Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
Every time a tech company does something patently ignorant or offensive, it’s rarely worth asking the question: “What were they thinking?”
Almost always, the answer is: “They weren’t.”
And they certainly weren’t feeling.
An example is an ad released by Snapchat last week for its “Would You Rather!” game. It asked whether you’d rather “Slap Rihanna” or “Punch Chris Brown.”
In 2009, Brown and Rihanna were involved in a much-publicized incident of domestic violence. Brown was charged with battery.
And this is something to “joke” about?
Please, take a look.
Rihanna responding to Snapchat’s ad. I can’t believe they did this. pic.twitter.com/TpHQIXTm4j
— Gennette Cordova (@GNCordova) March 15, 2018
Oh, Snapchat finally took the ad down and offered some sort of apology.
“The advert was reviewed and approved in error, as it violates our advertising guidelines. We immediately removed the ad last weekend, once we became aware. We are sorry that this happened,” the company said.
You might have thought that it had somehow slipped out without anyone noticing.
Yet this statement suggests that actual human beings examined it and decided it was appropriate for publication.
For her part, Rihanna has now offered a response — remarkably measured, in the circumstances.
She said: “I’d love to call it ignorance, but I know you ain’t that dumb! You spent money to animate something that would bring shame to DV victims and made a joke of it!!!”
This is surely the point. You can’t blame a rogue algorithm here. You can’t blame a malevolent piece of code.
Someone designed this execrable item. Someone animated it and then someone looked at it and approved it.
And no one stopped to think: “This is so thoroughly vile and tasteless that we should all be ashamed of ourselves?”
Shouldn’t all those someone‘s face consequences?
“All the women, children and men that have been victims of DV in the past and especially the ones who haven’t made it out yet…you let us down!,” continued the singer. “Shame on you. Throw the whole app-oligy away.”
Snapchat tried again with, yes, an apology.
A company spokeswoman told me: “This advertisement is disgusting and never should have appeared on our service. We are so sorry we made the terrible mistake of allowing it through our review process. We are investigating how that happened so that we can make sure it never happens again.”
But it will happen again. And again.
Tech companies rely so much on machines that many of their employees think exactly like those machines.
To reinforce the fatal loop, the people who create the code and algorithms behind the machines tend to think like machines, too.
So when decisions are made, any actual human emotions are cast aside. Or never even engaged.
Worse, too many have grown up — sort of — with the belief that you move fast, break things and apologize later.
Well, your PR people pen your apology, while you’re too busy coding.
Apologizing is easy.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, for example, has made an art form out of it.
For example, after he and a colleague performed a VR promotion while staring blankly at the suffering homeless of Puerto Rico and high-fiving.
Will this complete blindness when it comes to understanding, appreciating and, frankly, even feeling human emotions ever change?