...what if we had governments coming up with the desired outcomes, behavioral scientists determining how to manipulate users into producing those outcomes, and game designers figuring out the best way to put those ideas into a game?
I warned you in 2010 when I published Episode 145 of my podcast, "You Are Being Gamed." I warned you in 2015 when I released my video on "Sesame Credit: China’s Creepy New Social Engineering Experiment". I warned you last year in these very pages when I penned my article detailing how "The CIA’s ‘Pokémon Go’ App is Doing What the Patriot Act Can’t."
Even then, the threat was clear: behavioral science has merged with game design, creating virtual Skinner boxes that have been carefully crafted to keep millions of people doing meaningless, repetitive tasks for thousands of hours. Those techniques are being studied by (and in some cases, like in China, implemented by) governments to better shape and manipulate the behaviors of their citizens. And this merger of behavioral science, gaming and government will be one of the biggest threats to free humanity in the history of the human species.
But you didn't listen, did you? You thought, like so many have thought before in so many different contexts, that it could never happen here. It could never happen to us.
Well, guess what? It's happening. They're rolling out the governmental behavior control games, and they're not even hiding it. The nightmare future has arrived.
This time it's coming from the Canadian government, which the brainwashed Canadian public has been duped into believing is a doting mother that wants nothing more than to swaddle her citizen/children in her loving arms. I should know, having been born in the geographical space that the mapmakers call "Canada" and having the word "Canadian" stamped on my passport. Then again, that's the same magical book that allows me to pass the imaginary lines of the psychopathic control freaks and that declares me to be a loyal subject of Her Majesty Queen Elizardbeast, so take it with a grain of salt. But the point is: Canadians have been taught to love their government, not fear it.
And what better sign of that maternal love than a government-sponsored app to encourage you to live a healthier lifestyle? Well, guess what, fellow comrade of the Canadian socialist utopia? You're in luck! The government of Ontario has just announced that they're investing $1.5 million in just such an app. And the CBC, the media indoctrination arm of the Canadian government's Ministry of Truth, tells us this is because they are betting the app will make you healthy, so what could possibly go wrong here?
The long story short: in 2015 the Public Health Agency of Canada teamed up with the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Canadian Diabetes Association and YMCA Canada to create an app that would manipulate its users into pre-determined behaviors, in this case "healthy behaviors" (as determined by the Canadian government and its cohorts, of course). The app rewards users for "correct" behavior with points that can then be redeemed for real world goods via tie-ins with popular Canadian loyalty and point programs like Aeroplan, Petro Points, Scene (Cineplex) and More Rewards. The Canadian government ponied up $5 million to get the app off the ground.
So, just to be crystal clear: the Canadian government has openly developed a behavioral modification program to reward citizens for "good" behavior. And the very best part? The app is named "Carrot Rewards." As in "carrot and stick." You can't make this stuff up.
The app is so far only available in British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Ontario (but you can petition your provincial government to partner with the program, too!) and has 300,000 registered users.
Now let's play a little game of our own: I challenge you to go out there and find a single article, video, newscast or blog post about the Carrot Rewards App that isn't spine-chillingly creepy. I don't exempt the app's official feel-good marketing dreck from that challenge, either. In fact, the advertisements for this app are especially creepy.
I mean, listen to their tag-line: "Guiding and rewarding you every step of the way!"
Or listen to their CEO gloating about how successful they are at invading your privacy: "the beauty about the app is once it knows you well, it can target you with much more specific (information)."
Or watch the advertisements...er, I mean "newscasts" that seek to explain the app to new rodents...I mean "users," boasting that "the app will talk to you all the time and say 'why don't you take a quiz about the flu shot?'"
Seriously? Have I become so far detached from the realm of normie politics that I read too much into everything, or has the entire world gone completely mad? I'm going with the latter.
But maybe you're not convinced yet.
"Oh, sure, James. It's kind of creepy for the government to be rewarding citizens for their behavior. And the idea that the government is watching everything you're doing in real-time via your pocket slave device is a bit Orwellian. And this could be the thin edge of the wedge for something more sinister...But look at the app! It's a healthy living app. You get points for exercising and getting a good night's sleep and what not! Isn't this a good thing? I mean, it's not like they're pushing big pharma or vaccine propaganda or anything harmful with it, are they?"
Oh but yes, dear reader, they most certainly are.
As you'll have seen from the creepy coverage of the app, Carrot Rewards is constantly bugging you to get your flu shot, or rewarding you for successfully completing their propaganda quizzes about flu shots and other big pharma-approved medical "science." And that's not all! The app will also train you to "care [more] about the environment" (presumably by memorizing chapter and verse of the Holy Bible of Climatology) and, bizarrely, to "be more financially literate because financial literacy is one of the most important predeterminants of health."
Yes, that's right, the same Canadian government that purposefully converted their public central bank into a Federal Reserve clone and stewarded over more financial follies, scandals, debacles and disasters than you could shake a stick at is now presuming to teach their citizens financial literacy by dishing out reward points on a behavior-modification app. There are no words...
The worst part of all of this is that this app and the many similar ones that are coming soon to a country near you are the fulfillment of humanity's worst nightmare: the merging of behavioral science with game design and governmental control. As Carnegie Mellon's Jesse Schell pointed out in his "Most Disturbing Presentation Ever" in 2010, all three of these fields of study provide windows into human nature and potential for behavior modification, but up until now we've had behavioral scientists trying to design games and game designers trying to manipulate behavior. But what if we had governments coming up with the desired outcomes, behavioral scientists determining how to manipulate users into producing those outcomes, and game designers figuring out the best way to put those ideas into a game? Wouldn't that be the most powerful and effective way to alter the habits and behaviors of a given population?
Well wouldn't you know it, that is exactly the combination of inputs that Carrot Rewards CEO Andreas Souvaliotis openly brags about: "The healthy messaging is provided by governments and agencies, and then behavioural scientists work to make it appealing for app users."
Ladies and gentlemen, I truly don't know what else to say about how insidious and creepy this all is.
I could encourage you to revisit Huxley's rebuke of Orwell, where he points out that the tyrannies of the future will not be Nineteen Eighty Four-style boot-in-the-face police states but Brave New World-style dystopias employing psychological conditioning and narco-hypnotic suggestion.
I could tell you to revisit the work of Neil Postman, who spent many years warning us about how we are Amusing Ourselves to Death and sleepwalking into a society where substantive critique and debate on important subjects are being subsumed by mere televisual entertainment.
I could exhort you to re-read the opening passage of Edward Bernays book on Propaganda where he writes: "The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country."
But I'm afraid if you don't see it by this point, you probably never will. To you I'll just say: "Enjoy your app!" And to the rest, I'll say: The gap between you and the rest of the herd is about to get even wider. Prepare yourselves accordingly.