More on Exploiting Evolved Human Instincts and Cognitive Patterns

A post by Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing titled “Neuroeconomics: sub-prime mortgages exploit a bug in our brains” reminded me of my own musings about how killer apps (and products) exploit basic evolved drives and factors in human psychology.

At The Frontal Cortex science blog, a fascinating explanation of the neurology of subprime mortgages. FMRI research shows that long-term decision-making takes place in a different part of the brain from short-term decisions — so when you offer someone a cheap two-year mortgage followed by 28 years of scorchingly high interest rates, the short-term side jumps in and overrides the sober long-term mind.

It seems not just product niches, but also constructions of capital and formulations of payment systems can exploit evolution and evolved behaviours! Fascinating stuff… and the question is how (and whether) reputation systems like Doctorow’s own notion of “Whuffie” could possibly be built to be impervious to this kind of exploitation. I suspect they can’t, but I’d be interested in seeing an argument that they could.

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