The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

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The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

Opinion: Some scientists do more harm to society than good

Some+scientists+work+at+companies+that+try+to+make+their+products+as+addictive+as+possible.
Mila Hamby
Some scientists work at companies that try to make their products as addictive as possible.

Take a look around you.

Often, you might see someone hooked to something that they are addicted to, whether that be social media, drugs, or even food. A big reason for that addiction is not even their fault. 

Behind the scenes, scientists optimize products so the consumer will be as hooked as possible. When it comes to social media, scientists called “attention engineers” figure out every way to keep their users on the platform. A few prominent examples of attention engineering are the autoplay feature on YouTube and infinite scroll on platforms like Instagram.

According to Anna Lembke, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford, social media companies take advantage of the brain’s dopamine system. Lembke stated that the dopamine hit social media gives is comparable to drugs or alcohol. Because there is so much dopamine that stems from social media, it compels users to continue to stay on the platform.

According to Statista, social media companies made $36.14 billion from advertising revenue in 2019. With their attention engineers, social media companies are continuing to find every way to increase that profit margin despite the numerous adverse health effects of excessive social media use. In fact, excessive social media usage has forced the World Health Organization to create a long-term global strategy for digital health.

Scientists have also figured out how to make food more addictive. A study published on the National Library of Medicine’s online site explores the correlation between food and addiction and shows that tasty foods are similar to addictive drugs. The American diet has changed to make food taste good, making it more addictive. 

Howard Moskovitz, a market researcher and psychophysicist, is a prime example of a scientist optimizing a food’s taste. In an NPR podcast with Michael Moss, an investigative journalist who wrote a book on food addiction, Moss explained that Moskovitz tested 59 sweetness levels to optimize the taste of cherry vanilla flavoring for Dr. Pepper.

As a result of Mosokovitz’s work, many people enjoy the optimized taste of cherry vanilla-flavored Dr. Pepper soda. However, these optimized foods and drinks come at the cost of the customer’s health. These optimized foods are often high in sugar and fat, which cause well-documented health problems.

For instance, take obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, severe obesity has nearly doubled in the last 20 years. The obesity epidemic affects the economy as a whole due to the medical costs of obesity being $173 billion. 

Even after hundreds of years, people get hooked on drugs and succumb to their addictive nature. A more prominent example in recent history is the vape, which companies have marketed by emphasizing that their e-cigarettes are flavored, according to Flavors Hook Kids

Though most scientists optimize drugs to heal ailing patients, companies like JUUL optimize drugs for their profit at the expense of people’s health. According to Vox, JUUL primarily targets kids who are not fully developed and far less ready to take on the effects of vape. That profit has resulted in kids consuming harmful chemicals like nicotine and using vape as a coping mechanism

The common reason companies optimize these products is money, and companies are taking advantage of addictions to make a profit. Companies will get scientists to optimize their products just so they can make a bit of extra money, prioritizing profit over the well-being of their consumers. 

Because so many products are optimized for addiction, it is tough on the consumer. We have seen a rise in mental health issues, obesity, and even deaths from drugs like fentanyl

The average person can do little about these companies creating these products, and discipline will only get people so far when it comes to curing their addictions. It is on the government and law enforcement, like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to make sure these addictive products are regulated and limited to prevent consumers from suffering more. 

Scientists that create addictive products will continue to reap the rewards of money and profits, while the people that consume these same products will continue to suffer both physically and mentally. While people are starting to catch onto how addictive some of these products are, solving the problems caused by these companies is a difficult task. 

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About the Contributors
Evan Leong, Scot Scoop Editor
Evan Leong is a senior at Carlmont High School, and this is his third year in journalism. He is excited to continue his journalism journey as an editor for Scot Scoop while exploring new ideas and writing topics. Outside of school, he enjoys playing violin, chess, basketball, and hanging out with friends. View his portfolio here. Twitter: @eLeong21
Mila Hamby, Staff Writer
Mila Hamby is a sophomore who loves learning about the world. She's a passionate jazz musician and multi-instrumentalist (mainly baritone saxophone) and loves her community. She also writes songs and poetry in her free time. Twitter: @mila_hamby

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The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.
Opinion: Some scientists do more harm to society than good