The Nudging Divide in the Digital Big Data Era

Julia M. Puaschunder in the International Robotics & Automation Journal: “Since the end of the 1970ies a wide range of psychological, economic and sociological laboratory and field experiments proved human beings deviating from rational choices and standard neo-classical profit maximization axioms to fail to explain how human actually behave. Behavioral economists proposed to nudge and wink citizens to make better choices for them with many different applications. While the motivation behind nudging appears as a noble endeavor to foster peoples’ lives around the world in very many different applications, the nudging approach raises questions of social hierarchy and class division. The motivating force of the nudgital society may open a gate of exploitation of the populace and – based on privacy infringements – stripping them involuntarily from their own decision power in the shadow of legally-permitted libertarian paternalism and under the cloak of the noble goal of welfare-improving global governance. Nudging enables nudgers to plunder the simple uneducated citizen, who is neither aware of the nudging strategies nor able to oversee the tactics used by the nudgers.

The nudgers are thereby legally protected by democratically assigned positions they hold or by outsourcing strategies used, in which social media plays a crucial rule. Social media forces are captured as unfolding a class dividing nudgital society, in which the provider of social communication tools can reap surplus value from the information shared of social media users. The social media provider thereby becomes a capitalist-industrialist, who benefits from the information shared by social media users, or so-called consumer-workers, who share private information in their wish to interact with friends and communicate to public. The social media capitalist-industrialist reaps surplus value from the social media consumer-workers’ information sharing, which stems from nudging social media users. For one, social media space can be sold to marketers who can constantly penetrate the consumer-worker in a subliminal way with advertisements. But also nudging occurs as the big data compiled about the social media consumer-worker can be resold to marketers and technocrats to draw inferences about consumer choices, contemporary market trends or individual personality cues used for governance control, such as, for instance, border protection and tax compliance purposes.

The law of motion of the nudging societies holds an unequal concentration of power of those who have access to compiled data and who abuse their position under the cloak of hidden persuasion and in the shadow of paternalism. In the nudgital society, information, education and differing social classes determine who the nudgers and who the nudged are. Humans end in different silos or bubbles that differ in who has power and control and who is deceived and being ruled. The owners of the means of governance are able to reap a surplus value in a hidden persuasion, protected by the legal vacuum to curb libertarian paternalism, in the moral shadow of the unnoticeable guidance and under the cloak of the presumption that some know what is more rational than others. All these features lead to an unprecedented contemporary class struggle between the nudgers (those who nudge) and the nudged (those who are nudged), who are divided by the implicit means of governance in the digital scenery. In this light, governing our common welfare through deceptive means and outsourced governance on social media appears critical. In combination with the underlying assumption of the nudgers knowing better what is right, just and fair within society, the digital age and social media tools hold potential unprecedented ethical challenges….(More)”