Free choice is becoming a thing of the past.
The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) – started by the UK government to then in late 2021 became owned by Nesta, which describes itself as an independent charity focused on innovation – has a new report out.
Its authors present it as a "useful guide” toward building “a net zero society,” but critics have pointed out that covert psychological techniques designed specifically to manipulate people is morally reprehensible.
The problem that Behavioural Insights Team (aka, “Nudge Unit”) has found for itself to solve is a part of the climate change agenda, where achieving “net zero” means doing away with greenhouse gas emissions, said to be the cause of global warming.
The unit uses the same type of psychological warfare techniques once deployed by the CIA, but with social media algorithms their effects are 'turbocharged' making them even more morally dubious.
To attain the Net Zero target there is going to have to be a societal shift the likes of which we have never seen in peacetime. Expect to see more of these types of project as 2030 approaches. As with lockdowns and vaccine mandates the government are deploying a whole range of techniques designed to push people into buying what it wants you to but, eating what it wants you to eat, and thinking how it wants you to think.
What you currently have as 'free choice': what you wear, what you eat, how you travel to work etc. will slowly be turned into 'Hobsons choice'. Everything you buy must be the “climate-friendly version that they decide.
The report recommends putting 'prompts' in apps that would direct the user to order less takeaway food through what critics might call “reality transformation” – one suggestion is changing the name of small portions to “regular portions.”. Listing how much carbon a product took to make onto the label is another one of the Nudge Units ideas.
IT case study 12, meanwhile, is about “Helping Solent Transport deliver an effective ‘Mobility as a Service’ app.” Solent Transport is a partnership with local transport authorities, while the main idea here is “encouraging people out of cars” and “nudging” them toward other means of transportation.
BIT case study 15 is one about “encouraging” customers to order smaller portions on takeaway platforms.
Several suggestions are made to make “sustainable food easy,” including utilizing the fact that online shopping “gives many opportunities to provide timely substitution prompts, or encourage personalized goals and tips linked to product filters and ranking.”
BIT says that in producing these case studies of interventions, it partnered with “HMG, the French government, UAE’s Crown Prince Court, World Wildlife Forum, Unilever, Tesco, Sky, Gumtree, and Cogo,” among others. That is a handy list of retailers to boycott.