Proposer: Richard Dowsett (from Hassan’s suggestion)
Social Engineering refers to efforts made to influence attitudes and behaviours –
on a large scale by governments, media, corporations, action groups or,
on a small scale by activists, hackers, con-men or those wishing to gain a social advantage or societal improvement.
These efforts employ:
an understanding of how people make decisions and
the motivations behind their behaviours
to target them in such a way that desired behaviours will be elicited.
Examples of Social Engineering (SE) or where it is employed,
Public Service Ads
Government Campaigns (e.g. anti-smoking)
Political opinion shaping, spin doctoring, news releases
1. Is SE inherently manipulative?
2. Does your view of SE change if its aims are seen as societally positive?
3. Does your view of SE change with the degree of transparency involved?
4. The “calling out” or “naming and shaming” of others’ negative social behaviours could be seen as a form of SE. Discuss the real world benefits and drawbacks of this type of SE.
5. Discuss SE on the following dimensions: Pragmatic, Coercive, Necessary, Ineffective, Ethical, Obsolete
6. Should Humanist groups attempt to create their own "agenda" to infuse into the population psyche using SE? Do SE tactics align with Humanist Principles?
7. Humanist groups are often occupied with preventing religious indoctrination of children in schools. If we were in the position to instill humanist values instead, would we do it? Is this a potential source of hypocrisy?