Apple Card and algorithm anger

How not to manage in the age of machine employees (and partner machine employees).

Abstract image of a smashed apple

Steve’s comment was one of dystopian resignation: “Hard to get to a human for a correction though. It's big tech in 2019.”

Aside from what may be discrimination (which I’ll return to later), there’s a new form of psychological harm that’s made visible by this incident. It’s what I call algorithm anxiety, which rapidly and frictionlessly turns to algorithm anger when people bump up against the combination of an unfair algorithm and people who are not empowered, not informed and not accountable.

Hansson’s customer journey is a perfect example of what happens when machine employees (or in this case, machine contractors) and human employees don’t collaborate.

  • Call company customer service. Approach initially with an open mind, confident - because this is Apple after all - that this will simply be a matter of having a human both explain a “why” and resolve the obvious absurdity.
    Algorithm Anxiety Score: 2/5.
    Algorithm Anger Score: 0/5.
  • Speak to two Apple reps who are unable to do anything. She doesn’t “know why, but I swear we’re not discriminating. It’s just the algorithm.”
    Algorithm Anxiety Score: 3/5.
    Algorithm Anger Score: 1/5.
  • Rep explains that she can’t access the real reasoning and suggests calling TransUnion to check.
    Algorithm Anxiety Score: 5/5.
    Algorithm Anger Score: 2/5.
  • Call TransUnion, sign up and pay $25/month for “credit check bullshit shakedown.”
    Algorithm Anxiety Score: 5/5.
    Algorithm Anger Score: 5/5.
  • Try to second-guess every possible twist and turn the algorithm might make - green card versus citizen, higher credit score versus lower credit score, she didn’t smile enough when she applied, she wrote something down wrong? When nothing else makes sense, the only conclusion is ovaries versus testicles, because this is the obvious one to a human.
    Algorithm Anxiety Score: 5/5.
    Algorithm Anger Score: 5/5.

At this point, the Apple Anger score is a 5/5 too, which isn’t a good thing.

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