There is a trend that is sweeping over humanity these days that is somewhat concerning to me. This trend impacts the way we communicate, solve problems, establish relationships, conduct business, and the paths that our careers will take. Those are some pretty important and life sustaining areas, wouldn't you agree?

Human interaction and relationships are at the very core of life. The ability to shake someone's hand, look them in the eye, watch a smile come across someone's face, or put your arm around someone who is devastated by tragic news recently received - all of these things matter. The create a bond, a trust, from one human to another. They are foundational to the human existence. But more and more, we see an app or a device being introduced that takes these human elements away. Where does it stop? What are the unintended consequences?

I heard news of a new app today that assists you in quitting your job. Once you have decided that it's time to quit, you install the Quit My Job app. It will prompt you to select one of three reasons for resignation: I’m sick of the corporate world, I want to get rich, or I found a new job. When you've made your selection, the app will generate a text message and send it directly to your boss. The same designer brought us the Break Up Text app can probably figure out how that one works based on the description of the Quit My Job app.

While that might get a smirk from you or the thought that it isn't a big deal, consider that this is, as Pink Floyd would say, "just another brick in the wall." How often do we walk into a restaurant to see people sitting at their tables where everyone has out their smartphone and they are texting or emailing - and sometimes they are even texting the person across the table from them! I have a teenage daughter and I hear stories of kids that will go out on a date and it will be extremely awkward because they just aren't accustomed to having a verbal conversation for more than 2-3 minutes. Then it's time to pull the phone out and see what's occurred in the world in those last 2-3 minutes since they checked in.

What about customer service numbers that you call that has voice recognition software. You can explain your issue and get it resolved and never speak with another human being. What about Applicant Tracking Systems where you apply for a job, the software scans your resume for certain keywords, or you answer question after question that has been weighted and scored, and after investing a great deal of time and care in the application process, a computer has now determined that you suck and had no business applying for that job and rejects you promptly? When it comes to your career, don't you wish that another human would at least lay their eyes on your resume...even if it's for the generous 6 second average of most recruiters?

A new app is set to be released, I believe called "Nametag," that allows someone to take a picture of you. Then it searches through all online media to find your picture and then will tell you everything about that person. You'll see their name, where they live, where they work, social media posts, pictures, articles or blogs they've written, all without ever meeting the person or shaking a hand. Kind of freaky, huh?

For some, their most interesting conversations of the day occur with Siri. Is this the pattern for how our lives will be? I just can't see myself having a business that is devoid of the human element. I like technology and gadgets, and apps....I'm a sucker for them. But there's a line that if crossed changes the entire makeup of how society works and relates. I fear that we are approaching that line.

Am I just paranoid? Am I concerned for no reason? Share your thoughts with me.

Views: 203

Comment by Keith D. Halperin on January 14, 2014 at 8:56pm

Thank you, Douglas. ISTM you presume that most everyone wants to be involved in a constant face-to-face interaction with large numbers of people. Shy, introverted, ASD folks to name just three kinds don't and may welcome the relief of not having to communicate like this. The advantage that these tools have is that it levels the playing field- you can get what you need and interact in ways that are less unpleasant and draining: you don't have to work hard at looking good and maintaining/reading good body language and tone of voice. As the old saying goes: "On the internet, no one knows you're a dog."

I heard of Nametag last week- I look forward to where, in a few moments, we can find out a huge amount of  things about a person (a "digital dossier")  just by accessing their biometric signature, which I gather doesn't belong to the person, anyway. If you DON'T have a lot that can be found out- well that'll be a "flag" maybe it'll make you more interesting a "(wo)man of mystery". When we start combining the digital dossier with sophisticated AI and data-mining routines (the kind of things the NSA will drool over in 5 years), then we'll be able to algorithmically anticipate people's needs, wants, and actions before we ourselves do. The possibilities for advertising, marketing, commerce, manipulation, propaganda, and crime, (and recruiting) are immense.

Welcome to the Panopticon, (All-seeing Eye") World,


Comment by Steven Guine on January 15, 2014 at 12:33pm

For those who have lived prior to the advent of the internet, this new world might be frightening. However, for the those who have never known a time when there wasn't, tools as mentioned in your article, provide easy assistance with the portions of our lives which we prefer to have an app/machine do, including breaking up or quitting a job.

Is this disconcerting? Maybe. However, I posit that there are many more people who have been raised to be thoughtful and are centered in their dealings/navigation of the world around them.


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