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A Glimpse of Technology Hell

The voice command feature in my car is totally useless. Well, perhaps not totally: it did offer a useful perspective of what life is like on the other side of the digital divide.

Shortly after buying the car, I stopped using the voice commands, and while the accuracy of voice recognition did leave a lot of room for improvement, it took some reflection to understand the real reason I stopped using it. I have a heavy accent, so when the voice recognition software made an error, I blamed myself for not pronouncing the words correctly. After a while, I avoided the negative feelings by not using the voice interface at all.

And then it dawned on me: that’s how most people experience technology. When I encounter a bug or a bad user interface, I think “fire whoever wrote this software.” When most people encounter a bug or a bad user interface, they think “I must be doing something wrong.”

Abandoning bad products is not always an option either as, these days, work and communication is often done through technology. People are forced to use this technology and they feel humiliated by it daily. I imagine my experience was just the tip of the iceberg; I shudder at the thought of being required to use voice control in the car every time I drive.

I wish I had a simple plan to extinguish the flames of technology hell. A comprehensive solution requires rethinking of all layers of the software stack and may require hardware reengineering as well. Acknowledging the magnitude of the psychological pain technology is causing is the first step, recognizing market opportunity is the second.

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I write software for humans.

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