April 7, 2014
Computers are boxes that hold information. They are solid, finite. Computers rely on an algorithm of complete ideas. Computers categorize our lives, our files, our ideas.
Humans are not boxes. We are fluid forms, soft, curvy. Our ideas are amorphous and infinite. I worry that the coming generations are going to be trapped in these boxes, these categories.
I am a woman. I am in my forties. I am married. I am a mother. I am college educated.
These are categories in which I fit but this is not all of me.
I think of the challenges of checking off answers. The other day I called the United States Post Office. I needed to find out where a package was that my oldest daughter accidentally had shipped to our home address instead of her dorm. I needed to know if I could pick up her package even though it was not in my name.
There was a recording asking me various questions including the tracking number. This number was illegible as I imagine author of said numbers was in the habit of checking off boxes and not actually used to writing. The tracking number option was not an option. In fact, none of the boxes the recorded voice wanted me to choose was of any help to my situation so I said “Operator.”
She responded in confusion. So I said “customer service.”
She still wanted me to choose: send a package or repeat previous options.
I then said “Human.”
Her reply: I am sorry, I do not understand, do you want me . . .”
“FUCKING HUMAN!!” I screamed in to my phone. She didn’t flinch. I hung up.
Another recent situation with computer options was a package ordered form Target. My eight-year-old son has a new position: General of the Spy Club in his third grade class. For this position he needs to wear a jacket and tie. My husband ordered a crisp white shirt and sharp navy jacket. It was supposed to be delivered on Wednesday the 26th. On Thursday the 27th I tracked the package from an email with all of the ordering details. I tracked the package through UPS. They handed it off the USPS. On Friday March 28 I called and checked and tracked. According to USPS it was on time for delivery on Wednesday the 26th – remember I am calling on Friday the 28th. I placed several calls. The only human I talked with was from Target and every word uttered was from a script which I imagine had little check marks for each situation.
“I am sorry you feel this way. Your package is scheduled for delivery on Wednesday the 26th.”
“Do you know what today is? It is the 28th.”
There was not a way for anyone to help me because computers do not have arms, eyes or hearts. They cannot call and speak to UPS or the USPS and ask where my son’s General suit is.
My worst box checking experience was when I was sitting in the pre-op for a D & C at St. Vincent’s Hospital. I had been 17 weeks pregnant and a Doppler could not pick up my baby’s heartbeat so I went for a sonogram. The baby inside me had died. My body still felt pregnant and I did not physically miscarry. We decided on a D & C.
The Physicians Assistant asked me a series of questions before the procedure. Then this one:
“Are you pregnant?”
“Do you know why I am here?”
“I just need to know if you are pregnant.”
“I don’t know,” my eyes filled with tears for the thirtieth time that day. I didn’t think I could produce another drop.
“I need to check off a box.”
“How about: yes, I am pregnant, with a dead baby? Do you have a box for that?”
When people are trained to check off boxes they should get sensitivity training. There should always be an “other” box with a line for explanation. And that line should be endless.
I worry about so many new mothers these days. It must be so hard to be instinctive. They are encouraged to follow a set of rules that they can track. They have apps for everything: feeding, diapers, pee and poo.
When I had my babies and I was nursing them in the early days I was trying to keep my breasts balanced. When it was time to nurse I would gently squeeze my breasts to see which felt fuller so I could start with that breast. Ask many moms today and she may say, “hold on, let me look, I have it on an app.”
Technology has a its place but not at the price of humanity. We are culturing the instincts out of ourselves. New mothers are following all these concepts:
Are you any of the following?
- Attachment Parenting
- Sleep training
- Home birth
- Planned Caesarean
- Home school
- Public school
- Private school
- Bottle feed
- Homemade food
- Prepackaged food
- Baby led weaning
It is my hope that we can learn to live in harmony with computers, that we not let them do our thinking.
Step outside of the box. Look into someone’s eyes. Think for yourself.