Our Faceless Future

Faceless FutureThere 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, establishing 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. They 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 too…you 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.

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3 responses to “Our Faceless Future

  1. Doug– I have observed everything you covered in your post, and more!

    I think my take on this will be in a different direction than most. I see a two-sided perspective to the source(s) of this phenomena. I could write a book, but I’ll keep it simple.

    CAPITALISM–this is only one of the effects of capitalism. Companies spend tons of money trying to find out what makes us pull out our credit cards, and that includes the credit card companies (watch the commercials). They know the psychology, the psyche of the consumer. They know which buttons to push. They know what demographics are watching which TV programs. And they know that the average consumer (especially in the US) loves gadgets, doesn’t want to be the one who doesn’t have the latest (fill in the blank), is vane, is a “wannabe,” lives life through others, likes to brag about what they have and others don’t, etc.

    I saw a car commercial the other day. Not once did it mention the mechanical aspects of the car–it was all about the notion of “Now, I know you want to be seen in this. Think of what your friends would say.” I saw a commercial that claimed they can help you find the match Jesus wants for you! They are, for God’s sake, using Jesus to make their money!

    THE (AVERAGE) CONSUMER– The companies are right!

  2. Doug,
    The ‘faceless mannequin’ is the perfect prop for your post. I agree with the 1st line in Eli’s comment “I have observed everything you covered in your post, and more!”

    In 2006 I recall at least 6 – 10 short emails exchanged between a colleague and me.
    We sat across from each other, with a 4′ hallway separating us. Rather than get up and talk for 2 minutes to clarify the directions, we each stayed at our desks.
    We were both stubborn and wasted our time typing rather than talking!

    A friend told me of a funeral home that had taken over a location previously occupied by a bank. The funeral home converted the former bank’s ‘drive-up customer service window’ for people to stay in their car and pay their respects to thedeceased, by putting the coffin in the drive-up window!!! It was the height of
    impersonal detachment. Not exiting the car to look the family of the deceased in
    the eye and say how sorry they were for their loss, or holding their hands or offering a hug to comfort them.

    A couple became grandparents for the 1st time & they learned of it via Facebook!

    You’re right Doug – all of these things DO matter.

    It means we’re part of the human condition and not just machines.

  3. I also have to agree with Eli, I see all this and more!

    I wonder though, are we doing anything with the time supposedly saved by using apps?

    Texting someone a message can save a few minutes vs. pulling out a phone, calling and possibly having to leave a message. What are we doing with the accumulated time supposedly “saved”?

    I don’t have an answer but I think many people use this time to surf the ‘net; watch You Tube videos, read blogs, watch TV on a computer etc. All of these pastimes are generally solitary and the benefit we receive is not (usually) quantifiable.

    Being a faceless AND solitary society is a scary prospect; as Doug writes, we are certainly on our way. How can we avoid this?

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