The Watercooler
Thoughts on engineering and the working life.

Our Technological Advances

By Hoang Do
Thursday, January 03, 2002

[Image]Let me set the scene: I am waiting on the queue to talk to someone at Capital One Visa.  I am in the process of moving to another city and need to make an address change on my account in their file.  I have been on the phone waiting for over 30 minutes and have been listening to their waiting music.  It's holiday music and every 4 minutes or so, there is a recorded voice:  "we are having a high call volume at the moment.... but your call is important to us... badabada....". 

I have noticed that increasingly I run into these sorts of things in our society.  These automatons are nothing but machines impersonating human beings in order to provide us with some sort of reassurance that we are being taken cared of.  In truth, we aren't.  We are just another number on a queue to be attended to casually when we reach the front of the line.
The evolution of technology and process provides for expediency in doing and creating things.  This thought process and its evolution has in its very center the worship of efficiency.  Thus came about the advent of the machine which are the epitomy of efficiency.  Human beings are, by default, inefficient.  However, somewhere along the line, someone noticed that profit can only be made from other human beings.  And humans need to interact with other humans.  A brilliant spark came to someone along the way: "let's invent something the resembling humans and fool humans to believe that they are interacting with other human beings".
The robot, the automated answering machines, the many machines that imitate human behaviours.... are these just ways to fool ourselves to think that we are still in the company of others?  I am afraid that as time progresses, there will be more human beings on the earth.  However, we will be more lonely than ever because, due to our ingenuity, we will interact more and more with machines pretending to be humans.

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