Social Engineering

Social engineering is the science of influencing the thoughts and opinions of large groups of people. It is perhaps better known for the various sub-fields it encompasses, such as propaganda, memetics marketing and many forms of religion. Of note is how many people associate very different images with these sub-fields, while the principles, goals and methods used are near identical regardless of whether it is a corporation promoting a product or a nation working to spread an ideology.

Social engineering can be said to have two main fields: making the target group believe the desired course of action is desirable, and genuinely making that course of action more desirable. The first is used more commonly, but successful long-term efforts usually involve the second to some extent.

The first is most commonly achieved either by stealth or by saturation. If the target is aware that its behaviour is being directed towards a course of action it would not normally take, it will attempt to cancel out the engineering. Therefore advertising AIs, social network inserts, product placement, role model influencing, and other such methods are popular. The closer the channel is to 'genuine advice' the better. Alternatively, saturation can be used, in which the target is repeatedly and frequently exposed to material or persons advocating the desired opinions. This is generally more reliable, but it is an expensive method that requires a great deal of influence on the target's environment. As such it is usually the domain of government style entities and megacorporations.

A sizable portion of social engineering is not devoted to studying how to best influence people, but rather to how to counter the influence of others.

It should be noted that social engineering which relies on, for example, a chemical/pharmaceutical element has crossed firmly into the realms of definite indoctrination. While many forms of social engineering border this anyway, they often maintain a comfortable degree of plausible deniablity.