Humans control Machines control Humans

Posted on 2012-November-30 in fun

Mind control

I used to work for a company where IT issues could only be reported by email. No hotline: send an email, get a ticket number back, expect somebody to call you about the issue and negotiate a solution with them. Of course, it makes it a lot more fun to report a broken email service or an inaccessible network, but that's besides the point.

Email reporting could have worked if the Help Desk reaction times stayed within reason but it sometimes took them days or even weeks before answering your request. One of the IT guys carelessly gave me a tip one day:

- Oh yeah, if your request is really urgent it should say so in the email you send.
- You mean in the Subject or the Body?
- Anywhere. The incoming filter puts it on top.

Gee... Let's try:

"Dear HelpDesk. I need more quota on my Unix account. Nothing urgent"

Sure enough, I got a call within the next minute and was immediately granted more disk space.

I kept using this trick for a while and then somebody must have realized they were being cheated. When urgent stopped working I switched to this is not an emergency, which reached the expected result.

That is called gaming the system. Point is: once I knew my emails were first read by a robot, I could influence their priority by choosing my words accordingly. It got to a point where it would be pretty hard for a human to determine what the reported problem was, but my email kept popping up on top of the TODO list, which ensured a phone call from Help Desk within the next minute.

So there you go: a human controls a piece of software that controls how fast a human will respond to a human request.

We are doomed.