I needed a new phone and in the process changed carriers which means I needed my number ported from the old to the new. A process which normally takes no more than 3 hours and can often be done in minutes took 72 hours over four days, from Sunday afternoon until Wednesday 3pm. I dealt with several people at the store and each were trying to do their job, each was trying to deal with a situation they couldn’t understand along with a customer who kept asking where was the problem and pressuring them to resolve it. Each day brought a new crop of people, each with their own way of dealing with the issue. But none seemed aware of the huge background of technical inputs, processes and technicalities involved. They said first they didn’t have my correct zip code, when they did, but as I discovered it was probably entered incorrectly. Then they said there was 2 port requests, while the original carrier said there was not. At a loss for what was causing the delays they blamed the original carrier meaning it was out of their hands, they could do nothing. The point of all this is that whether with phones, or so many other daily necessities, cable, streaming, utilities, banking, all involve a technical backdrop which may be becoming too complex, certainly too complicated for the average person or the average worker. The people I dealt with were good with people, but unaware of potential issues behind the parameters of their jobs, not out of ineptitude or laziness, and I am not sure due to poor and inadequate training. They were knowledgeable within the confines of their very small sphere.
It’s easy to berate the tech support people we speak to on the phone, to get angry at those who are helping us when they give what looks like wrong answers, it’s easy to be angry at not being helped and be frustrated by the consequences, but the problem, I believe, is not the workers but the immensity of the technological grid. Each worker is tasked with the equivalent of a piece of the puzzle, and they do what they are to do, but there seems to be few who can see the whole picture. And as the picture continues to get bigger and bigger, it becomes an issue of concern. It is a concern that includes a lot more than the smooth functioning of our individual lives, but the functioning of a nation, its national security and relations with its allies. Several international issues relying on technology and its increasing ability to link, connect, compute, track… reveal the inherent complexities. Human trafficking is one where the technology can help but also add to the difficulties. It all points to the old issue inherent in the phrase too big to fail. Increasingly we need to keep asking when is big too big for our own good?