There is an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal today (read it here) about the social interaction between humans and our electronics. The gist of the article is that humans are beginning to treat their computers like people – and that they expect the computer to treat them the same way (I would call this The Silicon Rule).
The article is worth reading if you are at all involved in tech support or customer service. There are some interesting lessons:
1. Using a cheery voice to correct someone’s behavior if the person is upset just makes the situation worse.
2. People are still mad at Clippy. Don’t create support that is more annoying than the problem.
I couldn’t read this article without thinking about HAL – the computer in 2001 A Space Oddysey. HAL’s cool digital monotone conversation with Dave while Dave is frantically trying to disconnect HAL is one of the most tense and suspenseful film sequences I have ever seen. The contrast between HAL’s tone and Dave’s emergency is totally jarring. It is not surprising that people react to a cool digital monotone while they are stressed by becoming more stressed and upset. The lesson here for you? If you are using any pre-recorded messages, do your best to match the voice on the message to what people are going to be experiencing when they listen to the message. If people are going to be stressed, and that is why they are calling, don’t go with the sing-songy upbeat tone – use a subdued, sad tone. That small shift could make a big difference.
While I was growing up, Artificial Intelligence (which I think of as computers that can think and act as humans) was the stuff of science fiction – always just beyond our reach. I always thought that it would be a distinct technical breakthrough that would make AI a reality – we would find a way to make computers smarter, faster, better, and more able to act like humans. It is interesting that it is our social response to computers which is changing – and that this has occurred gradually, as our computers become smarter, faster, better, and more able to act like humans.
I think that everyone gets upset at their computer, their GPS, and automated call menus from time to time. That’s a given. What about the flip side though?
Do you also act protective and caring towards your daily tech stuff?