9/27/2010

When I am King: Thank You for Reading!

When I am King...

Appreciation will be more automated.

I filled up my car at the gas station recently. When I finished the transaction at the pump, the machine asked me whether I wanted a receipt. When I hit the 'No' button, it told me to 'Please wait', and then a few seconds later it said 'Thank you!'

So not only did the machine feel grateful to me, but it wanted me to hang around waiting for it to get up the courage to say so. Why it took several seconds to get around to it, I don't know. Maybe it was shy, or spent time in some complicated algorithm to determine the appropriate parting sentence. Or maybe it considered cursing me instead, then felt better of it and left it at 'Thanks' instead.

In any case, it's clear that the machine appreciated my business with heartfelt digital joy.

Similarly, when I use the ATM, the computer is always happy to see me, using such statements as "How can I help you today?" and always signing off with "Thanks - we appreciate your business!"

I'm sure that we all enjoy this sort of camaraderie with computers and love hearing how they feel, especially when they feel good about us. How many of the humans that we interact with during the day say such pleasing and obsequious things?

Unfortunately, people are far more complicated and, frankly, depressing. A simple and rhetorical "How are you?" greeting may at any time end up in a discussion of that person's problems instead of just the simple "Hello" that you were hoping for. A transaction in a store could end up in a tedious conversation about the weather. And I don't know the last time I had the pleasure of an ATM transaction with a person; I challenge you to take money from someone and have them respond, "Thank you!" You'll be lucky if they don't call the cops.

When I am King, we will have more of these automated suck-up conversations, starting with the rest of the machines in our lives. Our cars, now equipped with useless information in the dashboard like average MPH, engine RPMs, and the fuel gauge, will instead display perky messages about how happy they are to take us places and how awesome we are in general. Traffic lights will display messages, like "Thank you for stopping!", "Thank you for going!", and, in the yellow light, "Thank you for speeding up!". ATMs will be joined by toilets in thanking us for making a deposit. And automated jail cells will thank us for staying there, wishing us a pleasant stay after another unsuccessful attempt to get some appreciation from a person by taking their wallet.
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