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>Dopamine’s founders argue that they reserve the right to deny service to specific companies whose work seems to be off the level...

Just "trust" us. There are obviously many teams working on doing this, but never so audacious. These things are definitely not a value add to society, yet very profitable, like e.g. heroin if that doesn't sound too hyperbolic.

A casino is usually more profitable than a hospital too.

It's probably the central problem of capitalism. Monetary systems draw no distinction between wealth creation and wealth extraction, and the second law of thermodynamics guarantees that the latter will always be much easier. When you design chips, cure diseases, or build rockets you are fighting entropy. When you addict, misinform, and con people entropy is on your side.

This article made me pretty sad and made me think of this too. I think what an ethical investor needs to do is not deploy capital to any industries that don't add real economic value or wealth or whatever you want to call it. Also, ethical founders should refuse capital from orgs that fund these projects. Basically starve these projects out, but that's sort of idealistic.

Unfortunately greed often turns people from ethical to not so ethical pretty quickly. Would be nice if the chaps above could create an AI to help with that!

We could go to unethical even faster!

An unethical AI has more degrees of movement. It will always beat an ethical AI.

It is interesting how this article had the same affect on a lot of people. I also wasn't too comfortable with their angle or what they are doing.

don't add real economic value or wealth or whatever you want to call it.

Literally an impossible thing to measure because it's subjective. If it makes money is adds wealth so by your standard anything goes.

"When you design chips, cure diseases, or build rockets you are fighting entropy."

I've never quite heard 'entropy' used as an argument, and though you might be a little bit correct in some sense of the word ... I don't think it holds true either physically or as an analogy :)

But bon-bons for trying.

That's my favourite 'most HN comment of the day'.

Healthcare is a much larger percent of GDP than casinos for what it's worth. But your comment does remind me of http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/07/30/meditations-on-moloch/

And if you add the FIRE industries to that?

Or the addiction-feeding elements of healthcare -- opiates and other-than-therapeutic interventions.


Happy to answer any questions you have! It's all of our job to be transparent about the new tablestakes of design, because that transparency builds exact dialogues like this! It would be more audacious if we didn't publicize what we're doing and these techniques remained the dark patterns that keep people hooked to social apps that have poor alignment to what people actually want out of life!

This is how I understand what you're saying:

We are building something evil and reprehensible, but we are open about what we are building, and therefore we are better than the other guys who are doing it surreptitiously.

Fine, but in that case your product is basically performance art. Bravo, you did a good job raising awareness: now go actually work on fixing the problem instead of pretending like you aren't part of it.

Making games more addictive is not really all that "evil" or "reprehensible". It's not much different from making them more fun.

What does need work is their messaging. Suggesting they can control users does not sit well. Instead, they could suggest they make games so much more fun, users boost in-game time.

They need a lesson on marketing and messaging, the idea itself is fine.

What's your take on gambling addiction?

Frankly, I feel bad that we are piling the heat on to this company. I think a lot of the people in this thread are frustrated and upset, and don't know where to apply their energy to start solving the problem that they are upset about. I am one of them; I had a very visceral reaction to the OP.

But I think this is a good wake up call for just how angry and frustrated we all are. We should be thanking this company for putting us over the edge. How many of the posters here railing against addictive media checked Instagram or Facebook in the same hour that they read this post? Time to start putting our money where our mouth is.

> Making games more addictive is not really all that "evil" or "reprehensible".

Considering the amount of behavioral science being used to accomplish this, it's actually quite "evil".

As much as we humans fancy our intellect and "free will", we are still just very predictable biological automatons. Put us in a very well designed skinner-box, and we gonna be pushing that button until our body rots away without us even noticing.

There is a very fine line between making something "engaging", for the sake of building something exciting, and making something "engaging" for the sake of keeping "engagement going".

> It's not much different from making them more fun.

I've played quite a few games that were addictive but not fun. The difference is hard to spot when you're in the middle of it, but stark from the outside. Typically they start off being plain fun to draw you in, and then gradually segue into addictive after a few hours to keep you there.

Addictive games are often fun, I didn't say necessarily fun.

But that wasn't my point. My point is that it's not terribly evil to make a game addictive. Addictive qualities are only bad to the extent that the addictive thing hurts you (e.g., smoking, drugs). These games are all pretty harmless.

No, addiction is never harmless. If you have never been addicted to anything, it is difficult to empathize or understand.

That doesn't mean it is wrong for a game to become addicting because it is so damn fun it just happens to become addicting. What is beyond despicable to me is to create a game that deliberately manipulates the human mind to become addicting without being of any real value.

If nothing else, it's a matter of opportunity cost. You are stealing attention away from hobbies, friends, family, and more likely, more wholesome forms of entertainment, possibly even more intelligent video games. Through in-app purchases you are funneling people's income from their bank accounts to yours and your employees'. This is fine when people are making a choice to waste their resources, but when you take people's choice away by addicting them, then you are effectively enslaving them.

Imho certain personalities are more keen on this than others. I've seen it getting called "a propensity to compulsion", which is a very fitting way to put it.

Is there any behavior that you wish you did more often or more regularly? Going to the gym? Driving more carefully? Taking a moment to center yourself?

We're actively working on all of those. I don't think it's possible to pretend that these techniques don't exist. So instead we're flamboyantly advertising that they can be used for good.

What behaviors do you wish you did more of or did more regularly?

> We are building something evil and reprehensible, but we are open about what we are building, and therefore we are better than the other guys who are doing it surreptitiously.

This basically covers all of American business and politics. I think the anger in this thread is misplaced.

OK but who do you think is worse, Voldemort or Umbridge?

People are downvoting you, but I think you actually make a good point here.

I'm just not sure which one is which. Is Dopamine Voldemort or Umbridge?

In this context, Voldemort. They're clearly embracing the role and even playing it for publicity, like a classic villain going "muahaha!" about their evil plan.

Contrast the new 'social credit' system in China - it's (IMO) pure evil and a disturbing example of government mind control, but presents itself as orderly virtue.

I think these guys need to amp the “evil” up a lot more.

It’s the perfect media juncture to do it- force the conversation with obvious names, have fun with the media, and in so doing carry out the public service of shining the brightest light on the darkest spots.

And it’s not like anything is illegal. People need to be horrified before they react and then figure out exactly what is acceptable and what is not.

But the whole IT industry itself seems to be in desperate need of a code of ethics and behavior. These guys can always just dodge by pointing out that they are hardly the worst fish in the sea. Just the most self aware and well labeled.

That's great but what is really needed is litigation/legislation.

Why? On what basis?

Because this is not a code problem.

It is inherently a people problem.

The issue is simply that any fix (by code or by competition), will only move the conflict point from its current location to a new place on the board.

Without being able to approach the bad actors and their motivations/incentives directly, you will not be able to effect change.

And there is always going to be an incentive to manipulate minds, easily and at scale.

Because the industry is deliberately creating addictive products that happen to be detrimental to the health of the people who use them. Facebook is the biggest offender but any time you hear the term "engagement", that's probably what is going on.

This isn't just going to go away, it has to be fought.

How good can Dopamine's moral compass be if they don't immediately refuse service to anyone who wants to use Dopamine's services?

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