From the album Nine Objects Through Open Window
From the album Nine Objects Through Open Window
Many governments in the developed world can now best be described as ‘neuroliberal’: having a combination of neoliberal principles with policy initiatives derived from insights in the behavioural sciences.
Neuroliberalism presents the results of the first critical global study of the impacts of the behavioural sciences on public policy and government actions, including behavioural economics, behavioural psychology and neuroeconomics. Drawing on interviews with leading behaviour change experts, organizations and policy-makers, and discussed in alignment with a series of international case studies, this volume provides a critical analysis of the ethical, economic, political and constitutional implications of behaviourally oriented government. It explores the impacts of the behavioural sciences on everyday life through a series of themes, including: understandings of the human subject; interpretations of freedom; the changing form and function of the state; the changing role of the corporation in society; and the design of everyday environments and technologies.
The research presented in this volume reveals a diverse set of neuroliberal approaches to government that offer policy-makers and behaviour change professionals a real choice in relation to the systems of behavioural government they can implement. This book also argues that the behavioural sciences have the potential to support much more effective systems of government, but also generate new ethical concerns that policy-makers should be aware of.
‘Despite family resemblances with its neoliberal predecessor, the Government’s strategy is supposedly informed by a slightly different ideology – liberal paternalism, known as ‘Nudge’, which gained notoriety after being enlisted by Blair, Cameron, and Obama administrations to advise on a range of public services. As a strategy of governance, ‘nudge’ draws on behavioural economics, a broadly heterodox approach that emphasizes limits to rational choice theories in understanding social dynamics. Three of its proponents – Daniel Kahneman, Robert Shiller, and Richard Thaler – were awarded Nobel Prizes, respectively in 2002, 2013 and 2017, but ‘Nudge’s’ most famous advocate is probably Cass Sunstein, an American legal scholar who led the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs between 2009 and 2012.’ (Bacevic 2020)
Focusing on the rise of the behavioural sciences within the design and implementation of public policy, this paper introduces the concept of neuroliberalism and suggests that it could offer a creative context within which to interpret related governmental developments. Understanding neuroliberalism as a system of government that targets the more-than-rational aspects of human behaviour, this paper considers the particular contribution that geographical theories of context and spatial representation can make to a critical analysis of this evolving governmental project.
‘At the end of the twentieth century, the long predicted convergence of the media, computing and telecommunications into hypermedia is finally happening. Once again, capitalism’s relentless drive to diversify and intensify the creative powers of human labour is on the verge of qualitatively transforming the way in which we work, play and live together. By integrating different technologies around common protocols, something is being created which is more than the sum of its parts. When the ability to produce and receive unlimited amounts of information in any form is combined with the reach of the global telephone networks, existing forms of work and leisure can be fundamentally transformed. New industries will be born and current stock market favourites will swept away. At such moments of profound social change, anyone who can offer a simple explanation of what is happening will be listened to with great interest. At this crucial juncture, a loose alliance of writers, hackers, capitalists and artists from the West Coast of the USA have succeeded in defining a heterogeneous orthodoxy for the coming information age: the Californian Ideology.
This new faith has emerged from a bizarre fusion of the cultural bohemianism of San Francisco with the hi-tech industries of Silicon Valley. Promoted in magazines, books, TV programmes, websites, newsgroups and Net conferences, the Californian Ideology promiscuously combines the free-wheeling spirit of the hippies and the entrepreneurial zeal of the yuppies. This amalgamation of opposites has been achieved through a profound faith in the emancipatory potential of the new information technologies. In the digital utopia, everybody will be both hip and rich. Not surprisingly, this optimistic vision of the future has been enthusiastically embraced by computer nerds, slacker students, innovative capitalists, social activists, trendy academics, futurist bureaucrats and opportunistic politicians across the USA. As usual, Europeans have not been slow in copying the latest fad from America. While a recent EU Commission report recommends following the Californian free market model for building the information superhighway, cutting-edge artists and academics eagerly imitate the post human philosophers of the West Coast’s Extropian cult. With no obvious rivals, the triumph of the Californian Ideology appears to be complete.’
The machine always wins: what drives our addiction to social media
By The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads
This podcast (a recording of a Guardian “long read” article) came to mind when commenting on Charles’s ‘algorithmic play’ artefact.
While it has a fairly dystopian title, it talks about social media, addiction and behaviourist psychology, and seemed quite apt while reflecting on the following from Knox et al. (2020: 41):
‘It may be useful to term these shifts in the conceptual and functional understandings of learning ‘machine behaviourism’: forms of learning that are shaped and conditioned by a combination of complex machine learning technologies with (often radical) behaviourist psychology and behavioural economics.’
Artificial Intelligence offers a lot of advantages for organisations by creating better and more efficient organisations, improving customer services with conversational AI and reducing a wide variety of risks in different industries. Although we are only at the beginning of the AI revolution that is upon us, we can already see that artificial intelligence will have a profound effect on our lives. As a result, AI governance and Explainable AI are becoming increasingly important, if we want to reap the benefits of artificial intelligence.
‘The acquisition of plagiarism detection company Turnitin for US$1.75 billion, due to be completed later this year, demonstrates how higher education has become a profitable market for education technology companies. As concern grows about student plagiarism and ‘contract cheating’, Turnitin is making ‘academic fraud’ into a market opportunity to extend its automated detection software further. It is monetizing students’ writing while manufacturing mistrust between universities and students, and is generating some perverse side effects.’
Brooklyn teens are protesting their high school’s adoption of an online program spawned by Facebook, saying it forces them to stare at computers for hours and “teach ourselves.’