by Alex Bunardzic

The Age of Self-Serve is Coming to an End

Bots will soon free us from the trap of “self service” (image credit: Robot and Frank)

The history of the human race is basically a history of technology.

Some would object that history of human race is pretty much a history of warfare. However, since all warfare is fought and won by utilizing technology, I’ll hold fast to my opening statement.

Technological progress is a double-edged sword. Our advancement has long held the power to liberate us, but it has recently been used to dominate us.

When a Player Becomes the Played

It all starts innocuously and innocently: we find a way to avail ourselves of some exciting, mesmerizing technological innovation. We feel it solves so many of our problems. But then, slowly and imperceptibly, we come to the rude awakening and a startling realization that we’ve turned into a servant of that cherished technological product.

Be it an automobile, or a TV set, or a computer, or a smart phone etc., we always tend to fall into the trap of wasting many of our waking hours serving those products, slaving and mindlessly obeying their demands.

We always start as masters, basking in the glory of our latest acquisition, but then invariably fall into the trap of worrying and slaving and becoming addicted.

One of the most recent tricks on the population at large was the ushering of the age of self-serve.

It all started innocently enough: back in the day when technology was still quite primitive, we needed intermediary agents/brokers to assist us with the usage.

An example would be a post office specialists who were trained to translate our text into Morse code and then send it across the wire to another location (even to this day we still retain the term ‘to wire something’ when we’re sending any content electronically).

Another example would be telephone operators. Early phones were implemented by utilizing technology that was much more primitive compared to what we have today. It’s a small wonder then that we needed human workforce to enable us to make a successful phone call.

Other similar examples abound — but you get the picture.

With the unstoppable advancements in technology, many of those early and quite crude capabilities gradually became more sophisticated. This progress had eliminated the need for having human workforce as intermediate enablers. Elevators became easier to operate, and then the profession of so-called elevator operators became extinct. Likewise, today’s telephone switch centers are fully automated, and no one can hope to make money by selling their manual switchboard skills.

And of course, same thing happened with telegrams. We have obtained more sophisticated devices which enable us to send textual messages without having to master the Morse code.

All these advancements have demonstrated how we have ushered into a new age that can be labeled self-serve. There is no more need for us to rely on being served when riding an elevator, or making a phone call, or sending out a message.

So it’s a good thing, right?

No, not really. It’s more of a trick, because now we’ve been conditioned into learning how to do everything ourselves. So, instead of purchasing an airplane ticket and then just arriving at the airport and getting everything taken care of by the airport staff, we are expected to rely on our self-serve skills.

Instead of visiting a travel agent who will guide us through the travel package purchasing exercise, we are left to our own devices. We now need to rely on our own wits. We’re expected to do the magical ‘self serve’ and perform all the legwork.

So how is that advantageous? If we’re paying good money for something, shouldn’t the price include professional service as well? You see, we’ve been duped by the sneaky sales people who have leveraged technological progress to turn us into servants. Not only did we end up being servants, we are now servants who do the work for free. No, hold it, we’re not only doing the work for free — we’re paying out of our own pocket for the privilege to do someone else’s work!

Amazing, isn’t it? That’s why I say that we’re now living in an age of the self-serve trap.

Luckily there is a way out.

The game changer in technology goes by a very simple name — bot. A bot is a piece of technology that flips the tables on the dreaded self-serve paradigm. Bots propose to bring back the idea that humans should be served, not left to their own meagre devices in trying to serve themselves.

You see, the very raison d’etre of any bot is that it is put into place to serve humans. Maybe it would help if we look into a very simple, trivial example underlying the difference between self-serve and being served.

Every night just before I go to bed I set the wake up alarm on my iPhone. The time when I wish to wake up varies from day to day, depending on my schedule. So every night I open my iPhone, tap on the Clock app, tap on the Alarm icon, and then start fumbling around trying to set the exact time when I want to be woken up. So that activity would be your fabulous self-serve.

Enter Siri (an iPhone bot who is designed to serve me, the iPhone master). All I have to do is say: “Siri, wake me up tomorrow at 6:30.” Siri will confirm by repeating back “I will wake you up tomorrow morning at 6:30.”

See, that’s how I like things to work — I like being served. I definitely don’t like serving myself. It sucks. Same as it sucks when I go to the supermarket and roll my shopping cart to the checkout register only to learn that I now have to do the idiotic self-serve, instead of enjoying the professional service of well trained staff.

And they tried to swindle us by labeling that as ‘progress’? Good riddance!

And a warm welcome to bots!

Intrigued? Want to learn more about the bot revolution? Read more detailed explanations here:

Only No Ux Is Good UX
Stop Building Lame Bots!
Four Types Of Bots
Is There A Downside To Conversational Interfaces?
Are Bots just a Fad? Are GUIs really Superior?
How to Design a Bot Protocol
Breaking The Fourth Wall In Software
Bots Are The Anti-Apps
How Much NLP Do Bots Need?
Screens Are For Consumption, Not For Interaction