Screaming at Robots

There’s a good chance that if you have left your house, talked on the phone or used the computer in the last twenty-four, you’ve been asked to rate your experience about the experience.

Feedback. It’s a hungry world out there with big brother and big biz walking hand in hand—not for the first time–but in a way that because of the internet and the instantaneous nature of the modern experience here in the developed world, is unique and mind bending, and now, totally pervasive. We take it in with our daily bread, our morning coffee, as we read the newspaper, the newsfeed, or feed our pets. Most chillingly of all, is now the reading of books, which once at least pretended to feed our minds, is now a mercantile experience symbolized by stars on Amazon.


Rate this experience! On a scale of one to five, have the previous two paragraphs given you anything to think about? On a scale of one to ten how would rate what you’ve just read?


Thought provoking?

Somewhat interesting?

Slightly interesting?

Boring in places, but not in others?

Heard that before? Thought that before?



Don’t care?


Won’t you please shut up!

At the same time that we are being watched by cameras doing everything from taking cash from a machine, to standing in a crowded elevator, to entering an office building, standing on a street corner, walking past a school yard—never mind the rigmarole we go through at the airports—we are expected to endorse what’s happening to us. Like us on Facebook. Yelp about us. But whatever you do, even though your opinion matters to us, don’t express individuality. Anything but that.

Customer satisfaction is not a new field. Way before the chain store, merchants were competing for the return customer. But never in such an all-consuming way.

Just as killing Jews wasn’t anything new in eastern Europe, in the mid twentieth century, the technology finally married the ideology and the Final Solution was born. It’s the same with marketing in the twenty-first century. We’re plugged in and on twenty-four hours a day. We have reached the point of no return.

Because I am usually late paying the household bills, I have monthly access to a number of electronic voices (all of which sound scarily the same) urging me to stay on the line and rate the experience of talking to a machine.

Do I like it?

Has it been a positive experience?

How come there is no context in which to express how horrified I am by the extent to which the mechanistic world has taken over? I scream at machines. I want to kick the B Jesus out of these robots. Should I be fortunate enough to get a human voice on the phone to complain to, I can be sure it’s someone working in a remote call center half way across the planet earning two cents a day and consequently has no clout—still less can understand English without the promptings of a script.

Electronic sensors, that’s another one. The near complete disappearance of the parking attendant in lieu of the machine wherein you feed your tired, over-worked credit card. What in the world happened to all those nice parking attendants who smiled so kindly if one merely said hello and thank you? What happened to carrying around cash? Just remember if you pay in cash, there won’t be a record of what you spent, and maybe you can hide from Big Brother for a moment.

I was holding my hand under a flashing red light on a paper towel machine recently and I fully expected it to ask me to rate the experience.

Did I get enough paper? No!

Do I miss the hand crank? Yes!

Why am I writing this?

So someone will notice and read one of my books?|

Yes. And yes again. Why else?

That doesn’t mean I’m not tired of being linked in, networked, marketed to and paying by phone, electronic check, or wishing much of the time, I could simply check my own self out of this madness.

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