A Starbucks barista just proved we trust robots more than people

Have we sunk to this? It seems we have.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

In robots we trust?

(A screenshot from a Starbucks ad.)

A screenshot from a Starbucks ad.

At a local parking lot, you push a button to get your ticket.

The ticket emerges and a voice says: "Take the ticket."

It's a female voice, attempting to be as erotically alluring as possible. It's a robot female voice, of course, and it always makes me wonder why this parking lot believes it should offer an erotic experience.

Yet robot voices have become part of our lives. Who hasn't thanked Siri at least once when she's answered a question or found the very song we just asked for? 

But we still like, respect, and trust other humans, right? Even if, at times, it seems we have ill-disguised contempt for most of them.

I fear the emergence of robots may have permanently changed us.

I was moved, you see, by the tale of a Starbucks barista called Drey.

Her location had plumbing problems. She tried to tell customers who rolled up to the drive-thru that it was closed. She tried to tell them again when they offered disbelief.

Then, as she claimed on TikTok, she tried something a little different. She put on a robot voice.

It went like this: "Sorry. Our location is now closed." (Please imagine Siri saying it.)

You might imagine people would ignore this, roll up and shout their orders impatiently. But no. Drey insists: "And they roll right through. I was like…wait a minute this shit works, let's try it again."

She did. It worked again. 

And then Drey offered a startling insight into the psychological trigger of this interaction: "No rebuttals, no nothing, you know why? Cause you can't argue with a robot."

Anyone who has screamed down the phone at a customer service robot knows this. Yet still we scream. We're frustrated and, perhaps in our inner depths, we hope that some human, any human may overhear our screaming and come to our aid.

But if you roll up to a Starbucks and a robot tells you it's closed, you make the assumption that there's no point screaming. The robot must be right.

Because robots are unfeeling, unresponsive, and uncomprehending, but they're never wrong. Or, at least, we're conditioned to believe they are.

So we trust their (supposed) objectivity in a way that we can never trust any human's sincerity.

They're taking over anyway, so what's the point of arguing?

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