How it went so wrong


What we have here is an “involuntary de-boarding situation”

John Robb’s analysis of how mindless obedience to a rigid, algorithm-based system led to the, um, episode of lackluster customer service at United Airlines:

As you can see, United was designed to fail in a world connected by social networking and they are not alone.  Let’s recap.  United employees blindly followed the decision making of algorithms up to the point of telling seated passengers to deplane.  The authoritarian decision making that followed was just as rigid and unyielding.  Disobeying orders of the flight crew led to the police.  Disobeying the police led to forced removal.  Finally, the public failure of this process led United’s CEO to praise employees for their rigid adherence to algorithmic and authoritarian decision making.

United really screwed up here, but I find the massive outrage on Chinese social media rather misguided given that the involuntarily de-boarded passenger was, in fact, Vietnamese-American. Do we know the ethnicity of the other three passengers who were selected for de-boarding?

Anyway, the whole debacle is a good example of how over-reliance on automated systems and protocols without any role for individual human judgement is basically a disaster for society.


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