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Amanda Prowse Headshot

Computer Says NO!

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My name is Amanda; I talk to computers and other inanimate objects.

It feels better to have that out in the open. I am ashamed to admit that I do it on a daily basis and the range of objects and machinery with which I converse, is wide and varied. I like to talk, and don't see the fact that I am alone to be a barrier to this. I say 'thank you' to the cash point machine when it gives me money, I tell my car dashboard to 'not to be so dramatic' when it pings various messages at me. I say 'good morning' to my kettle, which between you and I is my favourite of all the kitchen appliances, its ability to make my tea and coffee makes it unsurpassable. I ask the tumble dryer 'if it thinks the sheets might need a little longer?' I ask the radio to 'be quiet' if I'm trying to concentrate. And you don't want to know what I shout at the alarm clock when it 'pip-pips' me from my slumber at some godforsaken hour. I don't know if I'm alone in these one-sided chitchats or whether others do it to.

I think my behaviour is symptomatic of the fact that we are losing the human touch in almost every aspect of our lives. Everything from paying bills, checking a bank balance, paying the congestion charge, ordering cinema tickets... all of the above are achieved by pressing a button when prompted by a machine. And here's the thing, I MISS PEOPLE and I trusted them. I liked handing a filled out slip to a lady with a name badge, who would then stamp my cheque and pop it into my account. I love chatting to Mary on the checkout about how her kids are getting on at school and whether her brother had managed to get the insurance money after his disastrous caravan holiday in Frinton-on-Sea, I don't want to whizz the products through myself at self service, I don't want to put Mary out of a job!

My grandparents used to talk to their neighbours for hours over the fence, in my own youth; we called everyone in our street, 'aunty or uncle' and could nip into any number of houses in close proximity when we were locked out. It was all about human interaction. And it was lovely. Only last week, when grocery shopping, I found a potato that looked like a womble, I turned to the lady next to me and said, 'look! Madame Cholet!' she ran away.

It might be a generational thing; my kids don't talk to each other or their friends, let alone relative strangers. They spend their lives tip tapping into keyboards and onto screens and this constitutes a big part of their social life. I admit to be baffled by this and can't begin to imagine how this is a suitable substitute for hanging about in the Wimpy, plucking up the courage over a shared Rum Baba, to tell the boy, two booths down, that my friend fancies him. It is certainly more immediate via text, but the skills I acquired during these awkward social encounters mean I am now happy to hold aloft a comedy shaped vegetable in public and try and engage with a complete stranger, even if she did run away. Are we as humans, losing our ability to communicate? The very thought terrifies me.

I asked a psychiatrist friend of mine, if my habit was unusual, he stroked his chin and nodded sagely, 'talking to machines is quite common and perfectly harmless. It's when they start to answer you that we have a problem.'