Manna and the water heater

This morning our water heater blew out its bottom and dumped several hundred gallons of water into the garage (the 50 gallons in the tank, plus a stream of cold water coming in from the cold water pipe). I cut off the water and the gas to the water heater and drove over to Home Depot at lunch to buy a replacement.

I found the water heater I wanted, and next to it was a pamphlet talking about same-day installation. I read the pamphlet and then walked up to the desk labeled "professional installation." There were two people at the desk -- a man and a woman -- both wearing their orange Home Depot aprons. The woman spoke to me:So I take two steps to my left, reach down and pick up the phone. It auto-connects to a call center in less than 5 seconds. A voice comes on the line that says, approximately, "Hello, I am the automated attendant. What would like to do?" I am instructed to speak the word, "installation" if that is what I need, so I say, "Installation." I am asked what I want installed and I say, "Water Heater" without any prompting.

At this point I am transferred to a woman in a call center in Tampa, FL. She has a very bad case of laryngitis today but is otherwise quite pleasant. She takes my order, quotes me a price, has me read my credit card number to her, gives me a reference number and we are done. It is supposed to be installed tomorrow.

My point here is simple. What we are witnessing is the Manna-tization of society right before our very eyes. I approached the "Professional Installation" desk, and there were two human beings who could help me. But they did not. They instead had me get on the phone and speak to a woman who was operating in a Manna-like environment in Tampa. She is being managed completely by computer.

Throughout her working day, this woman's thoughts and actions are dictated by a computer screen. Customers flow into her telephone head set automatically. She does voice recognition and types in their responses to questions that pop up on her screen. Then she takes another call. The woman in Tampa is essentially wet-ware filling in for the software that will eventually do her voice recognition job in five to ten years.

See Manna for details.

Telus, a Canadian phone company, has deployed a similar voice-recognition system to front their customer service line.
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