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Are 'Nudging Technologies' Ethical? 227

Posted by Soulskill
from the directing-your-thoughts dept.
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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Are 'Nudging Technologies' Ethical?

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  • Oblig. Fun Theory (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jim Hall (2985) on Friday June 17, 2011 @04:08PM (#36479172) Homepage

    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:Ambient Design (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lgw (121541) on Friday June 17, 2011 @04:38PM (#36479504) Journal

    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).

Computers are unreliable, but humans are even more unreliable. Any system which depends on human reliability is unreliable. -- Gilb

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