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Rethinking Social Research

Updated: Apr 10, 2019

I read through a number of research papers (social and psychological pattern analysis used to understand behavioral modeling) related to both my work with modeling customer outcomes and value as well as my interest in the triggering mechanisms that initiate and/or reinforce motivation resulting in (consumer) behaviors that guide decisions (to buy) and actions (pay and use products and/or services). The research is informative and helpful in that it reinforces some of the assertions I rely upon for some of my work.

I’m writing about this because of growing concerns related to the accelerating pace of change in technology and on our society due to how technology is being used by the private and public sector (including research institutions). One of the challenges with conducting studies of human behavior lies in developing the controls and processes for capturing and understanding unbiased information from study participants. All of this takes time and setup and analyze to identify patterns that can be used to build and/or inform models that we use to draw assertions and build our own understanding of individual and social cognitions that guide behavior.  There is no small coincidence that studies in cognitive research and game theory (because of the manner in which you can manipulate addictive behaviors) are being used to influence consumerism. Websites, AI, and soon robotics are leveraging a convergence of technologies to build the next phase of immersive interaction to accelerate the “learning” capabilities about how to influence behaviors. 

Here’s a fascinating new technology (see link below) that is being positioned as the next “logical” step towards developing an immersive marketing platform to build a social research knowledge repository.  

Not sure if the tech companies and businesses are leveraging models that have been carefully developed by social psychologists and researchers, which is a concern.  But, the possibilities to leverage deep learning to identify and iterate models in real time using orchestrated interactions is interesting to study and perhaps consider for inclusion into your own work and that of your colleagues.  The possibilities to leverage this for good and not so good are intriguing and disconcerting. 

Business are supposed to exist to provide supply to meet demand.  But, if that demand can be manipulated beyond the expanding channels in use today, the potential to misuse this capability to sway mass opinion and change behaviors beyond consumerism is a very real concern. 

The use of AI brings the possibility (in combination with more immersive mediums - including VR) to purposely manipulate social behaviors using social cognitive engineering. The more folks are “lured” by technology, the more it “feels” like we are accelerating the ability of the few to manufacture consent amongst the many. 

I wonder if these concerns are shared by social scientists and researchers. If so, I'm hoping they can share their research (completed or in progress) which are pursuing these concerns (direct or related).  I would be curious what role our university research centers would want to play in understanding the geometric rise in the use of technology (esp. AI and deep learning) on our social structures as well as our social conscience. 


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