Temptation for mimicry even with wide access to creative ideas

Dear Editor,

In so many of idle (re)tired moments I have been grappling with the current forms and expressions of ‘intelligence’. Hampered as I am with poor vision for which the computer screen is hardly an option for reading. Its products have to be enlarged on hard copy.

In any case during the recent interval of work experience in a large organisation the communication, centred around a comprehensive IT system, too often befuddled not only my vision, but more importantly, my appreciation of literacy.

Caught between (numerical) abbreviations at one end, and the repetitious verbosity at another of this technological spectrum, I kept speculating about the terminology ‘artificial intelligence’.

For bedazzled by their respective laptops mounted by colleagues across meeting tables that hide what natural intelligence might be reflected in their eyes, I had continuous difficulty in grappling with explanations for the palpable non-use of the spell check mechanism.

How could it be possible as a professional in the function to spell the word ‘human’ wrong? To use a bad pun, it is clearly an inhumane infliction on what till now is known as the english language.

But simple as such an aberration may seem it occurred too often for it not to be reflective of a sort of gap between ‘innate’ intelligence and that ‘artificial’. Yet there was this very personal display of a comfort zone which perhaps subliminally argued that the technology is utterly reliable, for certainly there was no chance of it being hacked! (Were the same odds applicable to the human brain?)

But then there was this other more voluminous experience in which I was asked to evaluate a large number of applications for different senior executive job vacancies in a highly competitive organisation.

There were at least two dozen candidates for each distinct position. But my attentiveness caught a certain repetition in content in what had become a stylised opening summary of personal attributes and self-complimentary work achievements.

Why in the processing of so many documents was there this ring of familiarity, as if I were re-reading the same transcript over again and again. Alas the explanation was that individual applicants had downloaded their peculiar talents from the same source – a compelling example of creative executive thinking. The outstanding contribution came from one who had absolutely no prior work record.

But there is experience of dynamic organisations (some of whom boast of online services) who in their own creativity conspire to demand of the customer exactly the same pro forma information, irrespective of age, gender or background; beginning with a driver’s licence.

It is at this juncture the concept of ‘customer service’ clashes with interaction with the ‘human being’ – a matter of the service provider’s humanity to man.

For the ‘thinking’ on the ground floor is ordained by the edicts from the tower. Discretion at that level is hardly an option. The orientation programme for the inductee leaves little room for non-compliance with the static requirements.

Even at the towering level the situation becomes constricted, particularly if the agency concerned is supra-managed by a regional or international organisation. ‘Initiative’ is taken only after appropriate referrals.

What appears contradictory to this scenario is the fact that the very technology provides such wide access to volumes of creative ideas, non-orthodox perspectives of life, including organisational life, while at the same time offering insights for serious individual contemplation.

And yet intricated in all these offerings there is the temptation for mimicry by too many; while history which should inform the future is being bypassed.

I am sure that I am out of step!

Yours faithfully,

E.B. John

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