Monday, September 25, 2017

Dopamine Labs: "Meet the tech company that wants to make you even more addicted to your phone"

Following up on "If You Want To Be Happy, Listen Up. Now! alternative title: The FT's Izabella Kaminska Is...".
Go listen or bookmark, I'll wait.

O.K., from TechCrunch:

With a magic line of code, Dopamine Labs aims to give any app the same addictive power that Facebook, Zynga and others have spent millions to perfect.
The company — a product of the little-heard joke “What do you get when a neuro-psychologist and a neuro-economist walk into bar?” — is the culmination of years of research that Ramsay Brown and co-founder T. Dalton Combs conducted at the University of Southern California.

Now, armed with $1 million in seed funding and some initial data that their experiments in mind control actually work, Dopamine Labs is spending money to boost its staff and sales and marketing efforts to bring more apps in on its brain science.

Much of that million in funding came from the now-defunct Lowercase Capital, which was helmed by Chris Sacca and Matt Mazzeo. Dopamine appears to be one of the firm’s last deals before both Sacca and Mazzeo became embroiled in the sexual misconduct scandals that swept the venture industry during 2017’s long, lurid summer.

While Brown condemned the behavior that’s been attributed to Sacca — and expressed disappointment that Mazzeo found the same troubles at his would-be new home, Binary Capital — he said that it didn’t dissuade him from taking Lowercase’s money.

“It’s all of our jobs in the community to make sure that those kinds of attitudes and beliefs don’t have a place in the industry going forward,” Brown told me. “It’s our job to make sure that everyone gets treated as a human, not as an object.”

Beyond Lowercase Capital, additional investments in the round came from Social Starts, one of the most prolific early-stage investment firms; Deep Fork Capital; and First Round Capital founder Howard Morgan, through a personal investment. Morgan is also taking a seat on the Dopamine Labs board of directors.

“I was excited to find a strong team that had deep knowledge of neuroscience, and an understanding of how to apply it in today’s world where people are so often overloaded with inputs,” said Morgan, in a statement. “I think Dopamine can become a major tool with many applications and am happy to have invested and to be helping them grow.”

What attracted these investors, said Brown, are the results that Dopamine Labs has seen with the pilot customers it’s enrolled for its addiction experiment.

“As you collect more data, things happen within the data set that improves the quality of the model, which in turn improves the quality of the service,” Brown said....

We linked to TechCrunch's first look at DL in February's "L.A. Startup Dopamine Labs Manipulates Your Neurotransmitters to Hook You On Apps (and maybe unhook you)"

Additionally, we have dozens and dozens of posts on the effects of neurotransmitters on, well everything:

"Your genes affect your betting behavior"
A subject near and dear, some links below.
From the University of California at Berkeley...

Want to Make Big Money? Engineer A Little Addiction Into Your Product
"New research suggests link between genetics, Wall Street success"
Berlusconi Blames Stock Market Volatility On Cocaine (and a look at neurotransmitters)
The Leadership Gene: DAT1
The Internet, Deflation and Depression
...Further, the newspapers likened the changes to those seen in cocaine abusers but went on to describe something quite different from my understanding of what blow does to the reward pathways, overexciting the dopamine cascade until the various D receptors no longer react to dopamine and eventually leading to anhedonia. The big A is often concurrent with and like anxiety, may even kindle for, depression.
Don't worry, be happy.
And our addition to the earlier DL post, some of the research on FaceBook:

Here are a couple papers on one of the more troubling apps:
A Qualitative Exploration of Facebook Addiction:  Working toward Construct Validity
The obsessive checking behavior some users exhibit is virtually indistinguishable from obsessive-compulsive disorder while the anxiety occasioned by withdrawal sure looks miserable....