DESPERATELY SEEKING DOPAMINE –
June 19, 2020 – The assembly line, processing power, and Amazon Prime have not only met the minimum thresholds for survival but created a new threat to our species: superabundance. Diabetes, income inequality, and fake news — all are a function of our belief that more is better. Jeff Bezos capturing and hoarding the GDP of Norway doesn’t make sense for the species, but his instincts (fear of starvation, wielding power) reign supreme.
Survival, propagation, and consumption should result in a next generation that’s smarter, faster, and stronger. Where things have come off the rails is a function of our innovation economy moving faster than our instincts. Historically, humans have engaged in activities that have natural stopping cues — the end of a chapter, the end credits. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Netflix have systematically eradicated these cues. Just as casinos are deliberately laid out without hard angles: It’s all one continuous space and you keep moving through it, on to the next game.
Technological progress lapping the calibration of our instincts culminates in an endless scroll. We’re unable to find the off switch. Unlike our parents and grandparents, for us dopamine release no longer depends on sacrifice, engagement, or grit, but on sitting still, as in 15, 14, 13 seconds episode 5 of Killing Eve will begin. There are more filtered photos, more porn, more equities, more margin, more dopa — more time without the nuisance of needing to engage in … life.
The most recent crack dealers are online trading platforms (OTPs). What does endless scroll look like on a trading platform?
- Confetti falls to celebrate transactions.
- Candy Crush interface.
- Gamification: Users can tap up to 1000x per day to improve their position on the waitlist for Robinhood’s cash management feature (essentially a high-yield checking account on the app).
Our institutions (courts, Congress, the SEC) are supposed to slow our thinking so our reflexive instincts are checked and we can decide not to discriminate, not to pour mercury into the rivers, and not to let a bankrupt car rental firm (Hertz) issue shares bound to be worthless. You lose, they win.