Tech­ni­cally claus­tro­pho­bic by Mounir Har­fouche

ArabAd - - CONTENTS - By Mounir Har­fouche CEO Mul­len­lowe Dubai

Com­put­ers talk­ing to com­put­ers talk­ing to ma­chines and no one is there any­more to talk to us. I re­al­ized yes­ter­day through a per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence at the bank, how lonely too much tech­nol­ogy makes us.

I ar­rived at the bank in or­der to de­posit some cash in my ac­count. My turn came fast as I was the only one at the branch, with around 12 bored em­ploy­ees star­ring at their phones.

It took me around 10 min­utes to fill the de­posit slip with all the in­for­ma­tion re­quested small lines and tiny boxes that don’t even fit my full name or ac­count num­ber. The kind you end up leav­ing half of your writ­ten in­for­ma­tion on the ta­ble.

Sur­pris­ingly, the cus­tomer ser­vices of­fi­cer an­nounces to me that they don’t do it man­u­ally any­more and that I have to go to the ma­chine and de­posit the cash.

I ob­vi­ously asked all kind of ques­tions around this odd sys­tem be­fore I re­al­ize that it was, in fact, my only op­tion.

And here I am in front of an in­tim­i­dat­ing ma­chine, trust­ing her func­tion­al­ity, soft­ware and net­work sys­tem with my money. I even smiled at it to break the ice. Of course I looked ridicu­lous for few min­utes try­ing to un­der­stand what is hap­pen­ing and how it works. Fi­nally the ma­chine opens its big metal­lic mouth al­most starv­ing to swal­low my pile of cash!

Mo­ment of stress and panic, limited num­ber of notes per de­posit, no time to count your money again be­fore feed­ing the mon­ster. You close your eyes, be­lieve in God, wish this is not your black day and go for it. Then comes this mo­ment where you hear the ma­chine mash­ing or maybe even smash­ing your cash, di­gest­ing it slowly while you are sweat­ing your life wait­ing to see the to­tal amount it will ac­knowl­edge. To my luck it burped the right amount (or at least close to what I had visu­ally as­sumed!). Round one is down. I win. Round 2 was sim­i­lar, with slightly less drama as I started bond­ing with the ma­chine. Then comes round 3. Oh my God. Big mouth opens, my last treat goes in, the ma­chine starts chok­ing. The food got stuck in its throat! I started chok­ing too. Sud­denly, no breath­ing, no sign of life, the screen changes color, it’s the end: Er­ror.

Of course my first re­ac­tion was to start the re­viv­ing process. CPR, Press­ing every but­ton. Mouth to mouth re­sus­ci­ta­tion. Noth­ing.

I look at the se­cu­rity guy be­hind me and ask him what to do. My money is in the stom­ach of a dead ma­chine and no one and noth­ing can prove that I had fed this beast.

Iron­i­cally the se­cu­rity asked me to call the help cen­ter. I said but I am here at the branch with 12 em­ploy­ees do­ing noth­ing, why can’t they help. “They can’t sir, you have to call the sup­port cen­ter”. 30 min­utes of lis­ten­ing to a long and slow recorded voice giv­ing me more than dif­fer­ent op­tions to dial in or­der to hope­fully land on some­one who can help me and yet. Me at the branch, with 12 em­ploy­ees on their snapchat, What­sapp, In­sta­gram and Face­book. Me in front of a dead ma­chine with my money in it, a phone ask­ing me to wait for some­one to take my call, a one-way an­swer­ing ma­chine (I don’t know what it an­swers since it doesn’t even al­low you to ask a ques­tion ), a se­cu­rity guard pro­tect­ing the ma­chine from me while it is the ma­chine that stole my money!

It is at this very mo­ment where I imag­ined the world with no hu­man be­ings but me. This mo­ment where I missed talk­ing to some­one, ex­press­ing my feel­ings at this very mo­ment and ex­pect­ing a re­ac­tion in re­turn, some­one who can try to help, do some­thing spon­ta­neous, un-pro­grammed, just hu­man. I missed at this very mo­ment some­one to laugh with me, cry with me, worry or not but just some­one who cares. “Don’t worry it will be solved”.

You know what, ma­chines are great. They help. They could bring huge ef­fi­cien­cies. But you know what, I still want a cashier to take my money and de­posit them in my ac­count. I still want a car that I drive and not a car that drives it­self. I still want a charis­matic waiter to take my or­der with a chat and stupid ques­tions of “Where are you from” in be­tween. Not a ma­chine. And BTW, don’t make bloody Alexa or Siri sound like peo­ple. They are not and it’s just creepy. Just make them sound like ro­bots or cre­ate the voice of tech­nol­ogy be­cause that’s what they are.

ESC for now.



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