Using Curiosity to Get at Motive

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Photo by Acagastya / CC0

Every few weeks, out of boredom, I end up on Google Photo’s Assistant tab. It gives me a tug on heart strings, showing me photos from around the same period a year ago, two years, fives years, etc.

Beyond the cloud of emotion, it’s difficult to understand what just happened. I was duped. I had my emotions played with in order for me to have some affinity towards an app. This is so disgu…. awww… she’s so cute! I can’t believe she was so small.

There I am, back in oblivion, doing what the app expected me to do.

I can look at this manipulation in a few ways. I can see the product manager looking after that particular feature using photos of my loved ones as a way to game her metrics for career advancement and having some selfish motive. It makes the product manager into a “them”.

Or, I can look at the effect on me, that I have no negative side effect expect for being nostalgic, and that whoever designed it wanted to enrich my life with something delightful.

There’s an adage that those who usually see others as bad are bad themselves or are seeing in others their own reflection. I don’t buy that — people can develop all sorts of negative outlooks as a result of their environments. But maybe before we see all corporations and apps that we actually use everyday and love as evil, we can apply a filter that there are actually real people trying to build things that people really like.

Most people want to be good. They want to build things that will help others. This doesn’t mean we should be naive but we should start with that assumption when it comes to apps but then vigorously apply curiosity to when something seems different or wrong. Curiosity is a better tool as it doesn’t negatively affect the person wielded it, like suspicion, but can still reveal negative intentions.

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