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AI-powered "what you should know" distractions

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic May 04, 2021
An app that tries to outcompete other attention traps by suggesting the most valuable pieces of information you could possibly want at any given moment.

It would effectively fight fire with fire. A guardian angel that plays on the level of the "enemy" but for your team.

Install a browser plugin and give it permission to monitor everything you do online. It would try to make sense of your current interests. A Watson type of artificial intelligence would then suggest the best bits of knowledge, summarized enough to make it understandable at a glance. The summaries would link to papers, articles, books, videos where you could expand on the topic if it catches your attention.

The app would try to compete for your attention by suggesting the most valuable information you could possibly need/want at any given moment. It would compete for your attention ONLY when you fall down the well at any known attention traps (tik-tok, instagram, twitter, fb, etc.). When you spend more than X minutes on any social media, the app would try to pry you out of it. As soon as the suggestions came on, you would know that you overstayed. The app would try to save your time by directing it at more valuable/productive options.

People generally appreciate being:
  • entertained
  • inspired
  • educated
I guess this app would prioritize education with a pinch of inspiration and figure out ways to outcompete entertainment-focused attention traps. Allthewhile figuring out your current passions and nudging you towards the best possible pieces of info that will set you up for success in whatever it is you are going for.

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watson_(computer)

6
Creative contributions

The app should predict your next step

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni May 05, 2021
The idea has huge potential. The AI should be one step ahead and predict what you will do next. This way, it can lead and you can follow. This is because most distractions out there lead you. To compete with such leading distractions, the AI should be a leader, too. Whenever you feel it has given you enough to boost your own creativity and start working without its help, you can switch it off.

To predict your next step, maybe it can study your routine. For example, if it knows that you cook at around 11 AM, it can feed you new recipes starting from 10:30 AM. Also, the recipes can be based on your diet choices (easily discernible from your Youtube history) and ingredients available in your area. Also, if it knows that your city is being locked down, it should feed you fun DIY videos that you can work on at home or things that you can spend your time on in isolation well.

Endless scroll

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Spook Louw
Spook Louw May 05, 2021
One of the reasons it's so difficult to get out of these traps is because we get stuck in this loop of endless scrolling, always just wanting to watch one more video, or see one more meme or whatever. This is what the most successful (and most addictive) social media sites are all built on.
Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and Instagram allow their users to just keep scrolling and be barraged with an endless supply of information.

We can use this information in 2 ways:

1 - The program/app could mimic it, but rather than providing hours of cheap, hollow information it could expose users to enriching and inspiring data.
2 - We can use it to break free from that addiction by programming it, like you said, to interrupt that endless scroll.

I think it's a great idea and the AI doesn't necessarily have to be very advanced. You can simply choose a couple of topics that you are interested in, set a timer that begins everytime you open a certain app (the usual culprits: social media, games)

Of course, what you're suggesting would be more effective, with the AI predicting what we need at that moment, but I'm just suggesting that in the meantime, a simpler approach could still have a pretty good impact.

I think it's a great idea, it reminds me of what Stumbleupon.com used to do, unfortunately they were bought by another company and they changed their format.

Few points to discuss

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J
Juran May 05, 2021
The idea is really cool and would help many people, including myself, to get out of the loop of endless scrolling, but...

... what if the idea is not original and actually all the social media (not all but many) try to do the same?
They give us a choice to follow who we want and get the information we want. The cookies are meant to enhance scrolling, browsing, or shopping online in order to serve us perfect content.

Would that mean that the endless scrolling over "junk" is a result of our choice and our conscious trying to get a break from meaningful stuff?
I am really keen on believing that in many users, the proposed app would gradually result in an interruption of our Instagram scrolling routine with other meaningless information from a new app.


Points to discuss here could be:
  • in my opinion, it is important NOT to let a person choose the cathegories and the type of information which will "distract" him --> it should be solely AI-driven
  • AI should be able to distinct between the content I spend a lot of time on because I am interested and the content I just randomly scroll (for fun or when I'm bored)
  • same like the Brainstorming aims to be more useful and translatable/efficient than Quora, this app's content needs to be more useful than Tik-Tok's or Instagram's --> do we have a problem that people do not seek for value while endlessly scrolling?
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Samuel Bello
Samuel Belloa month ago
One could argue that no idea is entirely original. The main point is that the system that keeps the user from getting distracted or attracted to "time-wasting" activities is all-encompassing and there is a higher level of the suggestion.

The decisions that users make whether to continue scrolling or stop immediately is not entirely their decision since the suggestions have already biased them. It takes some willpower to stop scrolling once you start and the required self-control will not have been necessary if the suggestions were not there at all.

Preventing the user from clicking the link will feel very restrictive. It may be better to not let the user see the options at all, like a browser's adblockers work. Another way to do this is that the scrolling can be interrupted at regular intervals whenever the user deviates; to ask the user if he wants to continue scrolling on the "unproductive" post or page.
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic4 months ago
You make a good point. People generally want to be:
- entertained
- inspired
- educated

I guess this app would prioritize education with a pinch of inspiration and figure out ways to outcompete entertainment-focused attention traps.

Just a simpler approach until the AI tech develops

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Spook Louw
Spook Louw May 06, 2021
Although I think the original idea is great, the AI technology needed might still take a while to get developed.
Another approach to this could be to simply curate lists of articles, websites and videos for people. Users could then choose between: "Inspire me", "Educate me" or "Entertain me".
The website or app could then provide high-quality, fitting content in a list form. You can skip or dislike articles you don't like, which would help the algorithm learn what you like, but instead of using AI to realize when you are caught in an attention trap, it would require the user to make the conscious decision to be exposed to a certain type of content.
The database of content that the program chooses from to suggest to you can be compiled by a human team, ensuring that every article, website or video is of high quality.
This approach might not solve the problem of getting lost in loops of scrolling and wasting time, but it could eliminate a lot of the rubbish you usually need to get through to find something worthwhile.

What about the content?

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni May 06, 2021
I am assuming the content will come from the existing platforms - Youtube, Instagram, Twitter, etc.? In that case, should the content be moderated, since we have a different purpose here? We don't want hollow content. Alternatively, the AI can feed on the existing content and pick only what the user needs to go through as against what they/ want to go through (this is what @J. meant in the second point). However, hollow content might be necessary to ease the users into richer content. Bombarding them from the start with rich content might scare them away. In that case, start with the hollow videos the user is hooked on over the years and then start feeding parallels that are a bit richer. The rich content and the hollow content should have a connection; the rich content should not come across as abrupt, which itself could be a distraction and the user may scroll through them. Gradually, the percent hollow content decreases. We may not be able to completely eliminate it since some cheat days may be necessary.

The thing with the content out there is that it is either made for users who are simply scrolling through (completely hollow but very attractive) or for learners (very rich and somewhat attractive; maybe least attractive for many users). We need content that has an essence of both since we don't want the user to scroll through without watching it. We might need moderation here. What do you think?
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic4 months ago
I was thinking that the content would come from scientific papers, Wikipedia, blogs, podcasts, youtube lectures, blogs, even Twitter. Maybe not from Instagram, tik-tok, etc.

AI via GPT3 should be able to write amazing, "tweet-sized" summaries to get your attention and direct it to something valuable. AI should even be able to generate video/audio content. It can even come in form of a deep-fake lecture from your favorite person:)
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni4 months ago
Darko Savic Not sure about the deep-fake lectures :) They might create newer problems. But I get the idea. Tweet-sized summaries are a good idea but they cannot be as attractive as a video with a cover picture of a dog chasing a rabbit, or the best beef wellington, or anything that the user would indulge in. The summaries will lose the competition. The feed should be mixed, in my opinion, filled with tweets, photos, memes, and videos, all geared to provide information and not just entertainment. How about this - the app will actually be an algorithm that will dominate over the algorithm of Youtube, Twitter, etc. and then these apps will give you a richer experience. This way, the content will already be there. The algorithm will take you gradually from the stuff you like to stuff you need. You will ultimately be spending more time on meaningful content.
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic4 months ago
Shubhankar Kulkarni So uses the same platforms as always, just outsource the recommendation algorithm to one that has your interests in mind rather than the platform's.

How can educational content compete with entertaining content?

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic May 08, 2021
How can educational content compete with entertaining content?

By employing every trick in the book. Example:

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General comments

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Spook Louw
Spook Louw4 months ago
Another driving force we can consider is fame/popularity and competition.

People crave the sense of validation they get from being noticed, I.e. likes, follows and comments. Could this be incorporated in a way that gives people the same satisfaction, but with more productive results?
Perhaps you can have a "wall" that displays the number of articles you have read on a certain topic. Or there could be short comprehension tests available, you can then display your scores on your profile.

I think this train of thought goes against the core principles of the idea, as it is meant to be a tool to better yourself. That said, in order to get people to participate we need to consider what motivates them and competition and fame has always been a great driving force for humans.