Have your friends signed up?
Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,305 words, ~5 minute read.
Okay, let's start with ...
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Market researchers are hooking up test subjects to scientific-grade brain scans, searching for triggers that spark emotional connections and affect behavior, Kaveh reports.
What's happening: Deploying tools from neuroscience, firms have been plumbing people's minds in hopes of exerting a stronger influence over their decisions.
The big picture: Already, Big Tech is under fire for sneaky techniques known as "attention hacking” to keep people under the spell of apps and social media feeds. "Dark patterns" allow them to shepherd people through choices — like how much personal information to share — in a way that benefits the companies rather than their users.
Critics warn that the efforts, if successful, would help data-rich companies manipulate consumers.
How it works: Brain tests like electroencephalography (EEG) allow researchers to see how people's brains react, second by second, to experiences like watching a TV ad, scrolling through an app, or popping a redesigned cap on a soda bottle.
Background: This controversial technique took a while to take hold in the marketing world. Only in the last half-decade or so, after Nielsen bought up a firm called NeuroFocus, has consumer neuroscience edged toward the mainstream, says Ming Hsu, a Berkeley marketing professor.
For now, advertisers’ influence tactics are mostly opaque, Hsu says, potentially "polluting our minds with excess associations we don't really need or want."
Kaveh before an EEG test — and his results. Photos: Jenna Richard/Nielsen; Kaveh Waddell/Axios
At a Nielsen office in San Francisco a few weeks ago, I sat on a stool as a neurophysiologist squirted goo into holes in a swim cap she'd fitted on my head, Kaveh writes.
The goofy setup, seen above, prepared me for an EEG test — the kind subjects regularly undergo at the research firm's 16 neuroscience labs around the world.
Sensors bristled from my head. The 32 electrodes in the cap watched for changing magnetic fields from my neurons firing — 500 times a second. Cameras trained at my face watched for twitches and eye movement.
What's happening: The first series of logos and words were meant to establish a baseline — how my brain reacted to them before the TV ad intervened.
Nielsen wouldn't tell me about my own results, but Vines showed me how aggregate findings from test subjects watching the video led the advertiser behind it to make changes, editing out footage that lost viewers' attention and removing distractions from the screen.
This was not a dangerous exercise — apart from having rose-smelling gunk in my hair for the rest of the day.
An Amazon warehouse, Baltimore. Video: Erica Pandey/Axios
With an $18.7 billion deal to buy up 179 million square feet of U.S. warehouse space from Singapore's GLP, Blackstone is again one of the country's major landlords — and many of its buildings are rented out by Amazon, Erica writes.
Quick take on last evening's deal: Axios' Dan Primack reports, "It's the largest such purchase in history and makes Blackstone an even more dominant player in U.S. real estate. It's also the private equity industry's latest 'back to the future' deal, as Blackstone previously owned around half of the properties, selling them to GLP in 2015."
Between the lines: Amazon has long been trying to take control of its own logistics network — adding fleets of trucks and planes to complete its deliveries and offering those capabilities as a service to other companies. But the juggernaut has taken less of an interest in buying warehouses.
Gabriel Zucman, wealth detective (Ben Steverman — BusinessWeek)
To date in 2019, all the temperature records broken (Andrew Freedman — Axios)
My grandfather's secret D-Day Journal (Barry Svrluga — WP)
London, the nightmare track for driverless cars (Alex Eliseev — Wired)
Your new roommate, Alexa (Christopher Mims — WSJ)
Using Netscape. Photo: Hansa-Press/ullstein bild/Getty
This year is the 30th anniversary of Tim Berners-Lee's idea for the World Wide Web. To celebrate how far we've come, Ars Technica looked back at the ancient web browsers of the '90s, Erica writes.
Remember Mosaic? That was the big one co-created by Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina and eventually spun into Netscape. But Mosaic was far from the first.
Some of the very early browsers: