I've spent a month of hours on the phone and in branches at Bank of America trying, fruitlessly, to first convince them I was a real person and then to attempt to get the money back they'd allowed me to transfer into a bank account before they decided I didn't properly exist.
I am a person who is more than passingly familiar with identity verification and its discontents, with how the financial services sector works and fails to work, and with both the technological and managerial failures underpinning this saga. Nonetheless, I still have neither a bank account nor my money back.
Every day, or most, because of the work I've done and because of what I'm interested in, I encounter people who enthusiastically, uncritically, and unquestioningly believe that "the blockchain" or "algorithms" or "personalization" or "automation" will solve all the world's problems. Equally, and perhaps both more vocally and less effectively, there are folks who maintain that each of those are the cause of the world's problems.
My interest is always in complexity and in nuance. I have long maintained that the primary distinction between (good) journalism and activism, if there is any at all, is that the former needs to be much more comfortable with the fact that the truth is messy, that there are no perfect heroes and no perfect victims, and that often the villain is us.
Tidy narratives might be better at driving action, but messy truths are necessary to drive understanding.
Part of understanding complexity (and my true focus, that of problem diagnosis) is a commitment to making constraints explicit. It is hard to understand why a thing happens without understanding the consequences of that thing not happening. It is hard to understand why a thing fails to happen without understanding who would be affected if it did, and how.
There's many reasons customer service these days is a series of dead-ended decision trees. One of the big ones is that people who care about helping someone solve a real problem, who have the ability and knowledge to do so, and who are motivated to try despite the costs involved, undermine "efficiency" and "scale". Discretion is at the heart of being a person, and it is anathema to systems that rely on eliminating agency in the service of - well, take your pick.
if you don’t mind a touch of hell
just when everything is fine
because even in heaven
they don’t sing
—from The world is a beautiful place by Lawrence Ferlinghetti