Computers as Skinner Boxes

This post is inspired, in part, by a fantastic book called Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman. The book examines the impact of different types
of media on the minds of the people using it, starting with the written word, moving to the telegraph on up to the television. It is quite dense for
its size; reader be warned.

Unfortunately, since it was written in the 1980’s, it didn’t focus as much on computers. I think computers can be thought of as Skinner boxes.
Skinner boxes are the name of a cage used by BF Skinner in his learning experiments. They had levers for dispensing food and the effect of various
buttons and levers could be changed up over time. The computer is quite similar.

What confounds this is that people are already operating from within Skinner boxes. Most people, even if they know that what they are experiencing
isn’t in the strictest sense “true”, still operate on that pretense.

In the words of Christopher Hyatt, people live “in bubble(s) of superstition(s), where magical rewards and punishments abound.” What people think
is real is actually just their brain’s encoding of the environment.

This explains why people get frustrated at lag times in internet service or when their computer is slow. The buttons aren’t having their intended

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