This is personal.
Last week, I had another encounter with a phenomenon I call techno tyrannis – after a line by political philosopher Hannah Arendt claiming that, if tyrranis is a system where as many people as possible are controlled by as few people as possible, then bureaucracy must be absolute tyranny because everybody is governed by it, and nobody is responsible for any of that.
But bureaucracies are flawed because they’re still run by humans, and there will always humans in any system who subvert it by finding a solution that’s not in the books, by misfiling a report in just the right place, or by rephrasing applications in ways that the system can process, even if it means bending the facts a little. Heck, even bribery plays a part here! I’m convinced that these people, these inconsistencies, are all that keeps any given bureaucracy from collapsing.
But automatic support systems, or systems where the only humans left act as automaton-like as possible (punching numbers, giving standard responses) don’t have that element of vitalization. I once spent months trying to pay up on a failed money transfer to reactivate my user account with a major online marketplace that should remain nameless (but usually doesn’t). The vendor had blocked my account when the payment fell through the first time, making it impossible for me to log in and fix this. After lots of mailing and phoning, I got a bank account number to transfer the money to, but this still didn’t unblock my account. See, the system usually doesn’t accept direct transfers, so the money wasn’t booked into my user account until I insisted. By phone. That’s when I learned that the only information I had gotten in all those months that actually helped me solve the problem – the account number – was one I shouldn’t have gotten at all if the system had worked the way it was set up to, which it luckily didn’t.
See what I mean?
So, last week. Let’s just say I’m cutting my losses this time and am now going on without that e-mail address that another system insisted belonged to somebody else because I couldn’t prove it was mine.
And then I made this comic.