Serial Bus

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Are you sure you want to do this?

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The other day I wrote a stinking response to an unhelpful email from a colleague and then clicked ‘Send’. As I pressed ‘Send’, I realized that I had forgotten to remove the distribution list of the original email. It was too late and the stinker went to all 10 people whereas I had wanted only one person to get a piece of my mind. At that time, I wished the program had asked me, ‘Are you sure you want to send this message?’ There are several applications out there today that offer a bit of Socratic counseling at the end of an activity by asking of the user: Are you sure you want to do this?

This simple question has perhaps saved many a people from committing small and big gaffes socially. It is a life-saver in many business, financial and data safekeeping type of situations. It gives you one final pause before you commit an action that can’t be reversed.

For me, it works because the question evokes subliminal reactions at many levels. When I am about to delete a super-important email or document from the trash, the question gives me an additional second to process any information that may have been ignored until that very moment. However, mostly, the question is designed to induce self-doubt. It makes me wonder whether I really am doing the right thing. I have aborted many an expensive purchases at the last screen simply because this question (or one of its variants) made me feel extravagant and guilty. When I am about to send a stinker or when I am about to block someone from my chat-list, the question comes across as a moral warning – it says subtly that I might be acting in haste and could regret at leisure. Its like movies where someone is threatening to commit suicide by jumping off a cliff and the heroic police officer tries to negotiate by asking ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’. The same question may mean many things depending upon the situation – its an admonition, its a threat, its a warning, its a suggestion, its a criticism and sometimes, admittedly, its an annoyance. The question is therefore like an intercession by one’s inner voice, just before the sin can be committed irrevocably. 

I believe this one question is a powerful symbol of the benefits of the computing technology. It makes the user experience more foolproof i.e. it makes it easy for fools to utilize the applications successfully. In doing so, it is subtle, non-coercive and democratic.

So immense are the understated benefits of this question that the Chinese government should have considered making this question mandatory for every program/software/internet application used by people on it soil, instead of the Green Dam application. Anyone accessing porn would be asked ‘Are you really sure you want to do this?’ The inclusion of the word ‘really’ would make the question a subtle threat and would deter many users from going ahead with their un-Chinese desires. Only the really needy would click on ‘Yes’. The same model can be applied to anyone wanting to visit a pro-Tibet site: a question would pop up, ‘Are you really really sure you want to do this?’ Imagine the wonders the double usage of ‘really’ would do. By implementing this, Chinese government could placate its pro-democracy opponents, without compromising on its anti-democracy agenda.

Next, I think the use of the question should be extended beyond computing applications. By federal order, this question should be prominently displayed in every retail store, every bar, every smoking area, every theft-prone neighborhood (to stun the thieves) and every speeding-prone highway stretch. In short, wherever there is a chance that a person will act foolishly or illegally, this question may prove to be a safeguard.

Finally, as a commercial corollary to this, a company like Apple could create a hugely successful device that could be implanted in the cochlear region of the auditory canal – in other words, somewhere in the ear. This device will be connected to the nerves of the cortex region in the brain where decisions are made. The device will also have a tiny (but powerful) speaker that will be activated as immediately as it senses some jangling of nerves in the cortex, meaning that the brain is about to make a decision. Upon activation, the speaker will emit the question ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ for the ear drum to register it quickly and for the person to reconsider his/her choice. Once the device is out of beta, users will be able to customize the accent, gender and language of the voice. Its further improved versions could game-change by linking the quality of the voice to the color of the cortex. Depending upon the state of the mind and the type of decision, the voice will change its pitch, loudness and tone (parental, advisory, threatening, sensuous etc) while asking the same question.

Imagine the blessings of this device. The all-purpose question would be sounded privately to the user in all kinds of critical life situations like when answering truthfully on the tax returns, when proposing to one’s girlfriend, when sending money to charity and when you are about to get out of bed in the morning. A reconsideration of the usual response and its reversal will perhaps save many a souls from the unending cycle of karma, offer redemption and even improve the chances of world peace. Are you sure you don’t want to do this?

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Written by serialbus

July 15, 2009 at 6:20 pm

Posted in Humor, Living

Tagged with , , ,

One Response

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  1. haha, good one & I am sure i want to write this

    Shashibhan

    August 2, 2009 at 11:39 pm


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