11 May 2014

Currently the user interfaces are getting advanced to the point of where they could treat us better than other human beings would, at least in some cases. For example, take the GPS navigation in your phone. Suppose your GPS gives you a route but you miss a turn. The GPS doesn’t get angry at you, the way a human navigator might. “Are you blind or stupid, didn’t you see the street sign?” This is something you’d never hear from voice turn-by-turn navigation. Instead, the GPS would figure out the correct way to continue from the new location and continue navigating.

Alternatively, imagine the GPS is wrong - it tells you to turn where you aren’t allowed to turn or gets you into a traffic jam, or doesn’t know about changing road conditions. “Stupid GPS!”, you shout. “I’m not stupid, you’re stupid!”… is something you’d never hear back from it. You’ll also never see the GPS getting pissed off at you and stopping to navigate. It will continue with the same voice, as if it didn’t hear you.

There is no unnecessary conflict. In these moments where something goes wrong, caused by either side, or completely extraneous, the GPS is the one that acts more humanely. It doesn’t go calling names or chasing blame, but instead works on fixing the situation. It treats the other party with respect and doesn’t let its ego gets in the way.

When things are working well, everybody is happy and friendly. When things go wrong is when we really learn how others really are. The best people, in my opinion, would try be supportive of others and to overcome the problem. I think it is a worthwhile exercise, next time something goes wrong to think “What would GPS do?”