Monday, 7 December 2009

Apologies from nowhere

When out on the road in sunny Swindon I quite often pass busses carrying the inscription SORRY NOT IN SERVICE. I feel a strong urge to scream at said bus 'No you are not. You are not sorry at all. A bus can't be sorry, it's inanimate.'

I get the same irrational urge to talk to technology at the railway station. Over the tannoy we hear 'I'm sorry to announce that that the 3.17 to Upper Wombleton has been cancelled. I apologize to passengers for any inconvenience.' No you don't. You can't apologize, you are are a recording.

If I talked to a bus or a loudspeaker as if it were a person then I would rightfully be taken away for a little care and recuperation. So, equally, we ought to scrap any technology with pretensions of consciousness. Until someone really builds HAL 9000, and we have technology with a personality, it should stay that way.

Resist the urge, please, companies. Your equipment isn't sorry - don't make it tell me that it is.


  1. Not sure what your point is. To me an "apology" is constituted of words, and can very well be uttered by a tape. The German expression for "I am sorry" is "Es tut mir leid," which means literally "It does pain to me." In this case I would agree it's not something a tape can reasonably claim.

    Anyway, I am presently in the Neatherlands, the bus passing by this morning splashing dirty water at me said simply "Geen Dienst." (No Service)

  2. I think my point is that to say 'I am sorry' you need to be an 'I' - which a bus or a recording isn't. Sorrow is an emotion, which can't be expressed by a machine. That's what I was trying to get at.

  3. I am always alarmed when I see notices that say 'This Door Is Alarmed'. Alarmed at what? Why? And what does it expect me to do about it?