors, but leaving you walk on your own.

Re:Marketers have been using it for decades (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479566)

Let me guess: you haven't been into a casino, and your experience is based on some movies you saw somewhere. Slot machines don't give out bags of coins any more, and they haven't for a while. You get a receipt to give to the cashier, or feed into another slot machine. Slot jockeys don't give a shit if the person next to them wins, they don't even shrug. They just keep on playing. Earthquake, fire alarm, casino being robbed, it doesn't matter.

"Keeping up with the Joneses" is materialism. You don't get anything but WoW-style mental satisfaction from playing slots.

Re:Marketers have been using it for decades (1)

LandDolphin (1202876) | more than 3 years ago | (#36480172)

They might not care if the person next to them wins. However, they still need to hear that rings all around that people are winning. It drives the belief that their big win is just around the corner.

Ambient Design (2, Insightful)

hardwarejunkie9 (878942) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479216)

I'm actually an industrial engineering student who studies cognitive ergonomics (pretty much social engineering). I'm actually quite interested in "nudging technologies" and am doing a bit of research in related fields. I took a Psych class that discussed the relevance of subliminal messaging and covered a bit of the controversy surrounding it. The professor mentioned something strange: subliminal messaging doesn't make an individual do anything they otherwise would not do if persuaded. You can only get standard behavior that the individual would be interested in performing on their own. These nudging technologies do affect an individual's autonomy by affecting the choices they make, but, in the end, they still can make their own decision to take the elevator. An important contrast to consider is that the alternative to make people take the stairs more is to coerce them by making rules. Is that any more ethical? At least in a nudge system they have the option to do as they wish. Sure, the individual may not be aware that they are influenced, but it would be a system incredibly hard to abuse. I've had to deal w/ individuals who throw their newly emptied coke bottles into the trash when the trash can is directly next to the trash can. I don't feel that the best approach is to convince them with general aphorisms about the environment but rather to nudge them that way we can all get along to taking care of more important problems.

Re:Ambient Design (4, Interesting)

lgw (121541) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479504)

You're going to find an internship at a Disney park, right? The "social engineering" there is masterful, as well as the more ordinary engineering just to allow herds of people to move freely without getting in each other's way (I still find the Orlando airport the easiest big airport to move through thanks to their influence). For example, employee areas aren'tusually blocked by doors or even signs; instead the colors and architecture are carefully chosen to make customers feel uncomfortable, and nudge them back to where they're supposed to be, without explicitly marking areas "off limits" as you walk through the park.

I've had to deal w/ individuals who throw their newly emptied coke bottles into the trash when the trash can is directly next to the trash can.

Wel, eveyrone does that, but I also throw my everyhting into the trash can when it's next to the recycle bin, just for the joy of pissing off hippies, so be careful what you design (but then some jerks throw normal stinky trash into recycling bins where I live: now that sucks).

University Professor Discovers Architecture (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36479218)

News at 11.

This just in! (2)

Palmsie (1550787) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479240)

Psychologists study human behavior... then change it! What kind of world do we live in, Dr. Milgrim?

Re:This just in! (2)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 3 years ago | (#36480180)

Shocking!

Sheep Don't Think (2)

tunapez (1161697) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479252)

If people want, or allow themselves, to be shepherded and corralled, I guess there's no stopping progress.

Re:Sheep Don't Think (1)

hardwarejunkie9 (878942) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479312)

The funny thing about Psychology is that you yourself are easily influenced and will only recognize it when you pay attention for it. Nudging is extremely common and has been used as a basic social method for as long was we've been interacting. Noone's immune. It's just important to realize when it's happening and to think twice about it.

Re:Sheep Don't Think (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479436)

Yes and how many people use the sheep analogy...
Humans are Animals. We have traits that are rational, from careful thought and instincts. Humans are social animals, like other social animals we take cues and we actively try to be the rest of the people. You would normally feel silly if you wore a suit and tie to the beach. As well you would feel just as out of place if you went to work in your bathing suit.

We take cues every day, and it models our behavior, if we break out it is often due to a conscious need to do so.

Obligatory xkcd (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36480008)

http://xkcd.com/610/

"the lift" (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36479254)

Sigh, please realize that the vast majority of Slashdot readers are American. When you submit things, keep this in mind when using localized phrases like "the lift" instead of the correct words (in this case, "the elevator"). This site is not intended to be used as a soap box for people to spread around their "quaint" (read: bastardized) regional dialects of the English language. Stick to the standards and you'll be sure to have the widest understanding of whatever it is you're trying to say.

Re:"the lift" (1)

jfruhlinger (470035) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479320)

Excellent douchebaggy AC language usage troll! A+++++, would be trolled again.

Re:"the lift" (1)

ChrisMP1 (1130781) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479422)

I'm not sure what kind of idiot couldn't figure out what "lift" means. I see you managed.

Re:"the lift" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36479848)

I will admit that when I was 7 I probably wouldn't have known what 'the lift' means. By the age of 47 I have been so thoroughly exposed to the idioms of English used in various parts of the world that many of them are decoded without my even thinking about. If I read something about 'biscuits' or 'crisps' for example, I automatically determine from context if they're really talking about cookies or chips. Treacle, on the other hand, remains freaky shit to me.

As far as elevators go, at this point I respond just as well to 'elevator', 'lift', or 'freaky magic travel box'.

Re:"the lift" (4, Insightful)

rkww (675767) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479954)

But the story, if you chose to read it, would tell you that the research was conducted by a British university and the devices they monitored were in fact lifts. And to be pedantic, American is the regional dialect.

Why Not? (1)

Scarletdown (886459) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479256)

Why would this be unethical? There is no harm in dropping hints for the masses to engage in activities that are truly good for them and perhaps even (gasp) causing them to actually think about behaviors to which they never previously gave any thought. As long as the message is not deceptive, an outright lie, or encouraging something truly harmful, then carry on.

And really, how is this any different than those Saturday morning PSAs put out by the Ad Council back in the 70s and 80s that encouraged people to take responsibility for their health, safety, etc?

It's used both ways (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479268)

Let's not call it "nudging technology" and call it what it is -- marketing. Okay, that's not completely accurate either, but where we see these methods used most often is in marketing. Some campaigns push for "good things" like keeping the roads clean ("Don't Mess With Texas!") and others are for selling things that make people fat or often result in other negative consequences.

"There is still a choice" and it's true. I am largely (though not completely) immune to those types of guidance mechanisms. I see a beer commercial selling a "lifestyle" and fail to make the connection between the product and the lifestyle while others just buy right into it. I see the convenient drive-thru window with more than 10 cars waiting. I don't just get in line, I look in the windows to see if (1) it's open (2) how many people are waiting in line within the building. I estimate which choice will get the there faster and choose. I'm not most people.

But by calling it "nudging technologies" we are sort of rebranding marketing techniques aren't we?

Does the nudger benefit from the nudging? (1)

Rix (54095) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479294)

If so, then yes, of course it's unethical.

Re:Does the nudger benefit from the nudging? (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479412)

Only if the nudgee gets no benefit in return, or loses in the process.

Re:Does the nudger benefit from the nudging? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36479520)

Would it really be more ethical if the nudger losed out? Of course not. The primary thing that makes the scheme (and most advertising for that matter) unethical is that the nudgee doesn't know about it.

hanging coloured balls? (1)

davidiii (1983894) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479330)

I usually find taking the stairs to be quite uncomfortable when I have blue balls. I would much rather take the lift.

Re:hanging coloured balls? (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479424)

You'd rather be lifted by your blue balls?

By my hanging balls.. (1)

toxonix (1793960) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479354)

Are Hanging Balls really new technology? AFAIK they evolved a looong time ago. I just think they could find a better example. If you want less people to take the elevator, make the elevator slower.

Are stories (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36479384)

are stories that ask questions in the headline completely useless journalistic garbage? fucking news is supposed to tell us facts not ask us rhetorical questions. fuck off.

Ever heard of social media? (1)

puterg33k (1920022) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479508)

The impact of social media on our everyday lives is incredible, you'd say to yourself after reading what I wrote. Nah, not me. There's no way, but go without it for a year. See what changes... Or better yet, what changes you notice about yourself. It's actually quite revealing, take it from an ex-meathead womaniser that would once kill for his favourite football team. I really noticed it on my deployment, how out of tune I had become. It's as if every conversation with a human being in the conceptual 'normal world' somehow ends up being a ego battle of neo-pop culture trivia. If you aren't in the know, you're not cool. Knowing key references to certain movies, songs, and popular advertisements are a kin to being accepted into a peer group. Without these commonalities, you're a foreigner. Hey don't take my word for it, give it a shot. As a matter of fact, I challenge you. To turn off that TV, unplug for a bit. It did me wonders, I went from lifting weights and calling people fags all the time to learning about DRM, installing linux, reading slashdot. I ended up taking several political science classes and becoming interested in government. Though, I partially attribute the military to my interest in poly-sci. Any who, it's everywhere. Advertisements, speech, social reassurance, and now a machine? Why not, weather you like it or not it will be in every convenient store in America. But the real question is; what the hell are you willing to do about it? Ask yourself that, rather than posting on some website where people do nothing more than drone on and complain. Some complain much more eloquently than others might I add... There's a quote by George Bernard Shaw, it goes something like; Americans would rather invade foreign country than walk across the street to vote. I know that's not the quote, but it goes something like that. So if you know it please post it, but, is it not true? We're apart of a system that knows exactly how we'll react before we do, and you'd best be damn assured social media is the tool that will help us act and react accordingly.

It's good for you (1)

TheHedonismBot (1856060) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479522)

There's nothing wrong with encouraging people to take the stairs...

Classic example: fly in urinal (3, Informative)

hayne (545353) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479594)

I guess the fly in urinal [urinalfly.com] is a classic example of nudging technology.

Re:Classic example: fly in urinal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36480038)

Heh, I had recently seen that somewhere, and had wondered about it. As I was pondering why someone would have stuck a fly sticker to the back of a urinal, I suddenly realized I was urinating all over the wall.

Overly complex? (1)

ddd0004 (1984672) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479598)

It seems like they are trying to hard. If you are trying to get people to take the stairs, throw a dead skunk or massive pile of dog doo in the "lift." These are "nudging technologies" with a much higher success rate.

The wrong question, yet again (1)

Shoten (260439) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479726)

Why do people ask "is this technology ethical"? Ethics is about application of choice; the technology itself is not inherently good or evil. One example of a nudging technology is the fact that the operating handle for a garbage truck's compactor is nowhere near the rear opening of the compactor; this actually arose from a lawsuit where a man lost part of his foot because he stood on the back while operating the compactor. As a result now, it's a lot easier to operate garbage trucks safely than in a dangerous manner. I don't see any way to argue that this is unethical, even though it's a nudging technology. But what about technologies intended to drive sales and control purchasing choices by consumers? That seems like a much different question, and I'm not so sure you could say across the board that it's ethical. It's not about the technology, it's about the use.

Seriously?!? (1)

InsertCleverUsername (950130) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479896)

My initial reaction to this (of course I didn't RTFA) is that it's ludicrous to discuss whether it's ethical to try to influence people. Forcing someone to do something is unethical, but trying to influence others is something we do almost every time we interact with another human. Somebody really needs better ethical problems to ponder.

Feels like high school all over again. (1)

tantaliz3 (1074234) | more than 3 years ago | (#36480070)

From the article:

"Most people when we asked them, 'Do you think this has changed your behaviour?', they said no. But the data showed that it had actually done that," she added. "People were chatting a lot about it... We observed people telling other people off for using the lift - 'You're representing a grey ball right now!'."

This isn't nudging, it's peer pressure! lol

A good example - posting as Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36480104)

The vibe I get is, sure, you're welcome to do that, registration is not required. Of course, your post will never be read by anyone except by trolls and people who place no value on their time. And once the thread accumulates a lot of responses you'll have a hard time even finding the sad, lonely thing you wrote.

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