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New Nudge Technology Prods You To Take Action 61 writes Natasha Singer reports at the NYT on a new generation of devices whose primary function is to prod people to change. This new category of nudging technology includes "hydration reminder" apps like Waterlogged that exhort people to increase their water consumption; the HAPIfork, a utensil that vibrates and turns on a light indicator when people eat too quickly; and Thync, "neurosignaling" headgear that delivers electrical pulses intended to energize or relax people. "There is this dumbing-down, which assumes people do not want the data, they just want the devices to help them," says Natasha Dow Schüll. "It is not really about self-knowledge anymore. It's the nurselike application of technology." While some self-zapping gizmos may resemble human cattle prods, other devices use more complex cues to encourage people to adopt new behavior. For example, the Muse, a brain-wave monitoring headband, is intended to help people understand their state of mind by playing different sounds depending on whether they are distracted or calm. "Based on what it registers, it plays loud, disruptive wind or waves lapping or, if you are supercalm and you maintain it for a while, you get calm, lovely noises of birds tweeting," says Schüll. "You do learn to calm your mind.

But do the new self-tracking and self-improvement technologies benefit people or just create more anxiety? An article published in The BMJ, a British medical journal, describes healthy people who use self-tracking apps as "young, asymptomatic, middle-class neurotics continuously monitoring their vital signs while they sleep." Dr. Des Spence argues that many health tracking apps encouraged healthy people to unnecessarily record their normal activities and vital signs — turning users into continuously self-monitoring "neurotics." Spence recommends people view these new technologies with skepticism. "The truth is that these apps and devices are untested and unscientific, and they will open the door of uncertainty," says Spence. "Make no mistake: Diagnostic uncertainty ignites extreme anxiety in people."
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New Nudge Technology Prods You To Take Action

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    You aren't drinking enough water - Get some Aquafina!

    Your blood sugar is low - Stop by Dunkin Donuts and get a dozen!

    You're not sleeping well - Try some Tylenol PM and you'll sleep well tonight!

    And so on...

    • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Monday April 20, 2015 @08:36AM (#49509611) Homepage Journal

      Electrolytes low? Get Brawndo!

    • You don't need water reminders for daily life, nor do you need a water bottle. Nor, for the most part, water.

      You get more or less enough from your food alone. "You need to keep hydrated" is a fraud along the lines of valentine's day stuff -- a complete creation of companies.

      Hehe. You pay twice what you pay for pop...for water.

      • I went on low carbohydrate food regimen over two years ago and my need for water dropped to almost nothing. I drink some coffee in the morning and maybe a glass of water in the evening. Probably much of this thirst is due to people suffering from diabetes or are pre-diabetic.

  • Uncertainty (Score:5, Funny)

    by The Rizz ( 1319 ) on Monday April 20, 2015 @08:27AM (#49509567)

    "Make no mistake: Diagnostic uncertainty ignites extreme anxiety in people."

    I am uncertain of his diagnosis of people in this case, and thinking about that is causing me extreme anxiety. Thanks a lot, Spence!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Purchase something that nags me? What are these people smoking?

    • It is actually not a bad idea at all. I suffer from a lack of motivation, so nagging can be really a help when I know I really need to do something.

  • by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Monday April 20, 2015 @08:32AM (#49509593) Journal
    Many of us are our own worst enemy.

    We make pledges and promises to better ourselves because we recognize at times, we are our own worst enemy... but we regularly fail at self betterment.

    Unfortunately, it's not difficult at all to win a debate with one's self over whether you deserve that pastry, beverage or morning free of exercise.

  • Nothing new (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BarbaraHudson ( 3785311 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `nosduharabrab'> on Monday April 20, 2015 @08:33AM (#49509595) Journal
    We've had devices that have prodded us to change for decades. From the evil bathroom scale to advertisements through movies, radio, tv, etc. trying to nudge us to change our buying habits..
  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Monday April 20, 2015 @08:35AM (#49509603) Homepage

    This is gimmicks, toys, and other crap ... mostly designed to sell analytics to corporations ... utterlly lacking in scientific merit, and serving no real purpose.

      "young, asymptomatic, middle-class neurotics continuously monitoring their vital signs while they sleep."

    Indeed. Pointless solutions to first world problems.

    No thanks, put down your phone and get out and do something.

  • by rossdee ( 243626 ) on Monday April 20, 2015 @08:37AM (#49509617)

    Nudge Nudge
    Wink wink
    Say no more

  • by itzly ( 3699663 ) on Monday April 20, 2015 @08:39AM (#49509623)

    Comes built-in. It's called "thirst"

    • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

      Comes built-in. It's called "thirst"

      So does the "Eating too quickly" reminder. That one is called "choking on your food"

      These "solutions" all seem to be moving away from the idea of being aware of yourself. A cheaper, and more beneficial solution would due to take up a program of meditation.

      • My body doesn't really understand thirst. I can go all day with not a droplet of ingested water and then all of a sudden realize I'm parched. But I'm fairly sure I would ignore them warnings anyway.

        • I've discovered recently that I've been mistaking thirst for hunger. So now when I think I'm hungry I have a glass of water and wait a half an hour, then if I'm still hungry I eat something. It's pretty amazing, about 3 out of 4 times I'm thirsty, not hungry. Go figure.

    • > It's called "thirst"

      Is that a new app? Where can I get that?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        If it was a new app, it would have to be called Therst, Thyrst, or Thrst.

    • Exactly. And there's no evidence that drinking more than that has any benefit whatsoever. []

  • Does that make you feel stressed?" [] Are You Sure, Are You Sure, Are You Sure, Are You Sure...
  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Monday April 20, 2015 @09:04AM (#49509755) Homepage
    We have as a society been conditioned to respond to stimulae. nowhere is this more true than in the United states where advertising is all pervasive and in its goal to sell products, both descructive and deceptive in its employment. Branded drugs should be 'asked about' the next time you go to the doctor, because an elderly couple in clawfoot bathtubs subconsciously promise tranquility and balance. Foods arent high in sodium and fat, theyre "packed with protein" which will help you lose weight, sleep well, and be smarter and healther.

    the easier nudge isnt to create more plastic clip on dongles to rate our restlessness or activity, its to become more accountable on our own terms. Stop tolerating major multinational food companies telling you things are healthy and start independently verifying your consumption. Realize that buy one get one free is just a 50% off sale. Chipotle is just rebranded sugar salt and fat with a nice farm image. Cliff, Kind, Luna, and other 'protein bars' are just candybars with a larger-than-average ad revenue and a clean name. Energy drinks are selling potential in a can of sugar, sodium, and bubbles.

    Looking to consume a product to reign in your product consumption is the very definition of insanity and its only advocated because predatory industries are doing everything they can to keep you from reading a label. So the next time youre at the grocery store remember the most powerful 'take action' fact that no company wants you to understand: 4 grams is 1 teaspoon. Apply that conversion to the sugar salt or fat content in any meal and youll soon realize capitalism wants you fat sick and broke.
  • What next? An app to remind you when to eat? Or when to take a dump and how to wipe your arse afterwards?

    Wait, no, pretend you didn't hear that last one. That's my new project.

    Mind you, I can't really talk. I appear to have a faulty sense of thirst. I can tell whether or not I'm thirsty, but only if I think about it, and even if I am it doesn't give me a great urge to drink. I've got into a routine of finishing off a bottle of water every day (and all without any reminders from my phone!), but before then I

    • I saw this yesterday: It proves to me [] that people really are getting stupider at an alarming rate and that the internet as we once knew it is done for. We might as well just pack it all up and go home, boys.

    • I had this idea of taking pieces of bog roll and compressing them like a very lot and enclosing them in a capsule. You'd swallow them at the end of a meal and when you pooped them out they'd burst and expand automatically hygieneise your botty-wotty. I proposed this to some venture capitalists and they turned me down in favour of some website where you post inane details about your life in a vain attempt to appear like you don't have an utterly pointless existence. Who's laughing now, you bastards?
  • No thanks (Score:5, Funny)

    by wcrowe ( 94389 ) on Monday April 20, 2015 @09:45AM (#49510081)

    I was married for 20 years. If I want to be nagged again I'll go find another wife...

  • to those of us who are already married
  • How about something that prods me to stop reading /. all the time?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    It kept asking me if my wife was a "goer."

  • "God damn these electric sex pants!"
  • Any system which generates alerts will quickly become an annoyance []. That is one of the biggest problems in healthcare applications; too many alerts and the doctors ignore them, not enough alerts and the system is useless. Nobody has found the happy middle ground yet.
  • Diagnostic uncertainty ignites extreme anxiety in people

    This is unscientific against unscientific: where are the studies showing these device cause anxiety?

Executive ability is deciding quickly and getting somebody else to do the work. -- John G. Pollard