Once upon a time, you could call a company and get a human being. Then, one day, Greedy Jerk at the corporate office said, "Hey! Let's save some money! Let's replace some of our people with fake robot voices that respond to particular answers! Money! Saved! People! Fired! Technology great! Me! Raise!"

And so, it was done.

And the age of phone robots began.

I hate phone robots. I hate them with the fire of a thousand suns. Not only do they never understand what you are saying, asking you to repeat something a thousand times, they will hang up on you for various electronic reasons that make no sense. Or, you'll end up on hold and then be TRANSFERRED TO ANOTHER ROBOT, who will either hang up on you or continue to not understand what you are saying. It's like hell. Wait! It IS hell.

It is also extremely unhelpful. It raises my ire because the robot cannot really help me. The robot cannot understand me. The robot puts me through hoops, FOR NO ACTUAL REASON, in order to "screen" my calls. Do you not think that, as a customer, I'm calling you for a good reason, knowing I'll have to deal with these freaking fake people, and then, be on hold for hours? Let's pretend I'm not. Let's pretend it's a nuisance call. Who cares?!? I AM THE CUSTOMER. Give me a real person to whom I can speak.

You know what else happens? By the time I get to a real person, I am angry. Really angry. So, that poor person could very well get some sharpness in my tone, some anger at having to call back four times, because the bot hung up on me, or sent me to the wrong place, or kept saying, "I'm sorry I'm having so much trouble understanding you" but continued not to pass me to a human being.

Finally, I would pay extra to always have a human being at the other end of the phone. I would PAY MORE MONEY TO SPEAK TO A HUMAN BEING. You've won, Greedy Corporate Jerk! I'm ready to pony up more money if you'll just give me an actual human being, which you should be doing in the first place, instead of taking the extra money saved and buying your fourth home, you greedy turd.


In his speech to TED, Andrew McAfee discusses how customer service will no longer be done by people, that it's a dying profession. That better not happen. Because if it does, I am going to stop using any product that does it. I'm just going to say 'no.'

You know, technology is supposed to help us. If you watch this, McAfee is so excited about the future, but admits it's going to impoverish a huge section of the population, leaving them without jobs, without any way to even buy any of the damned products being sold by the fake bots calling you on the phone. He has no solution except to weakly bleat "Education. Maybe." Here's my solution: Start thinking about how to implement technology to help people, not how to temporarily send the CEO on a trip to Barbados before he (or very unlikely, she) figures out he's failing Economics 101.

In order to sell a product, you need people who can pay for it. In order to have people who pay for your products, they need jobs. So that they have money. The Koch brothers and all their evil, unscrupulous butthole flunkies are either really dumb or are so evil that they don't care, but if we don't get some people in business who understand Economics 101, the simplest part, about customers needing discretionary funds in order to be customers, we will not only be replaced by all the technology and out of jobs, we will devalue the dollar and kill the economic landscape, returning to a feudal system, perhaps (probably the Koch brothers' aim) or we'll end up fighting each other for a piece of bread and a place to sleep.


I hate the robots who answer the phone. And I despise the careless stupidity that put them there. McAfee missed the forest for the trees. The technology is only good if it brings the most benefit to the most people, not a few benefits to about 85 people, the exact number of people who now hold 50% of the world's wealth.

I look forward to the day when a Koch brother, or any of their ilk, picks up the phone and asks for his administrative assistant, and the robot voice says, "I'm sorry. I didn't understand your question. Did you say 'You're ambulant?' or 'You need a lance?' Please repeat."

Being technologically responsible is a necessity. It's time we started paying attention to that a bit more often.


Click here to view this embed.ted.com embed.