Propeller-head tech types may be enamoured with convergence, but it is failing to fill the needs of real people

Allan BonnerConvergence is a happy word, it seems. The dictionary says convergence signifies moving forward. Convergence can also mean the co-ordinated movement of the two eyes so that the image of a single point is formed on corresponding retinal areas.

Propeller-head tech types may prefer the notion that convergence allows multiple tasks to be performed on a single device, conserving space and power. Rather than carrying cell phones, cameras, audio recorders, calculators, each technology converges on a single device, or smartphone.

How far has convergence progressed? When I was a kid, my mother would call up the pharmacy and ask for a prescription or other products to be delivered. The convergence of the telephone and a kid on a bicycle achieved the desired outcome for my mother, me if I were sick, the pharmacy, and the kid. All were happy, and many prospered. The pharmacy and kid’s prosperity is obvious. My mother saved precious time and labour.


Photo by Jon Tyson

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Today, few are happy, few prosper, and few save time. We don’t even save power because of unwanted apps sucking our phones dry. But many do find much happiness in convergence, even if that almost rhymes with nonsense.

Here’s what is nonsensical. You call the provider of services (pharmacy, department store, walnut grower) and begin the business relationship by hearing countless pieces of information which are both irrelevant and useless. You listen for hours of operation, COVID protocols, the accessibility ramp installation, privacy policy, that you’re being recorded, and so on. Only if you know the extension or name of a person in the company can you proceed. The company doesn’t seem to want new customers.

Then you get to a clear direction. Press “4” for customer service. Good. Except “4” triggers a recording stating that you’ve pressed the wrong key. Back to the Groundhog Day loop – hours of operation, COVID protocols, and so on. Other keys produce the same recording that you’ve hit the wrong key. Often the machine is programmed to hang up on customers with the smarmy “Sorry you’re having trouble.” I’m not having trouble – you are.

Some businesses have no voicemail. They are shocked and argue the point, but when they call their own numbers, they realize I’m correct: they have no voicemail.

Some voicemail sends customers to websites. Many sites don’t state where they’re from or list a phone number. Some want customers to sign up for a return phone call – tough when you really, really need supplies. Others ask you to enter your “zip code.” That’s the hint they are in the U.S. I don’t live where I’m working so enter 90210 because I remember the TV show. The voice recording says they don’t service that area and hangs up. Wouldn’t a normal person state where they do service rather than where they don’t? Just asking.

I’ll leave for now the additional chaos involving texts, Facebook, Instagram, and What is Up?

My view is that un-converging would be progress, efficient, effective, and profitable.

Allan Bonner was the first North American to be awarded an MSc in Risk, Crisis, and Disaster Management. He trained in England and has worked in the field on five continents for 35 years. His latest book is Emergency! – a monograph with 13 other authors on the many crises that occurred during the pandemic.

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