The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

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Machines making mistakes
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Why Jonah Lehrer can’t quit his janky GPS:

The moral is that it doesn’t take much before we start attributing feelings and intentions to a machine. (Sometimes, all it takes is a voice giving us instructions in English.) We are consummate agency detectors, which is why little kids talk to stuffed animals and why I haven’t thrown my GPS unit away. Furthermore, these mistaken perceptions of agency can dramatically change our response to the machine. When we see the device as having a few human attributes, we start treating it like a human, and not like a tool. In the case of my GPS unit, this means that I tolerate failings that I normally wouldn’t. So here’s my advice for designers of mediocre gadgets: Give them voices. Give us an excuse to endow them with agency. Because once we see them as humanesque, and not just as another thing, we’re more likely to develop a fondness for their failings.

This connects loosely with the first Snarkmarket post I ever commented on, more than six (!) years ago.

2 comments

I have a follow-up/corollary to this, but I need to snap a cameraphone picture to make my point.

Comment TK. You’ll love it.

Carl Caputo says…

Dang. I *remember* your first post, Tim: “the small tragedies of objects” and “life in the eternal hotel” both rung bells.

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