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The Internet of Addictions

The Internet of Things is growing rapidly, and with it… its potential to change our lives. Although this is mostly for the better, privacy and security concerns have already been raised (read this article). A bigger concern, however, is the addictiveness of where we interact with the Internet of Things – devices and apps.

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Our devices and apps are as addictive as drugs. Addictive drugs mainly target your brain’s pleasure center, which reacts to produce dopamine. Also, if you do something pleasurable, your brain produces dopamine. This is what happens when you play games, see something enjoyable on TV, or when you have sex.

But it also happens in more subtle ways when you receive notifications or information. You are compelled to look at your devices because of how your brain is wired. No wonder people keep their smartphones at arms length, even when they’re in a meeting or in a restaurant.

Legal drug dealers

In recent years, we’ve gained a great deal of understanding of how our brain reacts to stimuli, and how we can influence this. App designers use this knowledge to make apps even more seductive.

Designing for Behavior Change” by Stephen Wendel takes much of the accumulated knowledge in this area and puts it into a manual for App designers. In a sense, App designers are the drug dealers of the 21st century. Our society goes to great lengths to curb substance abuse and chases drug dealers vigorously,  but what the App designers do is considered perfectly legal. That’s the irony!

Michiel van Otegem is principal architect for the Microsoft Business Line at Sogeti Netherlands. Sogeti is a division of Capgemini S.A.

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