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Companies that have real people answering the phone often make a point of putting that in their ads. No kidding, it’s a big deal to speak to a human being, to be able to ask a question, to say “Good morning” and get a response. Not that it’s likely, but if you need to do business with a government office in New Orleans, human beings take your calls. It’s worth calling just to say “hey” to a living person.

When you leave your house, the recordings don’t end. I get in my car and the GPS lady tells me where to go. I get on an airplane and a message tells me how to fasten my seatbelt and when to put the mask over my face should the plane lose altitude.

In a depersonalized world, where families sit down to dinner with their smartphones and laptops and iPads, the lack of human contact drains the life force right out of us. Streisand knew people need people, but our culture is making us the unluckiest people in the world, with artifice replacing spontaneity and dynamism.

That’s it, isn’t it? The recordings we hear lack any hint of personhood. There’s no regionalism, no tinge of affect. Just sterile cheerfulness.

Believe me, this gets personal.  I call my kids and get their recorded messages. I speak to their recorded selves more than their real selves, which may indicate that I call too often. I come into the house and turn on my answering machine. A call from a restaurant tells me they’re confirming my reservation and asks me to call back to confirm the confirmation. I do. My machine speaks to theirs.

It’s the future, and it’s here and it is all-consuming. Bar codes enable us to check out in the supermarket without encountering a person. Same in the airport. It makes one positively giddy to encounter a Walmart greeter.

Aside from the fact that all this automation eliminates jobs, it eliminates authentic human contact, which we need to preserve our sanity and sense of self. According to the experts, language, cognition, emotion and identity all suffer without sufficient interpersonal communication.
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