I fear that Google’s new innovations are simply fancier versions of the remarkably dumb call handling system that the surgery has implemented. I don’t want to have information about how long I’ve got to wait on the phone to speak to someone. I want an API so that my calendar tool can see available slots with the nurses. Duplex will allow me to get a computer to waste time on my behalf rather that addressing the underlying issues.
And this is the case in so many areas of improvement in collaborative technologies. Too often they focus on increasing the efficiency of the individual without care to the effectiveness of the group. It’s the software equivalent of building additional lanes on motorways, a collaboration arms race where technology will be met with other technology to provide additional capacity to waste time and effort.
I understand the appeal of something like Duplex—I hate calling places to make appointments. It seems like a kludge, though, like the old jokes about I’ll have my calendar call your calendar.
There is another aspect of Duplex that bugs me. Everyone hates robocalls, but here we are talking about turning exactly that same technology around and aiming it front-line service workers. These are folks who already have a pretty tough jobs, and they deserve better than this sort of dehumanization.