Has anyone else noticed that it feels increasingly hard to be away from your phone? If I’m taking time to be quiet, or to pray, I am much more conscious now of the need to leave my phone in another room to remove the temptation to check emails, twitter or complete the next level of a game. Now people are beginning to ask about what the apps we use every day are created to do, and maybe it’s not surprising to learn that software is designed to get us to keep coming back. In the 1930s scientists studied rats to learn what pattern of rewards taught the rats to repeat behaviour. Now social media ‘likes’, ‘snapstreaks’ and special prize levels are the things that encourage us to keep returning to our apps, with the average person checking their phone 150 times a day! Woah!
So this week, I was really interested to hear that some people are beginning to call for software developers to have a form of the doctor’s Hippocratic Oath. This oath, which has been around for 1000s of years, encourages medical professionals to work in a way that does not harm, but helps their patients. Imagine if a similar oath could encourage software developers to ask ethical questions about whether apps they write are improving people’s lives or not. Food for thought…and now I’m wondering if I should make my notification noise a rat-like ‘eek-eek’!
For a couple of articles about this see:
By the Revd Jo Pestell, Assistant Curate, Cheltenham Network Church (CNC)