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  • Writer's pictureEduardo Franco

Talk with Dr. BJ Fogg


I've been interested in understanding the ways in which Social Media platforms are impacting our society and the way we interact with each other for a while. They present new models of interactions and new ways of grabbing our attention. Dr. BJ Fogg is the founder and director of the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford University. He has been studying behavior change and the impact of technology for years and is the author of Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do. I had a chance to talk with Dr. Fogg about his thoughts on the current technology scenario. Here are the highlights of the talk:

What is, in your opinion, the solution to social media addiction? Should it come from the social media companies, from the users, or from different organizations (e.g. government agencies)?

FOGG: That's a really hard question. I think it has to come from many places. But I certainly think that individuals can control their own behaviors. They don't have to give their kids mobile phones, for example... My work is how do you help individuals change their behavior. I won't be able to change the business model of Facebook, I'm not going to be able to change how Google tracks me on Chrome, but we can help individuals take better control of their lives. At least from my perspective, that's what I would focus on.

In 2008 you stated that "mobile technology will be the most powerful way to influence consumers in the next 15 years" and you were absolutely right. What are your thoughts for the next 15 years?

FOGG: I predicted how important mobile would be and thank you for recognizing it. I made that prediction well ahead of the curve. At the time it shocked people. But once predictions come true, people generally don't give you credit, They just say "that was obvious".

I think voice assistants are going to be massive. Right now they are underperforming, but eventually, they will get really good and will go with us everywhere - the same voice assistant, wherever we are. In hotel rooms, rented cars, even in airline seats, you will be able to have your voice assistant. I think that the power of having something that knows you and your preferences is interesting, but again we're giving up a lot of privacy. We're giving up a lot, to have that convenience.

Are people willing to give up their privacy or personal information in order to take advantage of all the conveniences? This discussion will happen again, with voice assistants. That will be a huge deal.

Privacy is already a big issue being debated right now. Do you think that with voice assistant devices it will get worse?

FOGG: Yes, it will get much, much worse. I made the point that technology is different from other types of persuaders because it doesn't have a genre boundary. You know what a movie looks like, you know what a game show looks like, you know what a tv commercial looks like. And all of those try to influence us in some way, but we can recognize the genre. I wrote this in my book, 18 years ago, that technology would not have the same kind of genre boundaries definition that we are used to and we won't be able to identify who's trying to influence us through which digital experience. And I think that once it goes to voice assistants that will be even more dramatic, especially considering that these assistants will go with us to the different environments we go to. I think the idea of the voice assistant being on our phones will go away, they will travel with us, in hotel rooms, taxis, ubers, wherever we are. We won't need to carry a device with us and that opens up a whole can of worms for new issues.

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