Mind Control APIs and the future and ethics of persuasive machines


Mind control has gone from sci-fi to API. Now AI in the cloud adjust mathematical parameters and cause fitness enthusiasts in real life to run more and diet better. A high-five here – an optimization there – we now share a world with increasingly intelligent machines designed to shape our behavior. How the heck did we get here?! In this surreal present, human behavior is an engineering problem. So is it time to panic? Or time to celebrate? Is this new generation of tools a harbinger of dystopia or the latest in a legacy of public health and thriving?

At Dopamine Labs we’ve built the world’s first API that helps apps hack users’ habits. By optimizing positive reinforcement we help apps keep users engaged, retained, and thriving. Here I explore how we all got to a world of persuasive machines, what role my team and I are playing in setting the tone for the field, and what’s coming next.


Ramsay Brown is an mad scientist, creative technologist, and co-founder of Dopamine Labs in Venice, California (https://www.usedopamine.com.) He uses design, neuroscience, and code to explore the interface of humans and our increasingly intelligent machines. Ramsay’s enthralled by the reciprocal causality between humans and machines, and the implications of their ever poorly-defined boundary. The Modernist conviction that we can build our way to greater human thriving drives his work and play. When he’s not making APIs, he and his co-founder are making IPAs.

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