Will The Jerk-O-Meter Help Relationships?

by Jon Henshaw

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed what they call the Jerk-O-Meter. It’s software intended for mobile phones that tells the caller if the person on the other line is paying attention to their conversation.

Anmol Madan, the project lead for the Jerk-O-Meter, claims that the software is intended to improve relationships, not end them. The researchers see it as a way to keep people truly engaged.

I have serious reservations about this technology. If implemented, this software may override simple human intuition, and decide through it’s computer calculations that the person on the other line is a jerk - even if they aren’t.

I can’t help but remember the airplane scene in the movie Anger Management. Adam Sandler’s character was being verbally accused by an airline stewardess, because she thought he was being unruly, even though he wasn’t. Eventually, there came a point where he started to get verbally defensive, and was then attacked by a federal marshal and arrested.

The Jerk-O-Meter will create defensiveness for defensiveness’ sake. If the software tells Caller 1 that Caller 2 is being a jerk, Caller 1 may say something to Caller 2 about it. How should Caller 2 react? If most people were Caller 2, they would react defensively, especially if they don’t think they’re being a jerk - as the computer suggests they are.

Anmol Madan and the researchers at M.I.T. have a dream of bringing people closer together. Unfortunately, their Jerk-O-Meter dream is a pipe dream.

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This entry was posted on Friday, August 12th, 2005 at 5:09 pm and is filed under Relationships. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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