Algorithmic Nudges Don't Have to Be Unethical


Companies are increasingly using algorithms to manage and control individuals not by force, but rather by nudging them into desirable behavior -- in other words, learning from their personalized data and altering their choices in some subtle way. Since the Cambridge Analytica Scandal in 2017, for example, it is widely known that the flood of targeted advertising and highly personalized content on Facebook may not only nudge users into buying more products, but also to coax and manipulate them into voting for particular political parties. University of Chicago economist Richard Thaler and Harvard Law School professor Cass Sunstein popularized the term "nudge" in 2008, but due to recent advances in AI and machine learning, algorithmic nudging is much more powerful than its non-algorithmic counterpart. With so much data about workers' behavioral patterns at their fingertips, companies can now develop personalized strategies for changing individuals' decisions and behaviors at large scale. These algorithms can be adjusted in real-time, making the approach even more effective.