Burned at the Stake

I used this as one of my “pins,” but I wanted to say a bit more about this.

A few weeks ago, I read Jakob Nielsen’s essay “A 100-Year View of User Experience.” In it, he expects the UX profession to grow to be 1 percent of the world’s population by the year 2050. Pretty cool, I thought, and moved on with my day.

Then, I listened to the UX Podcast, where hosts Per Axbom and James Royal-Lawson pointed out that Nielsen is actually predicting two UX futures, and one of them is dystopian.

At one point, Nielsen says the UX profession will “turn to solving the advanced economies’ productivity problems, expanding the goal of the UX profession beyond the current obsession with addicting users to their social media feeds.”

Then, in the next paragraph, Nielsen says “The other 99% will thank us as they will finally master technology instead of being oppressed by it.”

The podcast hosts were skeptical.

“How is he confident that we will move from making people obsessed with social media to solving the world’s problems?” asks host Per Axbom. “Either people will actually thank us, or they will be hating us.”

“Can we survive the journey that he’s predicting without being burned at the stake before then?” wonders Royal-Lawson.

I have a personal theory that everything in modern life is addictive.

  • I spend a lot of time turning off notifications for apps on my phone – I can see how they keep you chasing that next hit.
  • When I was in college, I could check email in the basement of my dorm, or in one of the stand-up terminals in the student union. I remember checking my email in one building, then being compelled to check email again when I got to the next building. The hit of dopamine was that strong.
  • I read a book recently called “Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us.” The upshot is that the food industry A/B tested food for the last 50 years, and have learned how to jack up the quantities of the title nutrients to keep us “craving.” It’s not too far from the A/B test I’m running on my website.
  • In the last few years, slot machines have been designed to ring out if they have a “near miss.” Of course, a miss is as good as a mile, when it comes to slots. But it keeps people thirsty for their next strike.

Anyway, it’s not a huge concern for me at the moment. I’m trying to get people hooked on college programs that could improve their life. But still – it’s something to think about.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *