I was reminded recently of the work of Dr. BF Skinner. I will explain for those who aren't familiar. I am sure most will understand what I mean.
The work I am interested in is with rats, and modifying their behavior. The goal is to see if you can get a rat to push a lever. Rats do not usually push levers, after all. So, what is the first try? You tie its food to pushing the lever. Rat pushes lever and, in return, gets food. Seems to work. It gets the rat to push the lever, when it is hungry. Say you want the rat to push the lever more. So, you hook a computer to the lever and have it give food at random lever pushes. Now the rat pushes the lever more. If you give thr rat a choice between cocaine and food, it will choose the cocaine lever. In fact, cocaine works better. It is so with humans, too. Whatever stimulates those pleasure centers in the brain. Rats, and people, for that fact, will starve to get that rush...that pleasure, that high. Now you have your coke-addicted rat pushing the lever quite often, but not all the time. How to get it on that lever all the time? You taser the little bastard's feet if it doesn't hit the lever for a certain interval, which can also be somewhat randomized. Say 2-7 seconds.
Let me just add that electrocuting the bottoms of the feet of an animal that MUST get around by walking is real dick move, by the by.
So what does this have to do with anything?
Well, think about World of Warcraft. Essential equipment is only dropped at random. In Farmville, if you do not log on for a time, your crops, that you have invested time in, will wither. These are Skinner Boxes. I know the term is derogatory, but I am using it anyway. These things are designed to keep you hitting that mouse button. Erm lever.
So, upon this realization, I decided to get away from Skinner Boxes. Am I simply maintaining something because I have invested in it, or am I enjoying what I am doing?
So I started looking around, and realized that a great majority of the internet is Skinner Boxes. Chat rooms, forums, blogs, games; these are all things we keep up on to be in the know. But is it just maintaining your status? Do you go to places on the web where the drama is simply frustrating? Why?
So I went offline a bit. But then it hit me. Life is a series of Skinner Boxes. Work definitely is. Even if you like your job, you are rewarded, somewhat at random, for the work you do. Pay is essential, but bonuses, raises praise, recognition? These are random acts of management.
Relationships, love, hate, esteem..these things are powerful. Anything that stimulates our pleasure centers is automatically good, and we, as people, will step over whomever is necessary to get that fix. It explains a lot of douchebag behavior that is seen every day. From the evil bastard who badmouths you in front of the boss, to road rage.
The common thread is the reward/punishment structure. It is everywhere. We are all in Skinner Boxes. The only true choice we have is which box we wish to be in.
I am Nightfall, and I am a coke addict.
And I have a sneaky suspicion we all are.