Respectable agent presents bizarre idea – clickbait?
Whether or not you are familiar with the term “clickbait” you doubtless have experienced it. The carefully worded and highlighted link seems to promise what it cannot possibly give.
When it is from an unknown site, you quickly reject it. But what if it comes from a respectable source? Like this one:
The MIT Lab That’s Teaching Phones to Build Themselves
Here you have a respectable agent – MIT – presenting a very bizarre idea – that phones can learn to build themselves.
Clickbait, so much a reality in our Internet reading/browsing experience, has collectively taught us not to trust the crazy promise and not to click. We have clicked with frequent disappointment. As a result, the marketers get more clever. Perhaps simply in the effort to regain some trust. And one’s curiosity is greatly aroused. We want to check it out. “Oh come on! Phones can’t learn to build themselves. Can they?” And so we click.
Yes, I did click because I trusted the site. The agent (MIT) seemed more than just respected. They were above merely fooling people to get clicks. So I clicked to check it out. The writer and the experimenter both believe the claim to be real. And we read and wonder if it is real. “Wow! Wouldn’t that be cool? Phones that not only build themselves, but that can learn in the process of building themselves.”
The implication here is a phone with tools grabbing parts necessary and attaching some part to the rest of itself using the tool grabbed. Isn’t that what you pictured? Ok so my imagination runs a little quirky. The phone didn’t have tools or hands. Maybe you imagined the phone recording instructions which at a later time enabled self-assembly into a useable product. More usable? Nicer external cover? I mean, what?! The clickbait said phones learn to build phones. What’s the reality?
Here is the reality. Lab experimenters design phone parts that are the last stages of assembly so that these parts will tumble together in a tumbler to form the final product. Right. That’s it. Magnets pull the proper corners into proximity and lock into place so that Part A, B, C, D fits Part A’, B’, C’, D’. That kind of stuff. Here’s the video showing the process.
They “learn” differently than you do. And the key hope is that from this rather silly tumbling the MIT Engineers will learn something. By the way, the engineers had to put the pieces into the tumbler themselves. Human intervention to my eyes!
But why trust me? Read for yourself. There is a modicum of truth to the claim. The principles being discovered in the serious scientific experiments will be used in situations other than cell-phone building. This helps to moderate the bizarre nature of the original claim somewhat.
I searched on the phrase “cell phone that builds itself” and came up with the typical Google page of ten top responses all about self-building phones each from a respectable source. Seven of the ten sites used the word “scientists” in the link to lend some credibility. It was interesting to see that only the article link I had originally come across used the word “teaching.” All the others simply spoke about “self-assembly” or “build itself.” Clearly, the link I found had more bait to it than did the others.
This little experiment provides some guidelines for evaluating clickbait:
- When the site is not known or not trustworthy, then no matter how appealing or “safe” the bait might seem, it is most probably not worth the risk of clicking.
- When the concept is not normal, but the source highly respectable, then there is at least the possibility of a writer or marketer overstating the case, but not at risk for clicking.
- But there are times when, upon examination, there is substance to verify most of what has been claimed. In our example, all was confirmed except for the concept of “teaching” or “learning.” That was a stretch!
Clickbait wastes time by bringing you to a foolish article not able to stand up to the baited claim. The greater risk is that in clicking on the bait, you may be directed to a site that will compromise your computer and the network you are on. Here are some potential risks:
- Dangerous links that host malware and Trojans
- Phishing links that require you to fill in or give access to personal information
- Hijacking your click to a site totally outside the declared destination
- Counterfeit goods sent instead of what the pictures promised
It’s a jungle out there. Click responsibly.