Can communication ever be fully automated?

AutomatonNot a week seems to go past now without there being a new app that claims to make us better at communicating.

Just a couple of weeks ago I mentioned that new Google Glass apps will be able to help us recognise and recall details about people whenever we need them.

It is not surprising that companies are interested in offering technology-based communications services. Technology is scalable and that enables businesses to make the kind of money that people-based communications agencies can only dream about.

For example, the largest PR firm in the world earns $146,000 per employee. That is dismal when compared to the $13,551,473 produced per employee at Facebook, highlights Gini Dietrich on her Spin Sucks blog.

At present, technology can only assist. It can’t do the job of communicating for us entirely. It cannot automate the process to the extent that the human dimension can be done away with.

But that is not stopping more and more companies from giving it a good try.

I read recently in Wired Magazine about a new website called Crystal which promises to tell you how best to communicate by email with any particular person.

The site examines what a person has published online and analyses factors such as a person’s writing style and sentence structure, for example on social media, and processes what others have written about them.

Using that data, the site identifies the person as one of 16 communicative types and then suggests what style of communication to use when corresponding with them by email. And bingo, you have great communication!

Or perhaps not.

With this site and with other tech solutions there seems to be a cruel irony. As people divest their responsibility for communication to technology, their natural and human powers of empathy and persuasion surely diminish.

Perhaps in future that will all change and robots equipped with artificial intelligence will be able to make a good job of communicating.

But until then, let’s not fool ourselves. There are no quick and easy short cuts to effective communication. Don’t believe the tech hype – it’s humans over ‘bots every time.

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