Thursday, August 12, 2010

I’m Wary of “Helpful” Computers

Maybe I’ve watched “I Robot,” “War Games,” or the “Terminator” films too often (although I really liked the recent “Terminator Salvation” – just sayin’), but I find myself skeptical when my computer gives me suggestions. For instance, when I log into it lets me know what OTHER books I may enjoy reading based on my prior purchases. Um, okay. But what about the fact that many of the books I purchase from Amazon are textbooks. I don’t know of a lot of other people who go out of their way to read MORE textbooks than a class requires. Call me crazy. And if the insinuation of Amazon’s opinion when I log in isn’t enough of a hassle, now they’re emailing me?!? Seriously…stop stalking me.

Pandora radio does the same thing – making suggestions based on the music I listen to. I don’t know, but maybe because it’s based on the “Music Genome Project,” and sounds science-y, that I’m more likely to listen to the counsel it gives me. Besides, I’ve found a lot of new music and artists I like that I ordinarily wouldn’t have become aware of without Pandora’s helpful nudges into listening beyond my comfort zone.

So you may be thinking to yourself that I’ve argued both sides of the “do I/don’t I” like helpful computers argument, but I have one last example.

I’m the kind of girl who has – let me stop and think – okay, five email addresses. I know, a lot, but they’re each for different things. I have an active email from my undergraduate college, one email that I’ve had since…well, it seems like forever, two from my current graduate college (one is my faculty email and the other is my student email), and then one that is my more adult email. The email that I’ve had forever has become my default junk email. It’s the one that, if I sign up for, purchase, or need something, that I give out. Needless to say, I get my updates, Redbox receipts, AAA newsletters, and yes, my notices of purchases/shipping in my inbox, but a lot of stuff goes to my junk folder. This is the folder that honestly baffles me.

My junk mailbox is a contradiction in subject lines. Here are a few that are in my junk box now:

  • Self-test your blood glucose with a {free} meter from Liberty‏ (Um, I don’t have diabetes)
  • Need a job? (No thank you, I have two – student and teacher)
  • Invisible hearing aid with no daily hassle (Yeah. I don’t have a problem with my hearing, but apparently THIS SITE does)
  • LED TVs, Golf Clubs and Furniture at Direct Pricing (college student = poor)
  • recommends "iSpy: Surveillance and Power in the Interactive Era (Cultureamerica)" and more‏ (Yep, a suggestion from some text books I bought earlier this week)
  • Get a T-Mobile Phone Now and Save the Activation Fee (Thank you, but I still have a year left on my current cell plan, and I’m happy with the provider)
  • 2010: Financial Aid opportunities for qualifying students to go back to school (HELLO…I’m already IN school)
  • Patty, Take the first step to becoming a Police Officer! (Ha, ha, ha. This one made me laugh out loud…um, just because I’ve worked in a police department, doesn’t mean I WANT to be an officer.)
  • We’ve got you covered. (Sender: Roof Replacement – but I’m a RENTER, why would I want to buy a new roof?)
  • LASIK Special Starting at $299|Safe, Easy, Affordable (Seriously? This is the third “suggestion” regarding my health – I’m fine people! 20/20 vision, hearing is great, and once again…I’m not diabetic)
  • Come take a look at Fifty Plus photos (Um, I’m only 33 years old, 50+ year olds are a little above my dating threshold)
Perhaps you’d like to poke me and remind me that this is spam mail…and I know that, but SOME computer program thinks I’d be interested in the rubbish that is clogging up my junk folder.

So the ruling? I think I’m just naturally skeptical when an inanimate object thinks it knows me better than I know myself – except for music!

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