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Techno Personality


With homage to Marketing, An Introduction, 14th edition by Armstrong and Kotler, personality is the unique psychological characteristics that distinguish a person or group. Brands can have personalities too, a specific mix of human traits that consumers can relate to. Research has even suggested that brand personalities can include sincerity, excitement, competence, sophistication and ruggedness.

But besides the potential for personifying an inanimate brand, when were they going to tell us that we'd end up giving human emotions and character to technology while talking to it as if a long-lost friend?

An example: whenever we drive and access our GPS, our default choice has been a soft female voice who, given the benefit of artificial intelligence, reminds us to turn right or left in 500 feet or at the next traffic light.

It all goes pretty smoothly until we opt to go a different way than recommended, setting off a "cranky moment" in which our headless voice gets busy "recalculating.” We would swear our direction baroness gets annoyed or puzzled with us. So to avoid confrontation and further soothe, we might take her course even though the one we know is much, much better.

A few years ago, it was the last straw as we made a complete U-Turn on the approach to the Goethals Bridge in order to avoid a two-hour back up. Her "frightened" response? "Stop! Go Back!" (Exclamation points added here for computer generated speech emphasis.) We completely disregarded her. I don't think she ever forgave us for that.

Heart, lungs and brain are now emotionally replaced by metal, lithium cobalt oxide and carbon graphite. And as artificial intelligence gets better and more complex, making Watson and Alexa historical characters for the digital age, I can suspect we will not only continue to see these items as communications tools in our arsenal, but as friends and associates to rely upon.

So the next time the computer downloads (or uploads) particularly slow, give the poor thing a rest.

Forgive the cell phone if it's not cooperating. Maybe it's having a bad day.

As humans, how we relate to all this equipment and its expertise might be a lot more telling than we may realize: especially how we have the instinctive need to humanize the world to make our way through it.

A contributing writer to the Herald since 2012, Lauren Lev is an East Meadow resident and a direct marketing/advertising executive who teaches marketing fundamentals as well as advertising and marketing communications courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology and SUNY Old Westbury.