Today when I got to school, I thought I should check our rolls to see if there was a John Connor enrolled. Those of you who got the reference can feel free to wait while others follow the link. Now that we're all safely back together, it's time to face the facts: The machines are winning. Not because they are so vastly superior. We built them after all. But because they don't have any feelings.
I thought about this as I recalled my "hassle-free" interaction at the grocery store where I scanned my own items, bagged them, and walked out of the store without a single personal interaction. Just like the electronic check-in at the airport. Not a word needed to be spoken. Unless you count those utterances under my breath when the bar code reader wasn't able to make sense of my carefully printed boarding pass.
Guess what? Even if the machine did hear me, it didn't care. It kept right on doing the thing that it was supposed to do. Without a smile or a frown. It kept right on beeping and booping like it was made to do just that. And it was.
Machines are not required to care about the quality of the experience. They are designed to process a transaction as efficiently as possible, and if that means you don't get any pleasant conversation as you meander through your day, so be it. Of course that means you also get to avoid the occasional surly manner or fed-up-with-this-boring-job-attitude. Which leaves you with even less to commiserate about with the humans that you interact with.
I thought of all the science fiction movies and novels that included the replacement of all service functions by machines. Doctors, police, food service, care maintenance, and even teachers put out to pasture by robots: machines without feelings. Ironically enough, it is precisely those emotions that I believe makes me a better teacher. And a better human being.
Until Cyberdyne makes an even better one.