Digital Minefield

Why The Machines Are Winning

Business Is Bad


If you’ve owned a computer over the past ten years, you’re aware of the erosion of your control. Most of this is unwanted, much of it is unwarranted, and some is of questionable legality.

In the years B.C. (Before Cable), we complained about too much advertising on television. We accepted it then because the programs were free. We have far more programs now (for which we pay) and yet there’s more advertising. There’s even advertising at the movies we also pay for, and any place else it can be insinuated.

But there’s a difference. We choose to watch TV or go to the movies. We choose to do so and it’s our choice to deal with the advertising. Using your computer is different. We buy the computer, and its software, to do our bidding. It’s a personal possession used for personal ends.

However, every company represented on that computer assumes the right to exploit that connection. They claim it’s necessary because of competition—which has multiplied due to these very same connections. Each company seems oblivious to the obvious: customers are drowning in the clamor for their focus. They continue to do so despite inevitable diminishing returns—and increased customer resistance.

In our digital world, this invasive foot-in-every-door approach goes beyond personal computers. You’ve seen the ads: cars with computer-based infotainment for the driver. Once, a car’s gauges and dials were there to help, but more and more electronics are nattering for the driver’s attention.

This pervasive adversarial relationship is in direct opposition to Peter Drucker’s maxim that a company’s first job is to get and keep customers. When asked in his last years why he no longer consulted for industry, the great management guru said, “They stopped listening.” With this kind of bad business, it’s little wonder our economy keeps stumbling.

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