David Byrne: The secret appeal of technology is that it takes away the need to talk to people


Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/08/16/humans-out-of-the-loop.html


Wait, who said anything about that being secret?


Yeah, really. No secret here.


Phoning people really stresses me out, for reasons I’m aware of, and don’t really see fit to try to work on (other things more pressing). The ability to do stuff on-line is great for me. But my SO (who also hates phones) and I do also have a tight-knit circle of friends, whom we see regularly (like weekly or monthly), and link up by email. So I think it’s the best of both worlds.


Tense and nervous? Can’t relax? Bed’s on fire?


Don’t touch him, he’s a real live wire.




As a socially awkward person, this indeed was the initial appeal, at least to an extent.

I think the greater appeal, at least in terms of communicating, was that you could talk to people with all your awkwardness filtered out. It opened up a world of connecting with other people that was completely denied to you before.

You could use an emoji to indicate the feelings you wished to convey instead of your usual misleading nonverbal cues. You could take a moment to say what you really mean instead of missing the moment or stammering out an incomplete thought. You were judged by what you said, not your appearance. And if you didn’t like who you were or who you were associating with, you could leave it all behind and start over.

But in modern times, “social media” is no longer a self-directed exploration of ideas and interaction. Your associations are monitored. You have algorithms placing you on this treadmill of “things you might enjoy” based on your history. You have to watch what you say because now internet knows who you are and it never forgets. If boingboing turned Nazi, I’d forever be associated with Nazis.

What was once a fountain of freedom is slowly giving way to the claws of oppression.


I was going to say the exact thing.

And I used to laugh at people who texted.


Well people suck anyway so the less I have to interact with them the better. Well except for you mutants.


There’s all kinds of interesting implications. For example, I used to do taxes for a living, among other things. Veterans told me clients were down about 50% from the good old days, because of TurboTax and their ilk.

I also worked a while at the IRS, where I heard the IRS hates TurboTax. Apparently, they make users feel like they understand taxes, when they don’t. The result is the IRS has to fix all their mistakes. (I’m not sure why this is a bad thing, if it means more overtime with Federal benefits, but whatever.)

The point is that robots really can’t ask the right probing questions, and then ask in a different way if you didn’t understand. The website may seem easy to use, but people are complicated.


Ha! I didn’t need to talk to people before mobile technology – I was ahead of the curve!






People tend to forget that IRS employees also pay taxes, and tend to dislike spending tax money on non-problems probably even more than the average joe, because they know more about it.


No, federal workers rarely complain about taxes. For the most part they understand the whole civil society thing.


I suspect it’s more to do with that mythical concept of ‘overtime’.


I thought the point of technology was to increase the number of instances of “Hello, World!” because of the ancient myth that when that number reaches 9 billion the World will wake up. And cook us brunch.


It’s secret because Skynet doesn’t want you to know about it.


Arthur C Clarke: The Nine Billion Names Of God