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ETHICS OF AI - Manipulation of Behavior

Updated: Jan 21, 2022

The manipulation of behavior using Artificial Intelligence (AI) is as direct as it sounds. With the barely incomprehensible amount of data collected about us every single day — interests, habits, friends, education, employment, health, finances, etc. — we have become quite predictable targets.

Collectors of our data use this information to influence our decision-making and behavior, both on and offline, in a way that threatens our autonomy - an individual’s capacity to make independent rational choices.

“Nudges”, manipulation and deception have long been used in advertising and marketing, though now these companies have access to unprecedented details of who we are. And this manipulation of behavior is extending far beyond companies hoping to sell us their products, it has extended dangerously into the political and voting sphere.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal opened the world’s eyes to this reality. The data analytics firm was accused of profiling and then targeting voters with propagandic advertisements intended to exploit their ‘inner demons’. This affected people throughout the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France and other countries.

Manipulation of behavior is quickly becoming a core business model of the Internet through data collection and exchange. Behavioral biases, deception and addiction generation are the basis of their strategies.

Online manipulation of behavior and addiction generation is not currently regulated in the way gambling and the sale of addictive substances are highly regulated, for example.

Though once again, it is beyond clear that this is an area of Ethics of AI that must be more thoroughly developed to aid lawmakers and governing bodies to curb the daily mass exploitation of our data that has very real and tangible effects on our lives and society as a whole.

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