MADISON, Wisconsin. – In the digital age, either we have become more gullible or the crooks who prey on us, armed as they are with a plethora of shiny high-tech objects, have completely abandoned the subterfuge. They trust us to be stupid, and they might be right.
I notice this on TV, which is now full of commercials aimed at the younger generation suckers – er, consumers – who are more comfortable with the world through the screen and keyboard than they are interacting with. salespeople, cashiers, clerks, assistant managers and other carbon- based life forms.
The combined forces of advertising, artful marketing, and snake oil have set their sights on an audience that will buy anything as long as the purchase doesn’t force them to take their gaze off a digital device. These customers, for example, live in mortal fear of entering a bank.
When I was eleven, I had a small savings account in a small brick and mortar bank (the only kind of bank that existed at the time). Two years later, relocated to a new town, Madison, one of my first expeditions was to find a new bank where I could hide my laughable fortune. I chose according to the facade. The American Exchange Bank on Capitol Square was the city’s most banking building. It is still there today, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I felt both awe and elated as I walked in there, walking reverently through the dark polished oak, addressing the cashier through a cast bronze gate, and leaving with the precious memory of a visit to the Soul of American Commerce – My New Bank Book with a Palmer Handwritten Deposit Entry Method.
Since then, I have not only welcomed every visit to the bank (with a few exceptions), but I have consciously sought out bankers with whom I could speak frankly and cultivate a friendship. Since my first deposit, I have understood that financing is more complicated than I can manage on my own. I’ve counted on the kindness of investment advisers like Tom and Cyndi – whom I’ve met in banks – and bankers like Lori, my current squeeze, who also works in the Square.
Against this background, I am bewildered by the TV commercials in which young people, bubbling with confidence and ignorance, spring from an online banking business whose proudest benefit is depositing paychecks two days before the ” payday”.
What I’m still thinking, out loud: “Yeah, once.”
These kids don’t seem to understand that after moving your deposit forward 48 hours, you’ve simply planned a new payday. It doesn’t happen sooner after that. A life built around Friday becomes a life built around Wednesday. Nothing is better. The work does not change. These dewy earners also seem excited about new things like direct deposit (which dates back decades), electronic bill payment (again, been there, done that) and other consumer credit trivia.
The perhaps unfair impression I get from the dizzying TV testimonials of these kids is that today’s 20s know less about managing their money than I did when I walked up to the American Exchange Bank teller. .
More worrying is the apparent disposition of digital consumers these days to take on heavy tax challenges without having real face-to-face contact with someone knowledgeable in the matter. There are businesses online – advertisements on television and on the screens of four-inch cellphones – that sell car loans, student loans, mutual funds, common stocks, annuities, mortgages, etc. to people. cars, houses …
In a terrifying ad, a middle-aged white man – let’s call him Bob – wants to sell his mansion. For a split second, we see the value of Bob’s leafy compound: $ 750,000. Bob wants to enter the market, but he is reluctant to subject the family home to the cold, cunning mercy of a cunning, commission-hungry real estate agent. Luckily, Bob tells us, there’s an online real estate website that will connect him to the warmth, privacy, and heartfelt sympathy of an algorithm – let’s call it Fluffy. According to Bob, Fluffy understands his unique needs, feelings, hopes and dreams. Fluffy can facilitate the sale of Chez Bob while protecting its nervous owner from the greed and duplicity of a bloodsucker broker.
We learn, from Bob, that the wise and intuitive algorithm won’t just apply an astronomical valuation to his home. Fluffy will pass the list on to a veritable army of “cash buyers” ready to grab Chez Bob, don the gelt and pose Bob, in gold lamÃ© sneakers, on Easy Street for the rest of his life.
“Cash buyers?” I ask. What kind of people have $ 750,000 in cash?
Bob, apparently with countless viewers swallowing every word of this commercial, doesn’t ask such questions. They are just happy, happy, happy that they can embark on this extremely complex and perilous financial enterprise without having to speak to an analogous mammal. They are comforted by the faith that an algorithm cannot have an ulterior motive.
The algorithms are pure!
Or that’s what the television tells us.
One of my favorite digital scams features a nervous blonde of a certain age selling a business service called Paycon. Or is it Paycom?
Either way, Blondie portrays the agony of employees who have to depend on the soulless bureaucrats in the personnel department (okay, “Human Resources”) to manage their precious vacation days, manage payroll, protect their data. private individuals, manage their payroll deductions, medical care and retirement deductions, and perform other clerical duties. Blondie reveals the sheer, mind-overwhelming drudgery of the miserable drones who work in HR but prefer to be, if only they could, lumberjacks! And then Blondie reveals the solution. Abracadabra. HR simply disappears.
All those grassroots employees – who for years have aspired to break their dreary routine by keeping âtheir ownâ payroll, vacation and sick days accounts, and doing âtheir ownâ data entry on benefits, insurance and more. schedules – will get their wish. They will take over from the overwhelming chore that was previously taken over by selfish HR drones – who are now in BC applying for jobs in the lumber industry.
Seriously. What Blondie doesn’t say is that every company hates HR, just as they hate their PR team and secretariat (what’s left of them) because these departments are known, with contempt, as ” support staff”. They don’t produce any income. They are not âbillableâ. If there was only one way to get rid of it …
The digitization of banking, car buying, mortgages, insurance and a hundred other businesses previously conducted by live people in bustling offices is not about the miracle of modern info-tech . It is about throwing out all the non-billable parasites that âsupportâ, but do not enrich, the plutocrats on the top floor.
I imagine a business in a sparkling suburban industrial park. It has reduced its communications, staff, clerical, secretarial, archival and janitorial staff to a small team of sleepy guards and on-call convenience stores. The guard part is fascinating: at night, instead of immigrant mothers on their hands and knees rubbing the floor, instead of janitors vacuuming, waxing and polishing, the hallways are populated with Roombas, roaring and blundering. Digitally, without touching a salary, they suck up dust and devour the day’s trash, leaving only the corners – which only a rag, broom, and janitor can reach – untouched.
In our looming cybernetic utopia, we will be free to avoid almost all unpaid human contact, each occupying a cocoon of tactile solipsism where, if we are careful, we will never notice the accumulation of grease in the corners.