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In defense of human fallibility

My quest for an imperfect world

Imagine a world where humans (and animals) are nearly perfect. Where each one of us is getting better and better at what we do with every passing day. The barber (assuming that profession still exists in the future) gives you the perfect shave and haircut, the customer support agent for your cable company gives you stellar service (imagine that) and even your friendly Rover is getting more disciplined and exercises remarkable self-control. #OHNO

Rover is getting more disciplined and exercises remarkable self-control. #OHNO”

I got alarmed at this possibility after reading a recent WSJ article citing AI software that was overseeing first level customer service agents doing their job and right after the call providing feedback on how they could do better. Constantly and continuously. Our own personal AI coach egging us on towards becoming our perfect version of our current flawed incarnation. #WaitWhat! For me, it sounded wrong. Why? Because I need that occasional horrendous Comcast customer service experience (Hey, the cable company being the favorite whipping boy can never get too old or trite) in order to appreciate and celebrate what First Tech Credit Union’s (my local financial institution) amazing customer service by Paul Laguna looks like. Seeing an imperfect version of humans actually reassures us that our own flaws are acceptable in this world. And encountering amazing – not manufactured but heartfelt – customer service gives us something to aspire towards. The extremes define the human race and afford us solace in acknowledging our own equilibrium within this. If the pendulum were to swing drastically towards perfectionism, our view of what is acceptable becomes skewed as well, and ultimately, we will become less tolerant as a society since we will be constantly delivering and expecting nothing but utopian service experience wherever we go.

“The extremes define the human race and afford us solace in acknowledging our own equilibrium within this.”

Seeing flawed individuals in the public eye seemingly getting justice for their own improprieties – Bernie Madoff (Madoff Investment Securities), Elizabeth Holmes (Theranos), Jeffrey Skilling (Enron)etc. – reinforces our own moral underpinning of what’s right and what’s wrong. And seeing justice meted out to those who are in the wrong reinforces our own sense of justice. My argument is that embodiment of imperfection, failure and disappointment is a necessary and crucial element in human evolution. As Kelly Clarkson famous lyrics go ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ and haven’t our most enduring and sometimes life-changing learnings stemmed from failure?

“‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ and haven’t our most enduring and sometimes life-changing learnings stemmed from failure?”

So #AI, please do not constantly provide me a 24×7 coach that is always seeking to make me better. There are wonderful uses of #AI that will make our lives a lot easier so we can dwell on the important and the meaningless depending on our particular craving. But please leave human imperfections alone. Let the human to human connection – both good and bad – ensue that will provide a far more compelling lesson etched in memory that you and I can act upon and remember. And while I don’t want to give any ideas to the tech innovators, I do want to round this off this with one more request. Don’t institutionalize an #ImperfectAI coach to mimic human fallibility. Am I going to be graded on this article before it goes live so I can guarantee a positive reader response? No, I am going to hazard and go live based on my gut and instinct alone. Take that #AI and shove it – you know where! There, my flawed human voice just spoke.

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