0719 PV Headshot Jean Shriver.JPG

A good friend sent me a nice note about one of my columns. Of course I was pleased, but as I started to write an answer, I noticed a robot had read her praise and was suggesting that I reply, “How sweet. Thank you!”

This really annoyed me.

Why is a robot or an algorithm or whatever snooping into a private conversation? I can answer my own fan notes, thank you very much. This is just one example of machines butting into our lives.

These days I'm often feeling like it's me against automation. I know some of my angst comes from growing up in a world where machines were less dominant than they are today. My grandchildren live peaceably with computers. But occasionally I make a one-woman stand.

For instance, I know I should be e-paying my bills online and saving paper, but I sort of enjoy writing out a batch of checks, stamping the envelopes and putting them in the mail. It feels like taking care of business.

Also, I am supporting the U.S. Post Office which needs me these days. When I write checks, I remember my mother who taught me the process. Her writing was prettier than mine, and her account books neater, but I still enjoy following her directions.

A big gripe for me is the difficulty of being able to speak to a real, live human on the business phone. If I do finally reach one, I find I can solve my problem in seconds. But companies often make you wade through a tiresome tangle of recorded chatter that is of no interest to me before they give access to a human. The other day, Amazon told me that due to the coronavirus lockdown they no longer had humans I could talk to. Sigh.

There’s a show I watch on Netflix and I’m not going to tell you its name because it’s kind of sappy, but I finally figured out what the lure is for me. 

It’s set in a a small town and people are always stopping into the shops to buy things instead of ordering from Amazon ... this is before COVID-19 upended our lives, of course. They all eat at the bistro where they chat with the owner. The town puts on an unbelievable number of festivals in which all the residents take part and have a good time.

Best of all, when these people are at home, they don’t sit around watching TV, they cook and chat and play the piano. And the teenagers ... you wouldn't believe it, but they actually talk to each other and play board games together.

In real life, many young people are so attached to their phones, they have trouble talking to their friends face-to-face.

If the pandemic ever ends, people of all ages could go to restaurants or bars or church socials and make new friends, plus chat with old friends, and maybe they wouldn't need dating sites to handle their love lives.

I think our quarantine has shown us how much we miss the touch of a hand or a hug.

Of course computers are wonderful and I certainly couldn't live without mine. Though truthfully — I don't need robot hints on how to answer my fan mail.


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