Junk Technology and Human Degradation

Image: Parking Eye ticket machine and useless key pad.

Any technology, including artificial intelligence, designed to interface with humans that does not take into account human error and fallibility is junk technology. Charging people for this failure is a growing problem and the imposition of increasingly excessive penalty charges is an affront to humanity.

Two personal encounters with junk technology, the first with Parking Eye, the company that rinses patients and visitors to the RUH Hospital, Bath. I entered two wrong digits into the ticket machine, there were two reasons for this error, though I paid in good faith. The keypads on all the ticket machines are almost unreadable and in struggling to read the buttons I became confused, thus entering two wrong digits. The buttons are silver coloured with yellow lettering. I have no idea of the cost of colouring the buttons, but to fail to ensure the use of a contrasting colour is either mind buggeringly stupid or deliberate and may be both, user error is, after all, a license to print money from people conditioned to compliance. The buttons on the adjacent card reader are silver with black lettering, making the balls up with the alpha-numeric pad inexcusable. After a protracted exchange with Parking Eye, I was let off as a gesture of good will, and advised to familiarise myself with the plentiful signage on terms and condition. More failure on the companies part which has nothing in place to deal with human error.

The second instance was of a more serious nature. The day before I was due to be released from hospital following in-patient Methotrexate chemotherapy treatment, the two of us on the ward both experienced a spike in our temperatures and were put on antibiotic drips. Neither of us felt unwell, and on the third Obs of the day I asked the nurse if she’d take her own temperature because I suspected the digital thermometer was faulty. My request was completely ignored. After the evening change in shift I asked the nurse doing the Obs round if she’d use a different thermometer, she agreed and both my fellow patient and my temperatures were normal. As far as I can ascertain, digital thermometers are not checked prior to each days use and using technology in blind faith is a disaster waiting to happen. After nine months of treatment, and errors and mistakes that were breath taking, this was, for me, the last straw and I discharged myself the next day once I was informed that my body was clear of the Methotrexate, though they wanted me to stay in for a further pointless day to make sure my temperature was stable, again failing to acknowledge that the problem lay with the technology, not with me.

As the development and use of artificial intelligence continues to advance, pressure will grow for us to comply with its use. It is a fair and certain assumption that the use of AI is driven by profit and not for the benefit of humanity, after all, where are the days of leisure and prosperity we were promised in the latter part of the 20th century from machines and AI? Ask Jeff Bezos.

The mission creep taking place is making the servant, technology, the master of humanity. Human compliance will only lead to increasing human servitude. The battle is on.

I shall close this piece with the final letter I sent to Parking Eye:

Thank you for your ‘gesture of goodwill’ in cancelling a parking fine for a fee I paid in good faith, despite ‘that the incorrect vehicle registration was input’.

Perhaps you have heard the expression, ‘to err is human’, the full expression being: to err is human, to forgive, divine’. As such, error as a natural occurring phenomenon of intelligent being is entirely peculiar to us humans, and never more pertinent than when dealing with technology.

I fully acknowledge your ‘kindly request’ that I ‘follow the parking terms and conditions displayed on the signage throughout the car park and ensure the correct vehicle registration details are input on any future visits to this car park’. I had every good intention of doing just that, until the small problem of being human made its presence felt through my making an error, for which no terms and conditions, even if mounted in gold relief on the inside of my vehicle or tattooed on the back of my hand, can ever entirely prevent.

Your gesture of goodwill is, perhaps, well intentioned, but is itself in error. Any system designed to interface with humans which cannot deal with human error is inherently flawed, doubtless because it was designed by humans.

I used the system with every good intention and paid the fee in good faith. The input error was mine, which I freely acknowledge, but the systemic failure was not, that is entirely down to your company and the parking system you run which has irritatingly inconvenienced me.

That you seem to think that in future I ought or should perform without error is an insult to my humanity, my intelligence and to common sense.

I am almost as tired of dealing with bad technology as I am of living in the golden age of stupid. The difference between the two being, you can cure bad technology.

Your call, and for what it’s worth, I forgive you, but please, solve the problem. Hint, the problem isn’t me, in fact I have done you a favour and exposed a flaw in your system.

You’re welcome, no charge, despite your making somewhere in the region of ¬£200 annually out of me.

Yours sincerely,

Keith Lindsay-Cameron. 10 June 2021.

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