Cutting People Out

By David Coursey  |  Posted 2004-07-12 Print this article Print

The Microsoft demo showed the computer doing most of the heavy lifting involved in gathering and comparing the information, and presenting the user with a couple of alternatives from which to choose a final answer. The decision-making process was so automated that I wondered why humans needed to be involved at all. Furthermore, the most important decisions seemed to be embedded in the algorithms the software used to make its preliminary judgments before presenting "alternatives" to the humans for ratification. The problem here is that the decision-making process is largely hidden from users, who may be quite unaware of the inherent biases the software bases its decisions upon. Further, the users may be unaware of the options the software dismissed, which might have made more sense to a human than to a machine.
Again, there is nothing wrong with this technology per se. Its just that, sitting there watching the demonstration, all I could think of was the Wizard of Oz, with many decisions essentially being made by the automated "man behind the curtain."
Microsoft is very good at understanding software, but not so good at understanding people and human behavior (as opposed to user behavior, which they study extensively). CIW shows us a future in which computers do their thing almost without consideration of the problems that would cause to their supposed masters—the users. Id like to see Microsoft more obviously paying attention to the human/social environment in which their future technologies will be used. Check out eWEEK.coms Windows Center at for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.

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One of technology's most recognized bylines, David Coursey is Special Correspondent for, where he writes a daily Blog ( and twice-weekly column. He is also Editor/Publisher of the Technology Insights newsletter and President of DCC, Inc., a professional services and consulting firm.

Former Executive Editor of ZDNet AnchorDesk, Coursey has also been Executive Producer of a number of industry conferences, including DEMO, Showcase, and Digital Living Room. Coursey's columns have been quoted by both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and he has appeared on ABC News Nightline, CNN, CBS News, and other broadcasts as an expert on computing and the Internet. He has also written for InfoWorld, USA Today, PC World, Computerworld, and a number of other publications. His Web site is

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