this is groundbreaking stuff – a thorough and cogent argument for some guidance on life issues. This is the ultimate application of the kind of stuff the cognitive engineering and decision making technical group at HFES works on. Brilliant!
People have been ‘engineering’ decision making since the dawn of time. As they say in the Navy, "navy regulations are written in blood"–something bad happened, so they wrote the rules to prevent it from happening again. before you go rocketing off the catapult, every part of your plane is checked, all the red flags are removed, nothing is left to chance… because if something goes wrong, you’ll end up with a Martin-Baker tie … if you’re lucky.
You might be alarmed by the fact that on new planes (Airbus A380 for example), the pilot is only a ‘voting member’ of the flight crew–the plane is actually flown by the computer (a quadruple redundant fly by wire system). Without the computers, the plane would be much harder to control, less efficient, and more susceptible to windshear, weather conditions, and damage. Some military aircraft can’t be flown without computer assistance–the F117 isn’t a really flying shape, the computer makes it controllable and stay in the sky.
So what’s so bad about doing the same thing for real life? Putting the fruit close to the checkout in the cafeteria is a good idea–it promotes public health, and is pretty painless. And if there simply weren’t twinkies, well, you wouldn’t miss them anyway.
A little more insidious is Keep the Change by Bank of America and IDEO. They won an IDEA Gold Award for their crafty ‘homer simpson’ outwitting system, and if that’s what it takes to get people to save, well, that may be necessary and prudent. right now Americans save -0.1% of their income. that’s right, a negative number. so maybe some cognitive engineering is a good idea, even if sleazy and underhanded.
Roger Kimball decries this meddling as socialism. Aside from getting his definition of socialism wrong, and conveniently forgetting the successes of the more paternalistic societies (if socialism is so bad, why do Norway and Finland top the world rankings in quality of life?), this engineering is already a part of your life.
that’s right, you’re already being nudged.
remember the last time you were in the grocery store or 7-11 or Duane Reade or any store for that matter? notice the candy right in the checkout aisle? it’s there, within arms reach, for you to just grab. Clever, eh? What about all of the ads you see on TV and bus shelters and billboards and on your screen right now?
yep, your thoughts are being pushed around by Madison Avenue. and they’re probably up to no good, because they’re just doing it for money.
So, the question is, who do you want to pull your strings and why, not whether you want them pulled.