I Am Not My Data February 22, 2011 – Posted in: Aberrant Normalcy

I’m growing very tired of people telling me, “Well, my system says that…”   I’ve called up the bank, to argue about an error they made, and the answer was that “Well, I’ll look into it, but my system says that there’s nothing we can do.”  (Never mind it was their fault.)  I’ve been awaiting an MRI for three months, and when I call to query, I’m told that “Well, you’re in the system…”  (Which somehow implies that all is well.)  I called Verizon, to inquire about a DSL line for a client, to be told that the order my client had placed weeks before could not be fulfilled.  (Never mind they hadn’t contacted us of this problem.)  Why can’t my client get service?  “Our system says the service is not available in your area.”  At the drugstore I was told I had never been a customer there (even though I had used their pharmacy several times.)   I was not in the system.

It’s happening more and more lately.  To any fan of science fiction, this isn’t new.  There have been plenty of stories and more than one campy film about our data superseding our actual person.  But in my experience, never have I personally seen this phenomenon so widespread.  It’s as if the customer’s own experience is less valuable than the data about them.  I am not really as important as the numbers, stored in some computer data center somewhere, about me.  Never mind what I say; it’s the glowing numbers on the screen that tell my real story.

I find this frightening.  I don’t like to generalize, but I think we’re breeding a generation of people who trust what they see on a computer screen over their own experiences, their own senses.  Yes, phone operators, help desks, tech support people, etc., are all trained to read and recite numbers.  They’re not trained to be critical thinkers.  But I feel that when we trust computer data over our own senses, we lose something vital and important, namely our humanity.

Like I said, this is nothing new.  It’s just something I’ve noticed cropping up more and more in my life lately.