Adam Niedzielski

Programming is about people

Two sad things about software eating the world

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My mobile network operator keeps calling me. They called at 12:13, at 15:46, at 18:36 and at 20:54. I’m using a pre-paid, so the only thing they can offer me is a subscription. Obviously, I’ve told them many times that I just don’t want it.

How is this story connected with software eating the world?

Let me explain the connection. There is no single person responsible for these annoying calls. Sometimes I would like to imagine that there exists a specific employee inside the company who sits in their office and just calls me repetitively. He would be the man to blame.

But… there is no such an employee. Instead the mobile network operator uses an information system which automatically selects the “best time” to call me. I’m not fighting with a man; I’m fighting with a machine.

The call center employees have no choice. They simply call whoever the algorithm picks. How did we reach the situation where the responsibility lies with the computer? This is the first sad thing about software eating the world.

What is the second sad thing? I would develop such a system if a client requested it. Yes, I would do that. Anyway, the company needs to somehow communicate with its customers, right? There is nothing inherently wrong in it. Of course, I would allow to configure the minimum interval between calls (no magic numbers in the code, remember?) and pick some reasonable default value (like 48 hours). And then the company would change the value to one hour.

What are the conclusions? I don’t know – you tell me.

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