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Rage Against the Machine August 22, 2017

Posted by Peter Varhol in Technology and Culture.

No, not them.  Rather, it is the question of our getting frustrated with our devices.  I might have an appointment that my device fails to remind me of (likely a setting we forgot, or something that was inadvertently turned off), and I snap at the device, rather than chastising myself for forgetting it.  Or I get poor information from my electronic assistant because it misinterprets the question.

And because our devices increasingly talking to us, we might feel an additional urge to talk back.  Or yell back if we don’t like the answers.

There are two schools of thought on this.  One is that acting out frustration against an inanimate object is an acceptable release valve and lessens our aggression against human recipients (a variation of this is the whole displacement syndrome in psychology), making it easier for us to deal with others.

The second is that acting aggressively toward an electronic assistant that speaks can actually make us more aggressive with actual people, because we become used to yelling at the device.

MIT researcher Sherry Turkle tends toward the latter result.  She says that “Yelling at our machines could lead to a “coarsening of how people treat each other.”

I’m not sure what the right answer here is; perhaps a bit of both, depending upon other personal variables and circumstances.

But I do know that yelling at an inanimate object, even if it does have a voice, will accomplish nothing productive.  Unlike the old saw where “Trying to teach a pig to fly won’t succeed, and it annoys the pig,” yelling at your electronic assistant won’t even annoy it.

Don’t do it, folks.



1. Spencer Gibb (@spencerbgibb) - September 12, 2017

Similar to rage against folks on social media.

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