Aside

Have you ever felt that you needed a life coach? Not someone to help with the fancy decisions in life, but the day-to-day tasks such as eating, getting dressed, organizing your to-do list. Your life coach would sit by you, patient, forgiving, non-judging. S/he/it would watch you closely, let you make choices first. As it watched, it might say, “Uh huh,” or “No, no.” In counseling you to make a better choice, it would then usher you to a nice, comfortable chair and tell you, “I recommend you revise your decision.”

I guess my life coach has turned into an “it.” Actually, I think a robot would be a fair choice. No emotional baggage, it would deliver just the facts. The voice would be soothing though and feel soft enough that you might give it a hug, physically soft like a pet. Well, that could be an option. It would mostly be helpful, and if you didn’t like what it had to say, you could just turn it off. In appearance, it would be pleasant like its voice, but you could throw it away or stuff it in the closet if you got tired of it.

If you were whiling away the day, procrastinating, wasting time, making poor choices, it could buzz you, like your phone, but more present, and give your gentle reminders like:

You should be writing now.

Don’t forget to call your mother.

Why don’t you read a book instead of binge watching House of Cards?

They would understand you, but still offer the best advice. It would be a conscience that you can see and touch, and unlike your conscience, you could put it away.

You might say, don’t we already have this? We have a conscience we wrestle with all the time, anytime, day or night. Sure, but sometimes your conscience is not enough; it doesn’t have good sense and is easily distracted. This is flip-the-on-switch answers and the right answers. Well, only if you want them.

You could get this from humans, but let’s face it, can they really give you their undivided attention? And let’s be honest. Isn’t their advice usually predicated on their experience or by what their conscience tells them? Is this really what you want to hear? Your conscience is not same as theirs.

You could assign your Life Coach Robot moods: small talk, philosophical, flirty, friend, motherly/fatherly, straight talk, tough talk.

Traveling, on-the-go, or maybe you’re just stepping out for a bit, you can download your Life Coach Robot. There’s an App for that.

So, do you want one? Let’s assume it works like a charm, no complications and you can afford it. It would never take over your real identity or stand in for you. There would be a switch for that, a kind of temperature gauge. You’d have complete control.

It’s your Life Coach at your fingertips. Should I sign you up? Are you creeped out? I want a decision either way. Please let me know in the comments, and if you would so be kind, an explanation. I’ll be working in my garage all day, so let me you know if you want one.

photo credit: IMGP5485 via photopin (license)

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Life Coach, Anyone?

What the World Needs Now is Phenomenal Customer Service

What the world needs now is phenomenal customer service.

Of course, this implies we have customer service to begin with. Scratch that. What the World Needs Now is ANY Customer Service. With the increase of personal debt, the need has never been greater.

Recently, I helped my mother with her creditors in a proactive effort to handle her debt. My mother had suffered a fall and subsequent delusions, so I gladly stepped in. Even though I was somewhat removed from her financial situation since it was not my debt, the process of actually talking to someone was emotionally exhausting.

As I made phone call after phone call, I thought to myself, we spend some of life’s most miserable moments waiting to talk to a human on the other end of the line. We go through endless prompts, punching in numbers, the sixteen-digit account number, the last four social, zip code, phone number, address, etc,…only to repeat the exact set of information to a live human after an often agonizing wait. Why? Why do we this?

It’s to break us down, to make us feel powerless. That’s why.

I know it’s for security purposes, but there must be a better way. Shouldn’t all this technology eliminate steps, not add them, and make the process more efficient? Ha!

It didn’t used to be this way. Remember when you could simply dial and talk to a live person? For those of you who have never experienced this, it’s a real thing that used to happen. A problem could be handled swiftly. They would ask for your name first, not a number.

They certainly wouldn’t question you if you wanted to cancel something. I mistakenly got cable a few months back. I was swindled. This lady kept me on the line, talked my head off, promised me several “gift cards,” so the cost of signing up was nil; it would all balance out. I broke, I agreed. Of course, in the end, the ONE CHANNEL I wanted was NOT in my package.

After cashing in the gifts, I put in an email to cancel. They charged us for the next month anyway. Apparently, the way it works is that you need to give a verbal cancel to process the electronic cancel. I couldn’t talk to anyone again, so my loving husband assumed the task of canceling, which took over an hour. I felt truly terrible. It was all my fault!

I wouldn’t be surprised if wedding vows soon incorporate a non-cable clause:

Do you solemnly swear to never subscribe to cable for so long as you both shall live?

I do.

Somehow, wanting to go back to the simple phone call with a human feels like I’m balking the progress of technology. It seems to be written in the stars that we will have a relationship with robots. Science fiction promises we will, and most everything in sci-fi comes true, right? I’m all for sci-fi dreams coming true via Star Trek:

Computer: Fix me a roast beef sandwich and delete all my email messages.

It seems we wouldn’t be too far from that email request, but the one big hurdle for robots seems to be intelligence. I listened to a NPR interview recently where I learned that a robot is really not bright enough to differentiate trash from critical information. Thus, the menial task of cleaning a desk is an impossible request for a robot.

Siri, my lovely, seems to be unavailable when I need her most. She’s “unable to take requests right now.” Really? Is she doing her nails? Talking to SKYNET, hmm?

In the meantime, I know that I don’t like talking to the tinny voice of a robot calling and pretending he’s human. Do you know this call? I hang up immediately, thinking I’m not talking to this voice that makes my hair stand up on the back of my neck.

Seeing all the robots join forces at Amazon for the big holiday rush ($775 million dollars worth of robots) makes me shudder. Just a bit.

Kiva robots ready and waiting. Photo source: Business Insider
Kiva robots ready and waiting. Photo source: Business Insider

 

Photo Credit: Brandon Bailey/AP
Robots at work. Photo Credit: Brandon Bailey/AP

Does this make me anti-technology? Is the gap of humans coexisting with robots too preliminary to even care. They’re not very smart. Yet. Personally, I think we should keep it that way. Even Stephen Hawking, one of our finest minds, voices caution. You know, the singularity is near.

But this begs the question, how stupid is useless? It’s a conundrum. If they are too stupid, we have no need for them.

We could have lots of jobs in customer service, bring them all back. There could be the possibility of service with a smile on the other end of the line. The possibility at least.

I know one thing. If Amazon sends you the wrong gift this holiday season, it could be the robot’s fault.

photo credit: plαdys via photopin cc