A while ago The Guardian ran this piece about how technology was making the class system far more efficient.
The inspiration for it was a depressing afternoon spent at the Marketing Technology show.
The worst aspect was that all the people behind it all seemed so pleased with themselves. None of them saw how unpleasant their inventions were.
And yet this same crowd – the marketing industry – are the same creeps who love to claim that technology is ‘democratising society’ and levelling the playing field. It’s doing exactly the opposite.
It soon became apparent that it was no longer necessary for snobs to make instant judgments: a robot could do it for them.
All this was achievable because programmers had taken age-old prejudicial behaviours and enshrined them in silicon. An incoming phone caller could be judged without any human intervention.
Every phone number includes an area code. A phone switch can look at each call coming in and in a flash it can assess the area code and determine whether you are from a slum or NW1.
The Call Line Identity (CLI) can be checked against the company database in case you’re an existing customer. If you’re important your call will be given priority. If you’re not, you get to speak to a chatbot or a call centre. If you’re a low status client with a problem, you’ll be put through to the Stall Centre, where you are ground down by bureaucratic processes until you give up.
There’s a class system in feminism now. It’s certainly come of age since the days of women fighting for the vote. The fact that universal suffrage gave votes to working-class men has been airbrushed out of history suggests there’s a social hierarchy in place.
Since there are different classes of feminist it seems strange that nobody has thought to digitise the discrimination.
So, if you phone the feminist hotline from an ABC1 social group or NW1 post code, the PBX automatically switches you through to the premium service for VIPs, where a police officer will immediately act on your concerns about offensive tweets.
But if your call line identification (CLI) indicates you are from Rotherham, you are clearly in the non-VIP category and your plea will be handled very differently. Which is to say indifferently.
Pussy Hats don’t do Telford, Rochdale or Rotherham. If there’s no Starbucks in the area, there’s no sisterly solidarity, it seems.
Here’s how an app might work. Say you have a complaint. A digital diversity calculation will be made, based on colour chart politics and income and which newspaper you might read, and a decision might be made to route your call to a remote and very distant jobsworth empowered with indecision-making skills.
If you’re from the wrong end of the social spectrum, the call will be switched to staff trained to use the latest ‘talk to the hand’ techniques, such as buck-passing, incomprehension and blame-storming.
After being comprehensively fobbed off, you will then be asked to do a customer service feedback survey, which presents a range of options giving 100 different ways of saying that you are ecstatic with the world-class service and breathtaking compassion you have received.
This call will now be terminated. Goodbye.