Commentary: The depersonalization of people in everyday life

I walked into a business the other day and asked the customer service representative for help with some minor task. I was directed to a website. “Well, I’m here already.” I said, “Let’s just take care of it now.” He replied, “It’s easier on the website.” I answered, “What sort of customer services do you provide?” He paused for a full minute.
There is a noticeable trend toward depersonalization in today’s world. Whether it is a local bank, a receptionist in a nearby business, a government agency or even campus offices, more and more people who patronize these agencies are pushed away from the agencies themselves into the cold, unintuitive charge of Internet websites.
This transition results in a system that seems, on the surface, to work despite itself. However, anyone who has ever experienced this trend first-hand in what could be compared to the “sell your stuff on ebay store” from a comedic film, can understand that apparent ease of use does not equate to efficiency. That is an illusion.
The truth is that the depersonalization of our business world results in workers with less and less responsibility. This is ironic because people are so much more valuable to a workforce than their supporting technology. Be they websites or simple computer programs serving a hospital or small business, technologies must always be limited to support, and we mere humans must always be able to perform at least the same kinds of tasks as the machines that serve us.
Granted, the advocates of technology will argue that there are a myriad of tasks that computers or websites can do faster than a simple human. There is truth to this argument, as data storage and processing is done faster, and with less error, than if a person were charged with the task. This is evident in the field of medicine, where electrocardiograms, blood pressure machines and computer websites serve to record, calculate, and then retrieve the data of multiple patients faster than any human could.
However, machines do not actually think and are not instinctive or intuitive like people. There is a saying in that ‘the problem with computers is that they do exactly what you tell them to’. Also, it is much easier to correct the errors of a person than an entire computer program, which requires constant checking, rechecking and reprogramming, all while the system’s functions are halted for maintenance, and all the while require human supervision. And there are always errors.
The truth is that the user is more important than the technology. Because of this truth we must also face the fact that addressing the needs of the user, and doing so as quickly and efficiently as possible, is more important.
Secondary to this are all the perceived benefits of the Information Age, which the advocates of today’s technological advances can no doubt list verbatim et literatim. Ease of use, as well as staying current with a technology that is always changing, constantly reinventing itself and even the migration to paperless systems to address environmental concerns of the last two decades, are all secondary.
All of us mere humans must remember how valuable we are to our world, and seek to make it a better place for people, not the machines supporting us. I expect that I am in the minority when it comes to my beliefs, so for any and all disagreements, I will direct you to my website.

Richard Martinez
Contributing Writer