Lies by Design


ComputerDeceptioncEmoryAllenI wrote an essay for the most recent issue of Pacific Standard in which I investigate the extent to which modern technology deceives us. In some of these deceptions we play an active role. I’m thinking, in particular, of placebo buttons (elevator close buttons or crosswalk buttons that don’t actually perform their stated function). We press them to as if we’ve done our duty, but in reality many elevator doors and crosswalks work on their own timers.

But there are other examples of deceptive technologies that aren’t so harmless. These include online ads or shopping carts that trick us into clicks we don’t intend, or confusing settings on social networks that end up allowing our profiles to reveal more information than we intend.

My piece for Pacific Standard looks at a variety of modes of deception in technology and poses the question: how we might think about designing deception into future computer systems? And ultimately, how exactly should our artificial intelligence lie to us?

Click here to read the full essay.

Click here to listen to me discuss deceptive technology on New Hampshire Public Radio’s “Word of Mouth.”

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