Efficient vs. Effective

(c) Youtube

I’ve been interested for a while about the progress of AI in human transactions, and what challenges a human / AI emotional “supply chain” might face.

Thanks to a course I started, I now have some good examples. Back in the past, I was a keen photographer when it involved film and messy chemicals, light meters and understanding ISO. Along the way, I bought new cameras that gradually then suddenly did all the work. Great photographs, no effort.

I sort of missed the craft, so decided to go cold turkey manual. To refresh, I signed up for an online course offer, and the adventure began.

Sign up was easy, lots of confirmatory emails. So far so good.

First lesson – pretty basic, but well delivered. And then it began.

A torrent of texts and mails saying that my future was under threat unless I signed up for a full account. Covid meant upskilling was vital. Just sign here for this special offer. Ignored.

Next lesson – again, very good. Enjoyed it. Then, the “louder” emails and texts, now with bonus added upper letters and exclamation marks. Apparently I was nearly doomed.

Working from a base of a photography refresher?

And so it continued, good lessons, covering more complex areas and followed by ever more,shoutier emails. Little Robot brought his Dad along. Now moving from amusing to irritating intervention. Ever more digital hard sell, ever more irrelevant, as by now my ticket to hell had been clearly been booked.

To the crunch point. An unwarned debit to my account for premium membership. When I queried, I got a long (really long) automated response that said they were allowed to, so they did. I checked, and there it was in the smallest of the small print. They were right, just very unattractive. I no longer wanted anything to do with them. Liked the course. I disliked, increasingly intensely, the back office shouty robot.

So I cancelled. And the adventure continued. After a long process confirming I wanted to cancel, being cajoled at every step with my doomed future which would only be saved by the special offers they were making to retain me, I got to a screen saying I need to call a number to finally confirm.

Ok I thought, a human at last. Wrong.

A telephonic repetition of the cancellation web page. More predictions of doom (“we are sorry you have decided to abandon your goals”). More offers.

Then, at last, done.

I felt like I had escaped Alcatraz.

The lesson, and the paradox was clear. Good product offering overwhelmed and negated by a completely synthetic “relationship”.

For me, an object lesson and useful case study on how an obsession with systems and efficiency can kill an otherwise good idea.

AI is still a servant. Letting it loose on people unsupervised not such a great idea.

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