A taxonomy of unethical technology design patterns

Tristan Harris, formerly Google's Design Ethicist and Product Philosopher, delves into the way that technology design can "hijack your attention," by introducing casino-like intermittent reward; by framing a subset of possible actions as a comprehensive-seeming menu; by deliberately introducing a sense that you might miss out; by forcing you to move though a clickbaity newsfeed to access your friends' updates; by paraphrasing one request ("where can we go for a quiet chat") as another ("which nearby bars make good cocktails?").

It's a Monster Manual of design anti-patterns that are all too familiar in the technology that we use every day.

Hijack #5: Social Reciprocity (Tit-for-tat)

You do me a favor, now I owe you one next time.

You say, "thank you"— I have to say "you're welcome."

You send me an email— it's rude not to get back to you.

You follow me — it's rude not to follow you back. (especially for teenagers)

We are vulnerable to needing to reciprocate others' gestures. But as with Social Approval, tech companies now manipulate how often we experience it.
In some cases, it's by accident. Email, texting and messaging apps are social reciprocity factories. But in other cases, companies exploit this vulnerability on purpose.

LinkedIn is the most obvious offender. LinkedIn wants as many people creating social obligations for each other as possible, because each time they reciprocate (by accepting a connection, responding to a message, or endorsing someone back for a skill) they have to come back to linkedin.com where they can get people to spend more time.

How Technology Hijacks People's Minds — from a Magician and Google's Design Ethicist [Tristan Harris/Medium]